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College women's basketball: ’Jackets flying high after semifinal win

As Wisconsin-Superior players came off the court Friday night at Mertz Mortorelli Gymnasium, they shook hands with coaches and teammates. Head coach Don Mulhern had a big hug reserved for junior forward Hadley Skalmoski. That was Mulhern's way of...

UWS
Wisconsin-Superior’s Brynn Liljander shoots over Wisconsin-Stevens Point’s Lauren Anklam in the first half of the Yellowjackets’ win in Superior on Friday night. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

As Wisconsin-Superior players came off the court Friday night at Mertz Mortorelli Gymnasium, they shook hands with coaches and teammates.
Head coach Don Mulhern had a big hug reserved for junior forward Hadley Skalmoski. That was Mulhern’s way of saying he appreciated the effort.
Sally Linzmeier had 22 points, and Skalmoski had 11 points, eight rebounds and five blocks off the bench to lead UWS to a 58-36 victory over Wisconsin-Stevens Point in the WIAC tournament semifinals before a boisterous crowd of 747.
“Hadley was our spark tonight,” Linzmeier said. “Every game we’ve had somebody emerge, so if somebody else is down, they help pick them up. That’s part of being a good team.”
UWS (19-7), which tied a program record for wins in a season, advances to play Wisconsin-Oshkosh (21-6) in the championship game at 2 p.m. Sunday at home. At stake is the conference’s automatic qualifying bid into what would be the Yellowjackets’ first NCAA Division III tournament. What’s more, UWS is in its final year in the league before joining the UMAC this fall.
UWS beat Oshkosh 58-46 at Mertz Mortorelli two weeks ago before losing the regular-season finale 58-56 at Stevens Point. UWS still claimed its first WIAC regular-season title outright, however, as Oshkosh lost later that day.
A similar situation could play out Sunday, with the Yellowjackets potentially making the NCAA tournament even if they don’t win. That thought, however, isn’t crossing their minds. They’ve come too close only to be disappointed, including a 75-69 loss at Oshkosh in last year’s WIAC tournament championship game.
“We’re not taking that chance,” Linzmeier said. “Making the NCAA tournament has been our goal from Day 1, and now here is our chance. We came so close last year, and now we have Oshkosh again. It’s our home court. We’ve protected it all year long, and now we’ve just got to do it one more time. We’ve got to take care of business.”
UWS is 10-0 at home this season.
The first half was ugly, with the Yellowjackets leading 23-18 at the break despite shooting 24 percent, thanks largely to 16 Stevens Point turnovers. Linzmeier led the way with 11 points at the break, but none of her teammates had more than three.
“Our defense was there the whole time, even when our shooting was cold,” Linzmeier said. “You just have to keep shooting. We knew couldn’t stay cold forever.”
That changed as a trio of unsung bench players, Skalmoski, Allyssa Lindberg and Carmen Watson, combined for 19 points in the second half with some spirited play.
Skalmoski logged only four minutes in the first half compared to 17 in the second.
“The people who play well are going to play more. It’s that simple,” Mulhern said. “Hadley was phenomenal. She led us on the boards and led us in ways that don’t always show up as stats, overtly, but it shows up in winning games. Her post defense was unbelievable.”
If UWS shot cold in the first, Stevens Point was abysmal in the second. The Pointers (14-13) shot 24.5 percent for the game, including 14.8 percent (4-for-27) in the second half. Jamie Destache and Allie Miceli had 11 points apiece to lead Stevens Point.
“Superior was the better team. They earned it,” Pointers coach Shirley Egner said. “They had a great year and I’m happy for him. Linzmeier is a heckuva player.”
Linzmeier added seven rebounds, five assists and three steals in another vintage all-around game for the 2013-14 conference player of the year.
Linzmeier and the Yellowjackets have been one of the feel-good stories of the local sports season, having averaged just five wins per year the previous decade before gradually turning it around under Mulhern. Now, in a year of firsts, they are one win away from their biggest one yet, and as they say in reference to Mertz Mortorelli Gymnasium, the hive will be buzzing.
“We’ve had great support all year, and to see even more people come out for this game, that just fuels the fire,” Linzmeier said. “The atmosphere here ranked up there with my sophomore year when we played River Falls in our first home playoff game, but I think Sunday will top them all.”
  

WISCONSIN-SUPERIOR 58, WISCONSIN-STEVENS POINT 36

Stevens Point - Lauren Anklam 1-8 1-2 3, Kaitlyn Jacobs 1-4 2-2 4, Lexi Roland 0-2 0-0 0, Joann Wolfenberg 1-4 0-0 2, Sarah Gamillo 0-2 0-0 0, Jamie Destache 4-11 0-0 11, Taylor Douglas 0-1 0-0 0, Eleni Seitz 0-2 0-1 0, Mickey Roland 2-5 0-1 5, Taylor Barrett 0-1 0-0 0, Allie Miceli 3-9 5-10 11. Totals 12-49 8-16 36.
Superior - Brynn Liljander 1-5 0-0 2, Grace Kennedy 2-6 0-0 4, Bailee Bartunek 0-1 0-1 0, Sally Linzemier 6-12 10-11 22, Vanessa Lebens 0-1 0-0 0, Deandra Vavra 0-1 0-0 0, Justine Larson 0-1 0-0 0, Hadley Skalmoski 5-9 1-3 11, Dana Karlstad 1-5 0-0 2, Allyssa Lindberg 2-12 1-2 7, Sarah Lekson 0-1 0-0 0, Molly Atherton 1-1 1-2 3, Carmen Watson 2-5 3-4 7.
Totals 20-60 16-23 58.
Halftime - UWS 23-18. 3-point goals - Stevens Point 4-19 (Anklam 0-7, Roland 0-1, Gamillo 0-2, Destache 3-8, Roland 1-1), UWS 2-10 (Liljander 0-1, Lindberg 2-9). Fouled out - Miceli. Rebounds - UWS 44 (Skalmoski 8), Stevens Point 43 (Miceli 9). Assists - UWS 15 (Linzmeier 5), Stevens Point 12 (Jacobs 5). Total Fouls - Stevens Point 23, UWS 19. A - 747.

Related Topics: SUPERIOR
Jon Nowacki joined the News Tribune in August 1998 as a sports reporter. He grew up in Stephen, Minnesota, in the northwest corner of the state, where he was actively involved in school and sports and was a proud member of the Tigers’ 1992 state championship nine-man football team.

After graduating in 1993, Nowacki majored in print journalism at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, serving as editor of the college paper, “The Aquin,” and graduating with honors in December 1997. He worked with the Associated Press during the “tobacco trial” of 1998, leading to the industry’s historic $206 billion settlement, before moving to Duluth.

Nowacki started as a prep reporter for the News Tribune before moving onto the college ranks, with an emphasis on Minnesota Duluth football, including coverage of the Bulldogs’ NCAA Division II championships in 2008 and 2010.

Nowacki continues to focus on college sports while filling in as a backup on preps, especially at tournament time. He covers the Duluth Huskies baseball team and auto racing in the summer. When time allows, he also writes an offbeat and lighthearted food column entitled “The Taco Stand,” a reference to the “Taco Jon” nickname given to him by his older brother when he was a teenager that stuck with him through college. He has a teenage daughter, Emma.

Nowacki can be reached at jnowacki@duluthnews.com or (218) 380-7027. Follow him on Twitter @TacoJon1.
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