Milton High’s girls basketball team has seen just about enough of Sydney Hilliard.
The Monroe senior standout has been a thorn in the side of the Red Hawks for four years.
On Saturday, in a WIAA Division 2 sectional final game, Hilliard was the catalyst once again as the Cheesemakers ended the Red Hawks’ season one game short of the state tournament for the second time in three years.
Hilliard, a University of Wisconsin recruit, scored 31 points to lead Monroe to a 62-51 victory.
“It’s hard to compete with a Division I athlete,” Milton coach Stacy Skemp said. “Sometimes, you question whether a high school athlete deserves a Division I scholarship, but not with her. She is the real deal.”
Monroe (20-6) will learn its state tournament seed today. Beaver Dam, Hortonville and Whitefish Bay also punched their tickets to the D2 state tournament. Beaver Dam will almost certainly earn the top seed in Division 2.
Milton, which finished the season with an 11-14 record, got 24 points from senior Chloe Buescher but could not contain Hilliard. She had 17 points in the second half and led an 8-0 run out of halftime that put the Cheesemakers comfortably ahead by 15.
“We weren’t sure if we had ever seen her full potential, but I think today we saw that,” Skemp said. “She has another gear, and today she turned that on.”
Milton trailed by seven at half, but Hilliard scored seven quick points in the first 90 seconds of the second half to push the Cheesemakers’ lead to 38-23.
Milton, despite a 13-point second half by Buescher, could get no closer than 10 the rest of the way.
In beating Milton for the third time this season, Monroe advanced to state for the third straight year. Hilliard said her team was not looking past Milton despite 25- and 23-point victories during the regular season.
“We beat them two years ago to go to state, so I knew they’d have some fire and want revenge,” Hilliard said. “They battled hard and were ready to play, and No. 11’s (Buescher) post game was unreal.
“I thought we did a good job of not looking ahead to state and playing composed today. We got off to a good start and that was big.”
Behind Hilliard, the Cheesemakers threatened to pull away early. Hilliard scored six of her team’s first eight points, and the Red Hawks trailed 8-2 with 14:42 left in the half.
The Red Hawks wouldn’t go away, however, as Buescher kept her team in the game. The senior had 11 points in the first half, including back-to-back baskets that trimmed an 11-point deficit down to seven with 1:45 left.
Milton—which was seeking its fifth-ever state tournament berth—hurt itself with five turnovers in the first five minutes of the game but had only two the rest of the half.
Skemp said her players have no reason to hang their heads.
“We talked all week about how we were such a different team than Monroe had seen the first two times we played them,” Skemp said. “These girls felt all along that during this tournament run there was no game we couldn’t win, and today was no exception.
“The girls left everything on the floor. They bought in and worked hard toward that one goal. We just came up a little short of reaching it.”
MONROE 62, MILTON 51
Milton (51)—Mack-Honold 1-4-6; Buescher 11-2-24; Quade 3-0-6; Hanke 2-0-4; Campion 1-4-6; Falk 1-2-5. Totals: 19-12-51
Monroe (62)—Hilliard 12-5-31; E. Benzschawel 1-0-2; M. Benzschawel 5-7-18; Tostrud 3-2-9; Updike 1-0-2. Totals: 22-14-62
Milton 23 28—51
Monroe 30 31—62
3-point goals—Milton 1 (Falk), Monroe 4(Hilliard 2, Tostrud, M. Benzschawel). Free throws missed—Milton 6, Monroe 5. Total fouls—Milton 16, Monroe 18. Fouled out—Mathiason, Campion.