Stoughton sophomore guard Ava Loftus had a monster game, but the Vikings’ upset bid came up short in a 60-51 home loss to Badger South Conference rival Oregon on Tuesday, Feb. 4.

Loftus scored a career-high 27 points in the loss to the Panthers. Three days later, she had 14 points to lead the Vikings to a 48-43 road win over Milton.

“Ava recognized she has to look to score a little bit and she has that ability,” Stoughton coach Brad Pickett said. “I think just being a sophomore, initially she was trying to feel things out a little bit. As the season has gone on, she has been more confident and her teammates have been more confident with her. The nice thing about Ava is she will continue to work hard and continue to get better. That’s the mentality she has and the kind of kid she is.”

Stoughton (7-12, 3-8 Badger South) is 2-5 in games decided by nine points or less.

“Our record might not show it, but I think the last couple of weeks we have really competed in practice. If we can continue to compete, we will give ourselves a shot,” Pickett said.

Stoughton 48, Milton 43

The Vikings had three players reach double figures en route to a comeback win over the Red Hawks on Friday, Feb. 7.

Loftus scored a game-high 14 points. Senior Delaney Seidel pitched in 11 points, while Mya Davidson and Megan Marggi added eight apiece.

Stoughton trailed by two points at the half. The Vikings outscored the Red Hawks 30-23 in the second half.

Oregon 60, Stoughton 51

Loftus helped rally the Vikings from an 11-point deficit against the conference-leading Panthers. She showcased her driving ability by scoring 17 points in the second half.

Oregon coach Adam Wamsley credited Loftus for her driving ability.

“She’s a good young player,” Wamsley said. “We knew we would have to put a lot of effort into stopping her. They got by us initially and they got some backdoor cuts on us as we tried to help. It’s tough to guard if you can’t stop the dribbler. I give Ava a lot of credit for making plays.”

“We probably turned the ball over too much, and if we don’t do that, maybe a nine-point game is a two-point game late and you see what happens.”

The Vikings committed 18 turnovers, but twice cut the Panthers’ lead to four in the second half.

Oregon (15-4, 11-1) is 11-1 in its last 12 games, with the only loss coming to Beaver Dam (ranked second in the Division 2 Associated Press state poll). Oregon senior Liz Uhl scored a team-high 20 points.

Seidel made a layup to slice the Panthers’ lead to 37-33 with 14:48 left in the second half. Moments later, Loftus drove the baseline for a layup to cut the Vikings’ deficit to 39-35.

Oregon senior point guard Izzie Peterson converted a three-point play to extend the Panthers’ lead to 52-41 with 7:34 to go. Loftus answered with a three-point play and a layup with 1:53 left to cut the Panthers’ lead to 54-49.

Davidson made a layup to cut Oregon’s lead to 57-51 with 32 seconds to go, but the Panthers made 3 of 4 free throws in the final 30 seconds to seal the victory. Oregon shot 63.3% (19-for-30) from the charity stripe.

The Panthers jumped out to a 16-5 lead, as Uhl and junior Megan Bloyer combined for 14 points during the spurt.

The Vikings rallied behind two of their sophomores. Loftus hit a 3 and a layup, and Davidson scored down low to cut the Panthers’ lead to 23-18 with 2:45 left in the first half. Uhl scored 14 points before halftime to help Oregon take a 32-25 lead at the break.

Davidson finished with seven points and seven rebounds. Seidel chipped in six points.

Pickett has leaned on five seniors, Seidel, Zaemisch, Marggi, Myranda Kotlowski and Riley Royston, to get the sophomores up to speed in the offense.

Zaemisch and sophomore Victoria Ashworth missed the game due to injury.

“A lot of that credit goes to the seniors who have helped those younger kids and helped them grow,” Pickett said. “Sometimes it’s not easy to let some of the sophomores steal the thunder a little bit, but they have to be involved for us to be successful.”