Saturday night it ruptured.
The Vikings managed only 12 field goals and missed all 16 of their three-point shots in falling 50-34 to Verona in a WIAA Division 1 sectional title game at Flood Arena.
The Wildcats (19-4) will play Big Eight Conference rival Middleton (20-3) in the first game of the state tournament on Thursday at 1:35 at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison.
The Vikings (17-6) were left to ponder how, in the biggest game of the year, its offense went AWOL.
“As funny as it sounds, when you play a team like Verona, you have to outscore them. And that means shooting the ball well and knocking down some threes,” Parker coach Tom Klawitter said. “We don’t have the horses to match up with them, and when the ball doesn’t go in the basket, it makes it that much tougher.
“And even though we’ve seen the triangle-and-two (defense) before, we had trouble figuring it out tonight. You have to make teams come out of that, and that starts with knocking down a couple of shots, which we didn’t.”
The Vikings’ troubles began from the opening tip. Verona’s Kelsey Zwaga drained a three-point basket on the first possession of the game and the Wildcats never looked back. Parker was 3-for-15 from the field in the opening quarter and made only 6 of 30 first-half shots, including 0-for-9 from three-point range.
Verona coach Angie Murphy said her team’s game plan was simple. Don’t let Catie O’Leary and Danielle Flood beat them from the outside.
“Our girls executed perfectly,” Murphy said. “We knew after watching O’Leary destroy Lake Geneva Badger last night (27 points), that we couldn’t let that happen tonight or we were in trouble.
“By stopping her and Flood, and by getting out to an early lead, that helped us play the game at our tempo.”
O’Leary, for probably the only time in her illustrious career, was held scoreless the first half. The Loyola University of Chicago recruit and two-time Big Eight Player of the Year missed all nine shots she took as the Wildcats shadowed her every move.
She finished with 11 points, but was a non-factor thanks to the constant pressure from a slew of Verona defenders that made her last high school game one to forget.
Verona led by as many as nine in the first half, but eight second-quarter turnovers kept the Wildcats from pulling away.
Leading by seven at half, the Wildcats pushed the lead to double digits early in the second half.
The backbreaker for the Vikings were back-to-back three-pointers by Ali Tackett that gave the Wildcats a 33-20 lead with 3:52 left in the third. Parker got no closer than nine after that as the Wildcats were content to take time off the clock on each possession.
Verona’s Leslie Schaefer, a Kent State University recruit, scored 14 points to lead all scorers. The 6-foot-3 senior also added six blocks and 11 rebounds as the Vikings had no answer for her inside presence.
Schaefer said her team’s quick start fueled the victory.
“We had so much adrenaline before the game, and then Kelsey came out and hit that three to start the game, and that really got us going,” Schaefer said. “After losing to Parker the last time we played them, we really wanted to play them again.
“Our defense really created for our offense tonight, and Parker was not hitting their shots. This feels great to go back to state again.”
In losing to Verona in the sectional final’s for the second straight year, the Vikings were denied a state-record 13th state tournament appearance.
VERONA 50, PARKER 34
Parker (34)—McDonald, 1-0-2; O’Leary, 4-3-11; Flood, 2-0-4; Miland, 1-0-2; Shepler, 2-0-4; Zinn, 2-7-11. Totals: 12-10-34.
Verona (50)—Bucierka, 4-2-10; Zwaga, 3-1-8; Schaefer, 6-2-14; Tackett, 4-0-10; Cropp, 0-6-6. Totals: 17-13-50.
Parker 7 8 8 11—34
Verona 14 8 14 14—50
Three-point goals—Verona 3 (Zwaga, Tackett 2). Free throws missed—Parker 3, Verona 5. Total fouls—Parker 14, Verona 12.