The final record indicates what many might think of as a disappointing season for Janesville Parker’s girls basketball team.
But when looking at what the Vikings did in the postseason and the players coming back, the future certainly appears bright.
The Vikings finished 10-15 overall, including a headscratching double-digit loss to a poor Madison West team to end the regular season. And yet they had top-ranked Mukwonago on the ropes Thursday night.
The game was tied 43-43 with 7:37 to play, but Mukwonago scored 18 of the final 24 points to win 61-49 in a WIAA Division 1 sectional semifinal game at Elkhorn Area High School.
Mukwonago (23-2) advanced to play third-seeded Madison East (19-6) for the sectional title at 1 p.m. Saturday at Janesville Craig, but the Indians had to rally to make it possible.
Parker’s hopes of an upset were dashed thanks to an abundance of live-ball turnovers that Mukwonago converted into points.
“That’s our season in a nutshell,” Parker coach Jennah Hartwig said of her team’s inability to take care of the ball. “That, and we just seemed to run out of gas. Our rotation wasn’t very deep tonight, and at the end you could tell.”
“But I couldn’t be more proud of these girls. They forced the No. 1 team in the state to stall and make their free throws. We were right there with a chance. That’s all you can ask for.”
Parker fell behind early and trailed 5-0 with just over a minute gone. The Vikings regrouped, however, and scored eight straight points to go up three. Sophomore Tina Shelton, who led the Vikings with 16 points, sparked the run.
Mukwonago seemed to seize control with a 10-0 run to take an 18-10 lead, but Parker once again answered with a 10-0 run of its own to lead 22-18 with 3:41 left in the half.
The Vikings eventually led 23-21 at half.
“We definitely got off to a slow start,” Mukwonago coach Rick Kolinske said. “I thought we got off some good shots, but they weren’t falling and that frustrated us.
“At half, I just told them to relax and that there was still a half to play. And once we got the lead, I think we were able to relax and put the pressure back on them (Parker). But give Parker credit, they played hard.”
Parker took its last lead of the game at 41-39 on junior Julia Hartwig’s basket with 11:11 left. And senior Mirnaly Veguilla tied the game for the Vikings for the last time at 43-43, but the Indians responded with a 9-0 run.
Natalie Andersen, who led all scorers with 25 points, had five straight points to key the rally.
Parker got no closer than eight the rest of the way, as Mukwonago went into a four-corner stall that forced Parker to foul. The Indians hit nine free throws in the final 1:40.
Hartwig finished with 12 points for Parker, while sophomore Jena Forrestal chipped in 10. Forrestal, who had 13 3-pointers in three tournament games, had three 3s in the first half but did not score in the second.
Despite the loss and an up-and-down season, coach Hartwig knows with four starters returning, the Vikings’ postseason run should’ve set the tone for next season.
“For our seniors, I can’t thank them enough,” Hartwig said of Jacy Benway, Veguilla and Alexis Fenrick. “And for those coming back, they now know what they’re capable of and what they can accomplish.
“It comes down to working hard in the offseason, which as far as I’m concerned starts Monday.”
MUKWONAGO 61, PARKER 49
Mukwonago (61)—Beyer 3-4-12; Lopez 1-1-3; Cera 4-2-12; Anderson 9-7-25; Henning 3-2-9. Totals: 20-16-61
Parker (49)—Benway 2-1-6; Shelton 5-6-16; Forrestal 3-1-10; Graesslin 1-0-3; Hartwig 5-1-12; Veguilla 1-0-2. Totals: 17-9-49
Mukwonago 21 40—61
Janesville Parker 23 26—49
3-point goals—Mukwonago 5 (Cera 2, Beyer 2, Henning), Parker 6 (Forrestal 3, Benway, Graesslin, Hartwig). Free throws missed—Mukwonago 7, Parker 5. Total fouls—Mukwonago 15, Parker 19. Fouled out—Benway