GREEN BAY -- The Bangor High School girls basketball team spent a portion of Friday’s WIAA Division 5 state semifinal trying to land a knockout punch that sent Clayton to the floor of the Resch Center.
The Bears, however, withstood the punches and forced the Cardinal to happily accept a decision because, after all, a win is all that matters at this stage of the season.
Bangor made shots when it needed them and did a great job of keeping its composure in beating the Clayton 57-54 to earn a chance to play in Saturday’s championship game.
The Bears (24-4) trailed by as many as 15 points early and made 11 3-pointers to push their way back into the game, but a huge 3-pointer by Courtney Oesterle, two big baskets by Ashlie Lockington and strong finish by Emma Wittmershaus made the Cardinals winners.
“We just kept our heads calm and kept working the ball around,” said Wittmershaus, a UW-Milwaukee recruit who had 24 points and 12 rebounds. “We had some turnovers, and those happen in games like this, but we did a better job of moving the ball around and hitting shots when we needed them.”
Fourth-ranked Bangor (25-3) will play top-ranked Black Hawk (28-0) for the championship in a game that tips off at 11:05 a.m. Saturday. The Warriors beat Wausau Newman 57-31 in Friday’s first semifinal.
The Cardinals advanced by landing enough blows to answer quick scoring flurries by the Bears, who made 3-pointer after 3-pointer whether it was contested or not.
Junior Alison Leslie led the charge with 23 points and five of Clayton’s 11 3s. Junior teammate Kailey Ketz added 20 points and four 3s that tightened up the game significantly.
Leslie made her last 3-pointer over the extended fingertips of Ariana Hundt to get the Bears within 55-51 with 59.7 seconds left, and Ketz drilled her last 3 to cut Bangor’s lead to 56-54 with 22.2 seconds to go.
Wittmershaus connected on a bonus free throw with 7.6 seconds on the clock to push the lead to the winning margin, which held up when Ketz missed an attempt at a 3-pointer and Hundt grabbed the rebound to run out the clock.