When Martin Luther girls basketball head coach Corey Scheel was prepping to face Madison Edgewood, it was evident to him the Crusaders like to pack it in.
Scheel watched game film and thought his team would have opportunities from the outside in the WIAA Division 3 state-championship game.
Martin Luther got its chances from long range but went just 1 for 15 (6.7 percent) on 3-pointers. For the game, the Spartans were held to a season-low in points and were just 11 for 40 (27.5 percent) from the field in losing, 51-30, on Saturday afternoon at the Resch Center in Green Bay.
“With our quickness, I thought coming in and what I saw on tape, I thought they would take away more drive opportunities,” Scheel said. “In other games, I saw a lot of other teams had more shots from the outside, and they covered that really well. Their help-side was expected; they gave great help-side and were just swarming. They hustled. They got a lot of loose balls that we usually get. They rebounded extremely hard.”
Martin Luther finished with 17 turnovers and scored 27.6 points under its season average.
Edgewood was led by Stanford signee Estella Moschkau, who scored a game-high 20 points on the same day she was named Co-Miss Basketball with Sidney Cooks of Kenosha St. Joseph. She was matched up against Martin Luther’s leading scorer Emily Hafemann, who was limited to 7 points on 3-for-9 shooting. Emma Kallas also added 7 points for the Spartans.
Hafemann definitely had her work cut out for her against Moschkau.
“She’s just so long and so tall that even if it did look like I had an opening, I was tentative from outside at least," Hafemann said. “We were expecting them to pack it in more, so we’d have more opportunities outside, and they kind of did the opposite and pressured us more in the half court. Like what (coach) said, the unforced errors were really the detriment of us, because we were making uncharacteristic turnovers that we don’t normally make. That was hard for us to get our momentum back and get rolling with it from there.”
Moschkau and her teammates played stellar defense all game and were rewarded with their first state title.
“The fact that they get up shots, we take that personally,” Edgewood coach Lora Staveness said. “We want to be really stingy.”
In a sluggish first half for both teams, Martin Luther (26-2) got down, 6-1, before going on an 8-2 run to take its first lead. With the game tied at 11, Edgewood (25-3) closed out the first by scoring the final 8 points. Martin Luther missed its final five shots and had six turnovers in the last 6 minutes. The Spartans went cold from the field, going 4 for 18 (22.2 percent) in the half.
“Too many unforced turnovers in the first half is, I think, what doomed us,” Scheel said. “We started the game out well. I thought we had a good game plan. I give a lot of credit to Edgewood. I think they really ramped up their defensive intensity – nothing that I’ve really seen out of them up here. They really did a nice job of taking away any outside shots from us. They covered the 3-ball well.”
Edgewood continued its run into the second half – getting it up to 15-2 – to take a 26-13 advantage. Bailey Zazueta made a layup, and Hafemann drained a 3-pointer to get Martin Luther back within 26-18. However, 8 points was the closest the Spartans got the rest of the night.
The season didn’t end the way the Martin Luther players had hope when they stepped onto the court on Saturday, but they know they accomplished quite a lot in the program’s first appearance at state.
“It’s been a great run,” Hafemann said. “Coming in as freshmen, new to high-school basketball, it’s a big change from grade school. And having about a .500 freshman year to ... my senior year, state championship. There’s nothing more you can really ask for. It’s been a great run with this group of girls.”
“Everything that these girls have done from winning a regional championship to a sectional championship, a conference championship, winning 25 games in a row,” Scheel said. “We’ve got some things that are going to be really hard to match for the future, but the future’s still bright for our program. I’m so blessed to have worked with these girls this year and especially these four seniors.”
The seniors – Hafemann, Zazueta, Grace Amling and Brooke Blazei – meant a great deal to the program.
“Those four have played together since fifth grade,” Scheel said. “I’ve said it before, their competitive nature, their desire to win and get better is something I’ve never been around before, and they’re truly a special group. I feel extremely, extremely close to them, and I will continue to be that way as they go into college and on further.
“They’re truly going to be missed and it’s going to be different next year. We’ve got a nice group coming back, but not to have those four on the floor every day, having those conversations, it’s going to be weird. It’s going to be tough.”