Parker girls deliver
Left for dead a month ago in the Big Eight Conference race, the Vikings are back in their familiar spot—first place.
After Madison La Follette upset Middleton a week ago to open the door for Parker, the Vikings took care of business Thursday night with a 53-50 win over the Cardinals.
Parker (14-4, 13-3) moved into a first-place tie with Middleton and Verona with two games left. Middleton and Parker will meet next Thursday in the regular- and conference-season finale with the winner likely to at least share the Big Eight title for the second straight season.
“We just beat a pretty good basketball team. I’m really proud of our effort,” Parker coach Tom Klawitter said. “Middleton presents a lot of challenges for a lot of teams, and I thought we handled it pretty well.
“We’ll enjoy this for about an hour, and then we’ll get back at it,” Klawitter said of his team, which will conclude the home portion of the regular-season schedule tonight against Madison Memorial.
Parker held on against the Cardinals (15-3, 13-3), thanks to a solid effort from the free- throw line. The Vikings made 20 of 27 attempts, including four straight in the final minute.
Sophomore Savannah Shepler made two free throws with 59 seconds left to give Parker the lead for good at 51-49. Middleton got within one on Erin Flynn’s free throw with 36 seconds left, but two-time Big Eight Player of the Year Catie O’Leary made two huge free throws with six seconds left to push the lead back to three.
The Cardinals had a chance to tie, but a Rachel Rongstad three-point attempt was off the mark as time expired.
O’Leary tied for game-high scoring honors with 14 points, but it was Parker’s supporting cast that made the difference. Adrienne McDonald scored nine points, including a 7-for-10 performance at the free-throw line, and seldom-used reserve China Franklin had a key basket, two rebounds and two blocks.
“That’s what you hope for at the end of the year is those kids that have been working hard and doing the things they’re supposed to do, will get the opportunity and make the most of it,” Klawitter said.
“We learned some things from a couple of mistakes we made tonight, and I like the fact that we didn’t get down on ourselves because of those mistakes.”
Neither team led by more than six points. Middleton used a 7-0 run to start the second quarter to take a 20-14 lead, but the Vikings responded with a 9-3 run to tie the game. Keynisha Zinn capped off Parker’s run with a steal and a basket to tie the game at 23-23 with 2:27 left in the half.
Parker took its biggest lead at five on Kathy Pernot’s free throw with 3:46 left in the game, but the Cardinals answered with a 7-2 run to tie it with 1:35 remaining.
“We missed some opportunities that we had, and in a game like this, you can’t afford to do that,” Middleton coach Jeff Kind said.
“What really hurt us was putting Parker in the bonus with two minutes left in the third quarter. We had a couple of silly reach-in fouls, and that’s not how we want to be playing defense.”
Middleton’s Emily Larson tied O’Leary for scoring honors with 14, but the Vikings held Emily Newman and Lauren Acker to a combined 10 points. Acker came into the game as the Big Eight’s top three-point shooter with 36 made, while Newman was tied with O’Leary with 32 threes.
Danielle Flood was the only other Viking in double figures, as the sophomore finished with 10 points for her sixth straight double-digit game.
PARKER 53, MIDDLETON 50
Middleton (50)—Newman, 2-0-5; Beckwith, 3-0-7; Acker, 0-5-5; Rongstad, 2-0-6; Larson, 5-4-14; Gardner, 2-4-8; Flynn, 1-2-4; Eklund, 0-1-1. Totals: 15-16-50.
Parker (53)—O’Leary, 3-8-14; Flood, 4-0-10; McDonald, 1-7-9; Shepler, 2-2-8; Miland, 0-2-2; Zinn, 2-0-4; Pernot, 1-1-4; Frankln, 1-0-2. Totals: 14-20-53.
Middleton 13 12 14 11—50
Janesville Parker 14 9 16 14—53
Three-point goals—Middleton 4 (Rongstad 2, Newman, Beckwith), Parker 5 (Shepler 2, Flood 2, Pernot). Free throws missed—Middleton 10, Parker 7. Total fouls—Middleton 24, Parker 23. Fouled out—Newman.
Sophomores—Middleton 44, Parker 26.