The Aquinas High School girls basketball team got a little taste of its own medicine on Friday night.
The Blugolds are accustomed to creating turnovers and playing the game at their preferred accelerated pace. But the visiting Tomah Timberwolves fought like crazy not to allow that to happen in front of an estimated crowd 550 people at the Reinhart Athletic Complex.
Tomah was in the game until the middle of the second half when the Blugolds’ pressure finally took control and they pulled away with a 59-44 MVC win.
Aquinas (4-0, 1-0 MVC) had to earn the victory, though, as the Timberwolves’ 1-3-1 zone caused a good deal of turnovers and made the first half a slog that featured 31 combined turnovers.
“I thought Tomah did a great job disrupting what we wanted to do,” Aquinas coach Dave Donarski said. “They’ve got good length at the top of that 1-3-1. We simulated it in practice, but it wasn’t nearly what we saw.”
Donarski said Tomah’s pressure along with some tentative play by his squad caused what he called frenetic action. Neither team got the looks they wanted for much of the half, and they went into the locker room with Aquinas leading 22-12.
The key stretch came midway through the second half. Tomah had cut the lead down to three points after a pair of free throws from junior Madison Lindauer. Aquinas answered the Timberwolves’ run to start the half with a 10-3 spurt to put itself back up 10, and then Tomah coach Mark Von Haden was assessed a technical foul for arguing an official’s call.
Aquinas drained both free throws from the technical, and two more from the foul that incited the argument, and didn’t look back.
Tomah (5-1, 0-1) made a last-gasp attempt to get back into it when Madisyn Brey and Lindauer made 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions. But Blugolds sophomore Taylor Theusch answered each of their shots with long-range makes of her own to keep the lead at 14.
“I knew our team needed it. We needed a burst of energy,” Theusch said. “I knew I had to shoot whenever I had the chance.”
Lindauer scored a game-high 22 points for Tomah, making all 12 of her tries from the free-throw line, and Brey had three 3-pointers to power an 11-point performance. But 20 turnovers and a handful of jump balls that went Aquinas’ way at key moments sunk the Timberwolves’ chances.
Blugolds sophomore and Iowa State recruit Lexi Donarski had 16 points, including two 3-pointers and a pair of breakaway layups. Six-foot sophomore Courtney Becker had 13 points — nine in the second half — while Whittni Rezin added nine and Theusch chipped in eight.
While they came out with the win, Aquinas knows even better than it did before Friday night that Tomah may be one of its biggest challengers on its path to a fourth consecutive MVC championship.
“We’re happy to come out of here with a win,” Dave Donarski said. “Tomah’s a really good ballclub. They’re as good as you get in this area. It was a great battle.”
LA CROSSE AQUINAS 59 TOMAH 44
Tomah—Pierce 4, Derousseau 5, Conway 2, Lindauer 22, Brey 11.
La Crosse Aquinas—Peterson 2, Theusch 8, Donarski 16, Rezin 9, Collins 6, Steiner 5, Backer 13.
MVC GIRLS BASKETBALL
Result of Dec. 7
Holmen 73 Logan 38
Results of Dec. 8
Aquinas 59 Tomah 44
Onalaska 66 Central 43