Girls earn first-round playoff win at home

Makayla Paggen moves the ball upcourt.  Photo by Thomas A. Kvamme.
Makayla Paggen moves the ball upcourt.
Photo by Thomas A. Kvamme.

MILACA – Section 5AA North girls basketball playoff action gave the Milaca fans something to cheer about with action on the home hardwood on March 6.
When the final horn sounded the Wolves celebrated the evening a 53-35 first-round win over St. Cloud Cathedral.
The win  was the first home playoff win since 2002, Milaca head coach Dave Leom said.
Cathedral came into play as the No. 5 seed, while the Wolves were seeded fourth.
Leom creditedsome stellar defense for his team’s win.
“Our defense limited them to only eight first-half points,” Leom said.
The Wolves scored  24 points on their end of the court, giving them a comfortable margin at the intermission.
“It really helps when your guards really buy into playing really aggressive.”
“I didn’t know if we could match-up, as our guards were playing three or four inches taller, providing a ton of pressure.”
Leom pointed to the spirited floor play of Makayla Paggen (5-7), Alex Ploeger (5-6), Ashley Cassens (5-6) and Sarah Forker (5-4).
Forker is the only senior on the squad, while the other three players are juniors.
Leom considered this a “good win,” not only for the team, but for the overall girls program at Milaca.
The Wolves found themselves down early on.
But, that didn’t last long as they grabbed the lead at 5-4 when Paggen hit a two-point field goal.
From that point, Milacanever looked back.
With 5:21 remaining in the first half, it was Paggen draining a three-pointer, putting her team out front 13-8.
The defense hurled a shutout the rest of the half, while Paggen and company added 11 points for a 24-8 lead at the half-way point.
While Leom praised the offensive force displayed by Paggen, he touted the “great defense inside,” turned in by sophomore Molly Banks.
“It was just one of those deals with pressure, along with numerous blocks, which was nice to see,” Leom said.
In turn, the blocked shots ended up giving Milaca “some fast breaks.”
In the second half the Wolves continued in the right direction. With 14:49 remaining, Ploeger took a feed from Banks, followed at 14:23 with Paggen feeding Banks for two more points, resulting in a 31-11 advantage.
Paggen continued her scoring attack, netting another two-pointer, giving the Lady Wolves a 23-point advantage at 36-13, with 12:23 showing on the clock.
“I think the number one thing we take from that win is having a No. 4 seed, getting a home game,”  Leom said.
“It is critcial for the playoffs and sure nice to have them travel and we can have the home fans.”
At the same time Leom credited the home fans for playing a role in the victory.
“You could just feel it, the house was rocking and I was really happy the girls could experience something like that, as it is all about momentum.”
Leom added, “folks don’t realize that.”

Paggen led all scorers with 25 points. She was 9-16 on field goals, with four coming from beyond the three-point line.
Megan Dahlstrom added to the offensive attack for Milaca, closing out with seven points.
Sophomore Maddie Curtis paced the visiting Crusaders with nine points.

Milaca 53, SCC 35

MILACA — Alex Ploeger 1-6 3-4 5, Molly Banks 2-13 0-0 4, Makayla Paggen 9-16 3-5 25, Sarah Forker 0-7 3-4 3, Megan Dahlstrom 2-6 3-4 7, Allie Terpstra 1-1 1-1 3, Ashley Cassens 1-5 3-4 6, Megan Gould 0-1 0-0 0. Totals  16-55 17-23 53.

SCC — Maddie Curtis 4-9 0-1 9, Rylee Medelberg 3-7 1-1 7, Annie O’Hagan 1-7 0-1 3, Emily  Walsh 2-11 2-6 6, Moriah Schroeder 1-4 0-0 2, Julia Meyer 3-10 2-4 8, Morgan 0-8 0-0 0. Totals  14-57 5-13 35.

Half – Milaca 24, SCC 8. Turnovers SCC 26, Milaca 15. Steals SCC 7, Milaca 14.