SPARTA—The victories continue to pile up even as the roster shrinks.
Tomah used just six players for the first two-thirds of the contest Friday but still came away with a 61-33 victory over Sparta in a Mississippi Valley Conference girls basketball game at Sparta High School.
Injuries left the Timberwolves two players short, but contrary to conventional wisdom, the team with the thin roster actually got stronger as the game progressed. Sparta led for most of the game’s first 12 minutes until Tomah seized control.
Tomah won its third straight game and improved its overall record to 11-2. Coach Mark Von Haden acknowledged that his starters will be asked to play major minutes and stay out of foul trouble.
“We’re a little shallow right now,” Von Haden said. “The girls have to stay in shape and be able to play and not pick up fouls. They know they have to adapt with only six or seven girls going.”
The Timberwolves got through the first six minutes of the contest without picking up a foul. That was the good news the bad news was that Sparta started the game with dead-eye shooting and opened a 14-10 lead 10 minutes into the contest.
After Madison Lindauer hit a bucket to cut the margin to 14-12, the game turned suddenly when Madisyn Brey drilled a three-pointer to put Tomah ahead 15-14. She then stole the ensuing inbounds pass and converted a layup for a 17-14 lead.
The Timberwolves dominated after that. Brey converted four straight foul shots to stretch the margin to 25-18, and Reis Derousseau swished a 3-pointer in the final minute of the half to give Tomah a 35-23 lead at intermission.
Von Haden gave Sparta’s shooters credit for keeping the first half close.
“In the first half they hit three 3-pointer against us ... if some of those don’t go in, it’s a 20-point lead at halftime instead of 12,” Von Haden said. “The second half was like the first half except in the first half (Sparta) made a few more shots.”
Sparta opened the second half with a 3-0 run but would score just three points over the next 13 minutes. The Timberwolves continued to build their lead after Lindauer went to the bench with her fourth foul at the 12:58 mark.
“We played good defense and forced our tempo on them,” Von Haden said.
Lindauer and Brey, both juniors, combined for 40 points, and Tomah’s three other starters − Derousseau, Lindsey Conway and Emma Liek − accounted for the rest. Freshman Ella Plueger, recently promoted to full-time varsity, played significant minutes but didn’t score.
The Timberwolves lost Mallory Pierce − a starter and a critical part of the rebounding and interior defense − for the season with a knee injury. The roster got even thinner when Abby Wagenson, who moved up to first player off the bench in Pierce’s absence, landed on the disabled list. She suited up Friday but had a hand wrapped in a bandage and didn’t play. Von Haden hopes Wagenson’s absence is “short term.”
The toughest stretch of the Timberwolves’ season starts Tuesday, when they travel to Holmen. That’s followed by home contests Friday vs. Onalaska and Jan. 16 vs. La Crosse Aquinas. The three teams have a combined record of 27-6. The Onalaska game is the second half of a boys/girls varsity doubleheader and tips off at 7:45 p.m.
TOMAH 61 SPARTA 33
Tomah 35 26−61
Sparta 23 10−33
Tomah—Conway 6, Lindauer 18, Brey 22, Derousseau 8, Liek 7.
Sparta—Blaha 2, Ziebell 9, Savor 5, Marx 10, Smith 1, Schell 6.
Three-point goals—Brey 2, Deroussseau 2, Marx, Schell 2.
MVC GIRLS BASKETBALL
Result of Jan. 4
Onalaska 74 Logan 42
Results of Jan. 5
Tomah 61 Sparta 33
Aquinas 78 Central 43
Menonmonie 60 Holmen 40 (nc)