With an eye toward the tournament, Verona girls basketball coach Angie Murphy wanted to schedule as many of the state’s top-10 ranked teams as she could to push her young and talented Wildcat team.
The Verona girls basketball team rolled by Janesville Craig 76-51 on Wednesday, Feb. 3, for its fourth straight win. Verona (4-4) then lost to a pair of ranked teams. The Wildcats lost to Freedom, ranked No. 4 in the Division 2 WisSports.net Coaches Poll, 51-39 on Saturday, Feb. 6, and two days later lost to 10th-ranked Arrowhead 50-41.
“I think we will continue to get better and grow as a team,” Verona freshman guard Taylor Stremlow said after the win over Craig. “We have a lot of potential. With right now with how we are adjusting and working with all of the practices and COVID-19, I think it will be endless possibilities.”
Verona received a No. 2 Baraboo regional seed and will play No. 3-seeded DeForest on Friday in a regional semifinal.
“I’m so happy to be playing,” Murphy said. “If we could have had a normal season how much more growth would we be at with this group.”
Despite playing only four games before the seeding, Verona was awarded the No. 2 seed ahead of DeForest, which at the time was 10-3. Murphy wasn’t surprised to see the Wildcats land a top-two seed despite the fact that all regional games will be played at Baraboo High School.
“These kids have all played each other a lot in the fall,” she said. “The coaches have a lot of respect for these girls. I think we are seeded where we need to be.”
Three of the Wildcats’ four losses are to teams ranked in the top 10 in the state, including No. 4-ranked Brookfield Central.
“They have to grow up fast and we are starting to really click,” Murphy said.
Verona 76, Janesville Craig 51
It didn’t take Verona long to solve Janesville Craig’s 2-3 zone on Feb. 3.
The Wildcats led by seven points at the half before finding the gaps in the Cougars’ zone en route to a victory. Verona freshman guard Taylor Stremlow scored a game-high 21 points.
At the half, Stremlow said the coaches made an adjustment by moving the guards up more against the Cougars’ 2-3 zone. The WIldcats outscored the Cougars 46-26 in the second half and scored most of their points in the paint.
“I was going to work on attacking the gaps better,” Stremlow said. “When I would attack the gaps it would shift their zone more. My teammates did a really good job of moving to get the ball. I think that made the biggest difference, our energy and movement.”
Verona freshman guard Reagan Briggs scored 18 points and sophomore forward Paige Lambe added 14 points.
Sophomore guard Megan Murphy chipped in eight points and hit two 3-pointers and freshman forward Lyric Burns had seven points.
“When we can get out and push that’s definitely to our advantage,” Murphy said. “This is really an unselfish group of girls and they work really well together. We are going to have some turnovers. We are young. They play every possession hard.”
Murphy commended Burns for the way she rebounds to get extra possessions for the team.
“She goes hard for that basketball,” Murphy said. “She loves to get those boards. It’s nice to have a bunch of girls that you don;t have to yell rebound to or crash the boards because they just do it naturally.”
Freedom 51, Verona 39
Fourth-ranked Freedom used a big second half surge to topple the Wildcats.
Freedom went on a 33-17 second-half run on Saturday, Feb. 6, to snap Verona’s four-game winning streak.
Briggs scored a team-high 11 points. Lambe added nine points and Taylor Stremoow had eight. With the win, Freedom improves to 22-1. Callie Genk led the Irish with a game-high 15 points.
Verona shot 40% at the free throw line (8 of 20).
Arrowhead 50, Verona 41
Briggs and freshman Maia Ellis each scored eight points, but the Wildcats couldn’t hang on to a two-point lead at the half on Feb. 8.
Arrowhead outscored Verona 29-18 in the second half. Junior Abbi Rupnow and Lambe each chipped in six points.