By Greg Bates
ACN & Times-Press sports correspondent
Rob Hendrickson has been coaching this year’s seniors on the Shiocton girls basketball team since they were fourth graders.
Hendrickson knows the players well and what they’re capable of. He also knows the six seniors are strong leaders who understand what it takes to earn a victory.
So, when Shiocton held just a one-point advantage at halftime against a .500 squad in Iola-Scandinavia, Hendrickson knew exactly what buttons to push when he addressed his players at the break.
“I walked in the locker room and said, ‘I’m not going to yell and scream. We are better than them. We need to execute, and I’m going to leave you guys in here for five minutes and you’re going to figure this out,’” Hendrickson said. “I said, ‘When you come out I want to know what defense you’re going to run and what offense you’re going to run and I need leadership.’”
Bold and straight to the point. The players heard their coach loud and clear.
The Chiefs came out with a burst of energy – something that sorely lacked in the opening half – and scored 26 of the half’s first 29 points. Shiocton cruised from there for a 55-43 win over Iola-Scandinavia in a Central Wisconsin – East matchup on Tuesday, Feb. 6. “We just figured out what we were doing wrong and what we needed to improve on in the second half,” said Shiocton senior Tina Ubl, who scored a game-high 21 points.
Hendrickson was happy to see his girls respond in the second half, but he would have much rather had his girls not have to face that situation.
“It’s nice to have that leadership, but it would be nice to have that leadership come out five minutes into the first half instead of me having to tell them, ‘Let’s go,’ to start the second half,” Hendrickson said. “In some games, it might be too late at that point.”
Shiocton (15-3, 8-2 conference) took a 10-4 lead after a Ubl basket, but Iola-Scandinavia (9-10, 3-8) tied the game at 19-19 with 1:26 remaining in the opening half.
The Chiefs, which are ranked No. 6 in Division 4 in the latest WisSports.net Coaches Poll, hit just three field goals in the final 9:24 before halftime.
“It just comes down to there was no energy out there tonight, and I have to look at whether or not we’re tired or this is anomaly or the fact that we have just parents and family here,” Hendrickson said. “We’re a 15-win team, and I don’t know what it takes to get people in the stands. Kids feed off of energy.”
With Shiocton up 22-21 at the break, the team expanded its lead by scoring the first 10 points of the second half, mostly created by its smothering defense.
Skylor Bruns hit a basket on the fastbreak, Ubl scored three straight hoops and Hailey Schroth got an easy look off an Iola-Scandinavia turnover.
“It helped because they were kind of psyched out by it and then we just kept getting steal after steal and getting points,” Ubl said.
Shiocton kept up the pressure defense and stretched its run to 26-3, to go up 48-24. With a commanding 55-32 lead, all the starters were on the bench for the final four minutes as Iola-Scandinavia rattled off the game’s last 11 points.
Junior Leigha Young came off the bench to score a season-high 15 points.
“Leigha’s a player that I told at the beginning of the year, ‘You’re going to have a big year,’” Hendrickson said. “I think she thought that meant she was going to be a starter. But sometimes having bench production is what great teams have, and we have two girls we can go to on the bench right away – Monika (Spencer) and Leigha.”
Ubl had a great game offensively despite having to create a lot of her own shots since Iola-Scandinavia coach Mark Wester packed in his defense.
“We’re not the strongest shooting team and you’ve got to take away those things, and he did a nice job of that,” Hendrickson said. “The problem with that is you still are not going to keep her off the boards. She’ll get five to seven points on rebounds.”
Said Ubl: “We had to change up our offense a little bit to get around what they were doing on zone.”
Shiocton has some big games next week, but they won’t have any bearing on playoff positioning. The Chiefs were schedule to have their seeding meeting over the weekend.
Despite not having to play for seedings, Shiocton’s home game against No. 4-ranked St. Mary’s Springs on Tuesday, Feb. 13, will be a good test.
Hendrickson and his players know they need to shore up a few areas before the showdown of state-ranked teams.
“We probably need to work on our defense more and shooting,” Ubl said.
Skylor Bruns runs around her Iola-Scandinavia opponent for the shot. Shiocton wins 55-43. – Photo Courtesy of David Gomm
By Greg Bates