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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Oconto Falls Gets Routed By Eventual Champion Kettle Moraine In D-3 Semis 64-41

The first basketball trip to state in school history for Oconto Falls turned into a struggle during a 64-41 Division 3 semifinal loss to eventual champion Kettle Moraine Lutheran Friday morning at the Resch Center in Green Bay. Despite a career high 31 points from standout senior guard McKenna Larsen, the Panthers fell behind 9-0 to start the game and never recovered to finish the season with a 22-4 record.

Moving into the championship game, Kettle Moraine Lutheran (27-1) nipped Neillsville 28-23 to take home the gold trophy.

“Bottom line, we got beat by a better team. Kettle Moraine had three go-to-players and we had one. Defensively we did not want to give them uncontested looks, but did. They shot 86% in the first quarter and we paid for it, “ Oconto Falls coach Mike Kaczmarek said. “I am very proud of the girls and what they accomplished this season. We had three goals on the year-end New London’s winning streak, win conference and get to state. We were able to achieve two of them.”

While Kettle Moraine was on fire to open the game, Oconto Falls connected on just 5 of 23 first half shots for a frigid 21.7%. The Panthers didn’t fare much better locating the hoop in the second half, making 8 of 25 field goals to end the game with a 27.1% mark.

“We never recovered from that 9-0 deficit and lost their best shooter Mikayla Voigt in transition three times. Plus when they got the ball inside, we had no answer for Andrea Meinert,” said Kaczmarek who completed his 21st year as a varsity coach and 4th directing the Panthers program.

By the end of the opening frame Oconto Falls was staring at a 19-6 deficit and things were about to get worse. Larsen connected on a pair of three pointers to account for all of the Panther scoring, the second shot coming at the 5:16 mark before the offense came up empty the rest of the quarter.

The offensive struggles continued for Oconto Falls in period two going scoreless for the opening 2-plus minutes. In the meantime Kettle Moraine extended the lead to 23-6 before Larsen snuck through for a layup at the 5:59 mark. Four free throws by Larsen along with a pair from Bailey Wolf enabled Oconto Falls to close the gap to 34-21 by halftime.

Larsen tried to keep her team within striking distance in the third quarter, tossing in all 9 of the Oconto Falls points. Larsen drilled a pair of three point shots while adding a layup and a free throw. Her charity toss at the 3:39 mark cut the deficit to 41-30.

Unfortunately the offense failed to produce another point the rest of the period as Kettle Moraine opened up a 48-30 spread heading into the final 8 minutes.

“We had some opportunities to cut further into the lead but couldn’t come up with a key basket. Plus we couldn’t get multiple stops, got one here and there but not enough to get back into the game. We dug an early hole and you can’t do that against a good team,” Kaczmarek added.

With the outcome no longer in doubt, Oconto Falls continued to play hard and didn’t give up as Kettle Moraine sealed the win with a 16-11 fourth quarter surge. A jumper by Carly Lemke and layup from Larsen got the Panthers within 51-36 (6:12) before Kettle Moraine went on a 12-2 to enjoy a 63-38 cushion with 1:06 remaining.

The final state points for Oconto Falls came compliments of Larsen, who drilled a trey with 53 seconds remaining.

Larsen finished with a game high 31 points on 10-21 shooting, including 5-9 from behind the arc. She also added 8 rebounds, 5 steals and 2 assists to round out her state work.

“You saw McKenna at her best, a career high in scoring. Playing in the tournament gave northeast Wisconsin and the entire state an opportunity to see one of the better players in the state,” Kaczmarek said. “The team really wanted to see McKenna win some hardware after getting to state three times but losing in the semifinals. She is one heck of an athlete and Oconto Falls will certainly miss her. The support our girls received this season has been unbelievable. Hopefully this will carry over for years to come.”

Standing at 6’1 and heading to St. Cloud State for volleyball, Lemke chipped in with 4 points on 2-10 shooting and 4 rebounds, Elizabeth Watka 3 points and Elizabeth Manns 1.

Oconto Falls made 13-48 field goals (27.1%) while turning the ball over 14 times.

Kettle Moraine was led by Andrea Meinert with 19 points and 12 rebounds, Voigt added 19 points, 4 assists and 5 steals while Lyndsey Soderbeck chipped in with 11 points.


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