As Emma Martin and her Milton girls basketball teammates watched their 13-point second-half lead dwindle away Tuesday night, they remembered back 361 days.
In their first game last season, they lost to Big Foot by two points.
Martin and the Red Hawks didn’t want their season to start in similar fashion again. Despite giving up their lead, they hung tough, using a 7-2 run in the final two minutes to hold off the visiting Chiefs 65-62 in a nonconference game.
“I’m really happy. I think everyone just really knew we needed this one,” said Martin, who scored a game-high 21 points that included five of the seven points in the decisive late run. “We knew we lost to them the first game last year, so we really wanted this one.
“I think everyone kept their cool.”
The Red Hawks’ composure was certainly tested in the second half. They led by 11 at halftime and were up 38-25 in the opening minute of the second half.
But sophomore Reagan Courier helped keep Big Foot in striking range, scoring 18 of her team-high 20 points in the second half.
Her free throws with 7:38 remaining tied the game at 48, and Big Foot took the lead a free throw by Alexandria Demco on the next possession. The Chiefs made 39 trips to the free-throw line but made just 22.
“Two years ago, our team would have rolled over and died if we had that kind of lead and gave it up,” Milton coach Stacy Skemp said.
The final seven minutes were a back-and-forth tussle.
Milton put together an 8-2 run, capped by Abbie Campion’s 3-pointer, to go up 56-51 with 4:28 to go.
Big Foot answered by scoring eight of the next 10 points, regaining the lead on Courier’s drive for a layup. The Chiefs stole the ball away on the ensuing possession—one of dozens of turnovers characteristic of a season-opener—and called a timeout.
But Milton blocked a shot out of the timeout, and Kailey Harbort’s spinning layup with 1:21 left gave the Red Hawks the lead for good at 60-59. Martin made 3 of 4 free-throw attempts to push the lead to 63-60, and she hung in the air long enough to bank home her final shot of the night, making it 65-60 with 18 seconds left.
“We had a lot of contributors, which was nice to see,” said Skemp, who got 16 points from Chloe Buescher and eight from Harbort. “She (Martin) has worked hard to develop. She’s always been a very strong 3-point shooter, but she’s worked on developing an inside game, because they’re going to come closing out on her when she hits a couple 3s.”
Big Foot’s Courtney Schoenbeck, playing in her first game since an ACL injury ended her junior year just three games in, scored 16 points for the Chiefs.
But it was the Red Hawks who picked up the momentum right where it left off a year ago. They won six straight games before losing in a WIAA Division 2 sectional final to Monroe.
“We just communicated and said, ‘Calm down, we’ve got this,’” Martin said.
Milton’s scheduled game against Waunakee on Friday has been postponed due to the Warriors’ appearance at state football. The Red Hawks open Badger South Conference play at Fort Atkinson on Tuesday.
Big Foot opens Rock Valley Conference play Friday at rival Brodhead.
MILTON 65, BIG FOOT 62
Big Foot (62)—Schoenbeck 4-7-16, R. Courier 6-7-20, Larson 0-1-1, Gonzalez 2-2-6, Demco 1-1-3, P. Courier 4-0-8, VandeBogert 1-0-2, Foster 1-4-6. Totals: 19-22-62.
Milton (65)—Honold 2-2-7, Martin 4-10-21, Albrecht 1-0-2, Buescher 6-4-16, Harbort 3-2-8, Hanke 2-0-4, A. Campion 1-0-3, Falk 1-0-2, K. Campion 1-0-2. Totals: 21-18-65.
Big Foot 25 37—62
Milton 36 29—65
Three-point goals—Big Foot 2 (Schoenbeck, R. Courier), Milton 5 (Martin 3, Mack-Honold, A. Campion). Free throws missed—Big Foot 17, Milton 8. Total fouls—Big Foot 21, Milton 24. Fouled out—P. Courier, Albrecht, Harbort.