Among a sea of players much taller than her, Aquinas High School's 5-foot-3 Megan Scheidt had the play of the night.
A play that led to the Blugolds’ 64-57 win over Onalaska Friday night in a much-anticipated MVC showdown played before an estimated 1,200 fans at the Reinhart Athletic Complex. The victory kept the Blugolds, who are ranked No. 1 in Division 4, unbeaten at 16-0 overall, and 9-0 in the MVC.
Scheidt recovered the ball from three different Onalaska players, passed it to 5-9 senior Kyah Steiner, who connected on a layup to give the Blugolds their first lead of the game with 5 minutes, 35 seconds remaining.
“I knew we really needed to go then,” Steiner said of the big play. “The game was really close, and Onalaska played a great game. My thought was that we needed two points right there.”
Steiner had a hand in three more important plays after that, too.
The UW-La Crosse recruit assisted to Lexi Donarski, who hit the go-ahead 3-pointer in the corner to put Aquinas ahead 58-57 with 97 seconds left in a jam-packed and certainly loud gymnasium. Donarski was open because of some solid screens set for her along the baseline to the corner.
Steiner also picked up a Hilltoppers turnover with 55 seconds left. With the Blugolds in the bonus, Steiner headed to the free-throw line, but missed both attempts.
Whittni Rezin grabbed the rebound on Steiner’s second miss, and 7 seconds later, 6-foot sophomore Courtney Becker hit a 3-pointer from the corner as Aquinas ended the hotly-contested game on a 9-0 run.
The final points for the Blugolds to keep them unbeaten was a Steiner drive through the middle of the lane that led to a three-point play. Steiner scored all 13 of her points in the second half as the Blugolds erased a two-point halftime deficit.
“That’s what Kyah has been doing for the last four years,” Aquinas coach Dave Donarski said. “She lives for those moments. It shows that she needed to take over in the second half, and she did.”
Theusch also scored 13 points for the Blugolds, while Iowa State recruit Lexi Donarski chipped in with 12.
It was a game in which Aquinas fell behind early as the Hilltoppers (14-3, 7-2), who are ranked fifth in Division 2, led by as many as 14 points in the first half with an aggressive approach.
Onalaska took advantage of Becker's foul trouble with 15:19 remaining in the half. In the 8:05 that Becker sat on the bench with two fouls, the Hilltoppers outscored the Blugolds 18-9.
The Hilltoppers went on a 10-0 run that included 3-pointers from Molly Garrity and Jalyn Dobbins. Dobbins and Kenzie Miller also made short baskets in that run.
“First half, we had them on the ropes,” Hilltoppers coach Shane Schmeling said. “At times, we dominated in the first half. We got in foul trouble, we went to our bench a little more than we wanted to, and that let them back in the game. Those kids are so battle-tested for Aquinas.”
Emma Gamoke scored 11 of her 14 points in the first half that included four field goals and three free throws. The Hilltoppers led 31-29 at the half even though both teams had made four 3s.
Dobbins sparked Onalaska in the first half with 13 points, while Lexi Miller added 12.
Aquinas started creeping close in the final 2:30 of the first half.
It started with a 3-pointer made by Taylor Theusch assisted by Scheidt. After Lauren Arenz made a 3-pointer for the Hilltoppers, the Blugolds ended the half with 3-pointers from Theusch and Scheidt. Donarski and Kayla Bahr had the assists on those long-range shots.
“This was a typical, epic battle between Onalaska and us,” coach Donarski said. “In the last four years, seven of the last eight have been exactly like this. It’s what a great game should be all about. We needed a test like this, and Onalaska, they lived up to their billing and put it on us for 32 minutes.”