Since back-to-back defeats in early December, the Stoughton High girls basketball team has been almost unstoppable.
The Vikings lost to Milton by a point in overtime on Dec. 5 and then fell to Monroe four days later by 23.
“After those two losses, we were like, ‘Alright, we’ve gotta figure this out,’” Stoughton junior Cassidy Bach said. “We all started to mesh and things started to flow.”
The Vikings certainly had things figured out Tuesday during a 72-37 rout of Milton in a Badger South Conference game at Milton High.
Stoughton (15-8, 8-2 South) improved to 11-1 since those early losses, and is playing its best basketball when it matters most—late in the season and with a conference title still within reach.
The Vikings will host league-leading Monroe (10-0) on Friday with a chance to make the conference race very interesting.
“I think we play best when the competition is harder, and so I think that’s going to be a really great game,” Bach said after scoring 15 points against Milton. “We’ve been working hard in the gym. We’ve studied them. We’ve watched film. We’re going to go in more than prepared.”
Meanwhile, Milton continues to slide. The Red Hawks (8-9, 5-5 South) fell to 1-6 in January and are 4-9 since their exhilarating 62-61 win over Stoughton.
“Early in the first half we were down by 10 and I looked out on the court and it (was) the feeling we were down by 30,” Milton coach Stacy Skemp said. “We’re looking for some leadership on the court. Right now, we’ve got coaches leading, but we don’t have any girls stepping up.”
The Vikings shot just 28.3 percent in the first half Tuesday, but that was still good enough to build a 29-13 lead. Turnovers hurt the Red Hawks, who went seven minutes without a field goal during one stretch to fall behind 16-7.
“Our shots haven’t been falling the last couple weeks and instead of getting the ball inside, where your percentages are higher, we’ve been settling for those outside shots,” Skemp said. “When they’re not going in, it makes it even more detrimental.”
Stoughton focused on minimizing paint touches for Chloe Buescher, Milton’s leading scorer at 15.6 points per game, by shadowing her around the court and deploying double teams when the 6-foot-1 junior got near the rim. Buescher scored 19 points and made the game-winning basket against the Vikings the last time they met, but she was held to six points on 3 of 8 shooting Tuesday.
“We were more aware of where she was and did a nice job keeping her off the glass,” Stoughton coach Brad Pickett said. “She hurt us a couple times with putbacks in that first game. I thought we did a nice job doubling her and I don’t think, once she caught it, she had a lot of space to do much.”
Stoughton opened the second half on an 18-5 run to pull comfortably ahead. The Vikings shot 66.7 percent after halftime and made 8 of their last 9 shots to pad the lead.
Emma Martin and Kailey Harbort led Milton with seven points apiece. The Red Hawks shot 28.5 percent (12 of 42) overall.
Milton travels to Oregon on Friday, with the winner taking over fourth place in the Badger South.
STOUGHTON 72, MILTON 37
Stoughton (72)—Marggi 3-0-6, Frick 2-2-8, Bach 5-3-15, Kissling 2-2-6, Seidel 1-0-2, Nelson 5-3-13, Anderson 1-0-2, Trieloff 3-3-9, Halverson 2-0-5, Baker 3-0-6. Totals: 27-13-72.
Milton (37)—Mack-Honald 2-1-6, Martin 2-2-7, Buescher 3-0-6, Randall 0-1-1, Harbort 2-3-7, Christowski 0-1-1, Hanke 0-1-1, A. Campion 1-1-3, Steinke 1-0-2, Stuckey 1-0-2, Falk 0-1-1. Totals: 12-11-37.
Stoughton 29 43—72
Milton 16 21—37
3-point goals—Stoughton 5 (Bach 2, Frick 2, Halverson 1), Milton 2 (Mack-Honald, Martin). Free throws missed—Stoughton 2, Milton 7. Total fouls—Stoughton 17, Milton 14.