Lady Cats lose home opener

Millard West falls in a close game with Omaha Marian


Photo by Aileen Amenyah

Senior Reese Peterson of Millard West being guarded by senior Aryannah Harrison of Marian. The game was a very defensive match with a lot of fouls and turnovers. “We knew going into the game that Marian had two really good players who have found many different ways to score so we had to keep them under control,” Peterson said. “Our game plan was to kind of make the rest of the team beat us.”

Jonathan Willis, Striv Executive Producer

The girls varsity basketball team faced the Marian Crusaders this past Saturday in their home opener. Before the game, the team celebrated seniors Laney Schipper and Reese Peterson who have been part of this program for four years now. 

The Wildcats went into this game with a 1-2 record. They had lost to Fremont 55-32 and Bellevue East 37-29. Their one win came in the opening pod tournament against Grand Island Northwest 52-43. The team has still been trying to find its groove, especially on the offense side of the ball. They haven’t been putting up a lot of points with a lot of inexperienced players at the varsity level.

“As a whole, we just need to get more comfortable and gain confidence,” Peterson said. “We have been playing really good defense to start the season, and we just need to get confident on the offensive end of the floor. I’m really excited for the rest of the season because I know just how good we really can be.”

The Crusaders had only played one game previous to this one, and that was against Omaha Northwest which resulted in a 67-45 Marian win. Seniors CeCe Hacker and Aryannah Harrison both had over 20 points in that game, and the Wildcats knew they would have their hands full with two very solid shooters. 

“The reason I’ve been so successful on both sides of the ball was due to my coaches preparing me all this offseason,” Harrison said. “They helped me get in shape so that I can be able to play on both sides of the ball for all 32 minutes.” 

The first quarter started out slow. Both teams were very aggressive on the defensive side of the ball, and that caused a lot of misses. Harrison was especially strong on the defensive effort for the Crusaders, pressing the offensive players for the Wildcats and forcing turnovers and steals. Harrison had a game high four steals. There were a lot of jump balls throughout the entire game due to some sloppy passing and the ball being on the floor a lot. Throughout the first five minutes of the game, Millard West had only scored on free throws. Only one field goal was scored by the Wildcats in the first quarter, and it was a layup by Schipper. Some timely shots by Hacker and Harrison for Marian helped them have an 11-7 lead at the end of the first. 

The second quarter was more of the same for both teams. Only 12 total points were scored in the period, with a lot of defense and turnovers again. Junior Gwen Stocker scored four out of the six points for the Wildcats in this quarter, one of those shots being an and one that made it a one point game. Sophomore Ashley Wilwerding and Harrison both had big shots in the paint to gain a four point separation as they headed into the halftime break. Marian led 17-13 after the first 16 minutes. 

“In the first half, they were putting a lot of pressure on us when we were on offense and when they were on offense they were always driving downhill to get through the gaps,” Millard West sophomore Kenna Scholting said. “To slow them down we put pressure on them by switching back and forth from zone to man defense and pressing them on a made basket.”

In the second half, both offenses got going and a lot more shots fell. Marian came out of the break firing, going on an 8-0 run including two straight threes by Harrison which caused Millard West to use a timeout early in the third quarter. The Wildcats started to fight back after the timeout with five straight points by sophomore Libby Hoffman. Harrison slowed down the Millard West run with another steal and a layup on the other end. Wilwerding made another shot near the end of the quarter to gain a little separation, and the Crusaders were up 29-22 after three quarters. 

We just came out and were going through the motions, but the timeout kind of woke us up and made us begin to play defense the way we knew we could,” Peterson said. “We knew if we wanted to have a shot in the end, we had to turn the intensity way up, get up and pressure in the press and really guard the ball and force turnovers in the half court.”

Millard West continued to fight and kept it close in the fourth quarter, however, Marian was able to fight back and keep their lead whenever the Wildcats made any kind of a run. Harrison continued to play well in the fourth, making a three while closely guarded and doing everything to continue to keep the lead. After being quiet in the first three quarters, Schipper really started to get going in the fourth. She scored 11 points in the period, including two and one shots and kept her team in it. After Schipper scored four straight points, the Wildcats were only down by three points with two minutes remaining. However, Peterson turned the ball over with just under 30 seconds left in the game, and the Wildcats were forced to foul and that ended it for the Lady Cats. Marian ended up defeating the Millard West Wildcats 40-34. 

“The biggest takeaway as a team from that game would be to just stay positive and keep pushing,” Harrison said. “There were a lot of ups and downs in that game, but the whole time my team remained positive and kept pushing themselves to the best of their abilities.” 

The Crusaders improved to 2-0 on the season while the Wildcats fell to 1-3. Schipper led the team in scoring for Millard West with 14 points while Harrison led Marian with 15 points. Stocker also had a solid game for the Cats with eight points and seven rebounds. The biggest story in the game was the fouling and the free throw shots; 34 total fouls were committed and 26 out of the 74 total points scored were on free throws. 

Even with the tough start to the season, the Wildcats have a lot to look forward to. The team is very young, and there have been improvements in every game they have played this year. The Cats will continue to get better as the young players continue to get a feel for varsity and the competition at this level. 

“We need to get confident playing under pressure,” Peterson said. “Coach Marc Kruger always tells us that we’re all on varsity for a reason and we are really good players. We just need to believe that and start playing the way that we are capable of.”

The Lady Cats will be back in action on December 19, when they will battle the Lincoln High Links at home at 4:00 p.m. You can watch the game live on Millard West Striv TV.