Reese had a whole lot of wins this season, but would’ve traded in each of them for the one the Rockets wanted the most.
Wednesday’s Division 3 girls’ basketball district semifinal showdown with New Lothrop at Millington High School was of the high-profile variety, meaning a really good team was destined for an early offseason, no matter the outcome.
The Hornets (17-4) stormed out of the gate to take a 13-2, first-quarter lead, and although Reese (19-3) was never far from striking distance, it couldn’t close the distance down the stretch on its way to taking the 57-48 loss.
The outcome was difficult to accept for a Rockets’ team that was hoping to make a deep state-tournament run, but Reese coach Josh Pickell knows his team lost to a quality opponent.
“We had a lot of film on them and we knew they only played about six or seven girls, and those six or seven girls are all pretty good,” said Pickell. “All except one were seniors, and the one that was a sophomore (Brooke Wenzlick) finished with 23 points.
“They were skilled and they were very strong. You can tell they’re in the weight room year-round,” he added. “They’d move the ball and if we broke down one time they took advantage, finishing with a layup or a kickout 3-pointer.”
Reese recovered nicely from the early 13-2 deficit, pulling to within three of the Hornets at 17-14 to end the opening quarter. But New Lothrop had a response of its own leading into halftime, outpointing the Rockets 16-11 in the second quarter to lead 33-25 at the intermission.
Both teams were limited to single-digit scoring in a tightly-contested third quarter, but New Lothrop’s 9-7 scoring edge extended its lead to 42-32 entering the fourth quarter. The closest Reese would get the rest of the way was to face a seven-point deficit after a Zoey Persails 3-pointer cut the Hornets’ lead to 46-39 with 4:45 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Wenzlick had 15 of her 23 points in the first half to set the tone for New Lothrop, which faced Millington (4-17) in the district final late Friday after The Advertiser went to press. Please see Wednesday’s paper for follow-up coverage.
Samantha Kulhanek chipped in 10 points for the Hornets.
Senior point guard Taylor Findlay gave a great effort in her final game as a Rocket, leading her team with 16 points to go with nine assists and six rebounds.
“She definitely didn’t want it to end,” said Pickell of the Rockets’ season.
Findlay along with senior teammates Madi Thompson, Jordynn Roberts and Savannah Comstock will be missed by Pickell, who became Reese’s coach when they were all freshmen.
“This is my first group that I’ve had the pleasure of working with for all four years,” said Pickell. “I told them I’m glad they stuck it out, came in and worked every day.
“They were everything I could’ve hoped for out of a first group to work with,” he added. “It’s incredible the amount of improvement they’ve shown from when they first came in until now.”
One of the team’s talented trio of freshmen this season, Persails added 12 points for Reese.
“She’s one of three freshmen guards for us that all played meaningful minutes this year,” said Pickell. “Next year they’ll have to take an even bigger step forward.
“They all work on their games consistently and want to get better. It’s a fun thing to be a part of.”
Adam Smith is sports editor for The Advertiser and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.