Eichler strikes again as Grafton grabs title
After scoring 24 points to lead Grafton past defending champion Monroe in Friday’s semifinals, the senior forward added 23 here Saturday in sparking a 54-52 victory over Durand for the WIAA Division 2 girls state basketball title.
The Blackhawks (24-3) withstood a heroic effort by Durand senior Samantha Hoyt to earn their second championship in three years.
Hoyt, who also finished with 23 points, scored 17 and was 5-for-7 from three-point range in the fourth quarter. She nailed a three-point shot with two seconds remaining as the Panthers fell two points short.
When the players shook hands after the game, Grafton coach Bob Maronde commended Hoyt for her performance.
“We closed out on the perimeter, and we had her at times five- and six-feet behind the line,” Maronde said of Grafton’s defense. “You’ve got to give all the credit in the world because I told her when we went through the line that she has tremendous heart, and there was no way she was going to let her team go down.”
Samantha Schoeder added 12 points for Durand (23-3), which made its first trip to state in 12 years.
Grafton was sluggish at the onset as Durand held an 18-11 lead midway through the second quarter. Sarah Eichler, Hannah Eichler and Myranda Tyler then spearheaded a 17-1 run over the final 4:31 to rally Grafton to a 28-19 halftime lead.
Hannah Eichler, a freshman and Sarah’s sister, didn’t get rattled with the ball in her hands before intermission. As the Durand fans began the countdown to halftime, they yelled the wrong time in hopes of throwing off the young guard. But she launched a one-handed three-pointer that found the bottom of the net with seven seconds left in the half.
Durand coach Todd Poeschel said Grafton ramped up its defense in the second half, and the Panthers struggled at junctures with handling the pressure.
But Durand stayed within reach, particularly late in the fourth, when Hoyt staged her long-range onslaught. One basket cut Grafton’s lead to 46-40 with 3:10 to go, and another rolled around the rim and fell out.
As the Blackhawks made free throws to stay in control in the final 30 seconds, Hoyt hit a long ball to make it 52-49 with 13 seconds left.
Grafton lost 70 percent of its scoring through graduation, and Maronde said despite some inexperience, he was pleased with the Blackhawks’ performance through the course of the season. The team was appearing in its fifth consecutive tournament.
“We set the bar high and each and every day this group of young ladies met the challenges,” Maronde said. “We didn’t play our best game today, but every time Durand came at us, these guys answered them somehow. It’s a special time, a very special place and a special group.”