GREEN BAY, Wis. – Everybody should have grace.
OK, no brainer there.
But the Kettle Moraine girls’ basketball team has Grace Grocholski, and there isn’t a girls’ basketball team in the state that didn’t wish it had that kind of Grace.
For the second straight year, Grocholski came up big when the lights were brightest, scoring a game-high 24 points to lead the Lasers to a 47-40 victory over top seed Brookfield East in the WIAA Division 1 Girls’ Basketball Tournament championship game Saturday at the Resch Center.
The victory marked the second straight Division 1 title, and third overall, for the Lasers (28-1).
“It means everything,” said Grocholski, a senior, who poured in 34 points in last year’s championship game win over Appleton East. “The opportunity we got to 2-peat and we did it. I’m glad it was this team. No one better.”
For this game, the Lasers’ calling card was defense. It held the Spartans to 28% shooting (13-of-36), including just 2-of-14 (14%) from three-point range. It all added up to a season-low 40 points for Brookfield East.
“We talked about if we’re going to win the game tonight, it was going to have to be on the defensive end,” said Lasers coach Todd Hansen. “We felt confidence in our offense, but if we were going to win, we had to play good defense.
And we played phenomenal defense all night. Just so proud of all of them.”
Braelyn Torres added 11 points for Kettle Moraine.
“It’s pretty amazing,” she said, “especially to do it with Grace by my side.”
Shae Kelley was the lone player to reach double digits for the Spartans (27-3) with 18 points.
Kewaskum 55, Milwaukee Academy of Science 51
Everything about this season was hard Kewaskum, except the ending.
They didn’t have a coach until a couple of days before practice began. They hired 70-year-old Mark Maley, who coached 12 years at West Bend West before moving to Cardinal Stritch as an assistant. And it took longer than hoped for the coach and the teenage girls to understand each other’s language.
The Indians’ top scorer Madi Dogs, missed the first two games with an injury, and they scuffled to an 8-4 start.
Then in Saturday’s championship game, they coughed an 11-point lead, then a 10-point lead both in the second half and found themselves trailing, 48-47, with 1:54 to play.
But then the team that shot a meager 58% from the free-thrown line on the year stepped up. The Indians made 8-of-10 foul shots down the stretch to pull out the victory.
It was Kewaskum’s first state championship in school history. They finished the season 24-5.
“We’re just so honored to be the team that was able to bring this to our community,” said Dogs, who finished with 13 points. “We’ve had so much support from everyone, all the people here. It means so much to all of us.”
Julia Steger led Kewaskum with 23 points and 10 rebounds.
“This was my personal last game, I’m not continuing in college,” she said. “And it’s my last time on the court with all my best friends, and a lot of the juniors on the team that I love.
“I just wanted to put it all out there. I mean, I do every game. But this one, it was just something that was in me that I felt was right out there.”
Beautiful Waheed led the Lady Novas (23-4) with 16 points. Lalani Ellis and Elis Williams added 11 points apiece.
Laconia 64, Aquinas 51
Welcome to the club, Laconia.
Twice a state runner-up -- including last season -- the Spartans won their first state championship by taking down perennial power Aquinas (28-2). It was a day where the Spartans were at the top of their game in all aspects on the biggest stage.
Laconia outrebounded Aquinas 43-24, with 36 on the defensive end that limited the Blugolds’ high-powered offense (70 points a game on the season) to just one opportunity most times down the court.
The Spartans solved the riddle that was Aquinas’ full-court pressure defense, making 45% of their field goals on 20-of-45 shooting. They held a 16-9 advantage in free throws made and held Aquinas to its second-lowest point total of the season.
“It feels great,” said Laconia’s Reece Keel, the only senior on the team. “When we lost last year, it hurt a little bit and we didn’t want to feel that feeling again. This was my last game coming in, and I just wanted to go play and I wanted do good.”
She did that, scoring a team-high 16 points, all coming in the first half as the Spartans took a 33-23 lead.
The Blugolds got as close as five points early in the second half, but Laconia (27-3) responded with a 6-0 run to end the only-second half threat.
“It’s so special,” said Laconia coach Chris Morgan. “We’ve worked for this for so long. We’ve had this sophomore group, I coached them along with a couple of other dads for a long time. So, to share that with this group and with my daughter (Payton) is really special.
“But then we’ve got other great kids. To see Reece glow like this is phenomenal. Reece is a great kid; just love to have this for her.”
Aubrey Leonard added 15 points for Laconia and Morgan 12.
Macy Donarski lead the Blugolds with 18 points and freshman Samantha Davis added 12.
McDonell Central 61, Blair-Taylor 46
The Macks knocked on the door the last two years but could not enter. Saturday, they decided to run through the door.
After losses in the state semifinals two years in a row by a total of four points, McDonell used a strong defense and a huge advantage from the free-throw line to win the school’s first state championship.
“It’s like this overwhelming joy,” said senior Marley Hughes, one of four Macks in double figures with 14 points. “I’m so happy. I don’t even have words. Just so excited.”
The Macks (26-5) kept Blair-Taylor off-balance with a variety of defensive looks as it forged a 27-23 halftime lead.
The Wildcats finally tied it at 47-47 on a Lindsay Steien layup off a turnover with 15:51 to play. But McDonell would respond with a 6-0 run and prevented Blair-Taylor from ever taking the lead.
From there the Macks continued to press the issue, driving to the basket and drawing fouls. They made 16-of-19 free throws in the second half and 23-of-28 for the game. The Wildcats didn’t attempt a free throw in the game.
The Macks’ top three scorers all came up big. Besides Hughes, Aubrey Dorn had 16 points and Emily Cooper 14. Isabel Hartman added 10.
“The leadership has been outstanding,” said McDonell coach Don Cooper. “And the way these girls played together all year long, it’s just a pleasure to watch, and coach.”
Abby Thompson and Steien each had 15 points to lead the Wildcats (27-2).