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Onalaska's Kenzie Miller drives around Aquinas' Megan Scheidt during Thursday's game at Onalaska. Scheidt recently returned from an 11-day mission trip to the African country of Kenya with her father, Jeff.

ONALASKA — As the defensive intensity increased, so did the shooting accuracy of Aquinas High School junior Lexi Donarski.

Neither turn of events was good for Onalaska.

The Blugolds extended their 1-3-1 zone in the second half, forced more turnovers and rode a big performance from Donarski to a 61-47 MVC victory over the Hilltoppers in front of an estimated 1,000 people at Charles Deeth Fieldhouse on Thursday.

Aquinas (7-0, 3-0) scored the first seven points of the second half to set the tone, then let its defense do the talking by suffocating Onalaska on possession after possession.

Olivia Gamoke mug

Gamoke

Mariah Wick mug

Wick

“They pressured us a lot more in the second half,” Onalaska point guard Olivia Gamoke said. “We were ready for the 1-3-1 and ready for anything they threw at us, but the pressure got in our heads.”

The Hilltoppers (4-2, 1-1) took 21 second-half shots, but most of them were rushed as they spent their energy maintaining possession rather than looking for good shots.

Donarski scored 18 of her 22 points in the second half as the Blugolds took over and pulled away. Courtney Becker scored 11 of her 17 in the first half to keep Aquinas within striking distance of an Onalaska team that played much better.

Junior Kenzie Miller’s 12 points led the Hilltoppers, and she had eight of them in the first half.

The Hilltoppers controlled the ball better in the first half — 11 first-half turnovers hurt much less than the 13 they committed in the second — and hit open shots to fight off Aquinas scoring spurts.

The Blugolds led 24-21 after a basket by Zoey Koblitz, but the Hilltoppers closed the half by scoring nine of the last 13 points. Mariah Wick and Gamoke each hit a 3-pointer, and Wick beat the buzzer with a jump shot that gave Onalaska a 30-29 lead.

That’s when Aquinas coach Dave Donarski rallied the troops in the locker room.

“We talked with a lot of fury at halftime,” Dave Donarski said. “We weren’t guarding well. We had Megan Scheidt and Kayla Bahr running line sprints corner to corner because we didn’t get pressure on the basketball.

“Once we were able to steer the ball a little bit, we had a lot more success.”

That control allowed the Blugolds to use their transition game more effectively and give themselves some breathing room.

Bahr made a 3-pointer and hit a shot from the baseline for the first five Aquinas points of the second half. Scheidt also hit a pair of 3-pointers — one in each half — to force the Hilltoppers to stay out on her instead of pack inside on Becker.

Shots that didn’t fall for Lexi Donarski in the first half did in the second. She made 8 of 12 shots after halftime.

“My shots weren’t falling, and I relied on the team to pick me up,” Lexi Donarski said. “Everyone contributed what they had to for us to win the game.”

Scheidt’s 3-pointer from the right corner allowed the Blugolds to push their lead to double figures for the first time at 45-35. Donarski twice converted steals above the 3-point line into baskets at the other end and made a step-back 3-pointer to give the Aquinas a commanding 56-43 lead with 4 minutes, 50 seconds to go.

“Much like when we played here last year — we were tied at halftime last year,” Onalaska coach Shane Schmeling said. “They came out and turned up the defensive pressure then, too.

“That’s why I give them so much credit. They force their will on you defensively, and we’re just not there yet to handle it.”

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Todd Sommerfeldt can be reached at Todd.Sommerfeldt@lee.net, or on Twitter @sommerfeldtLAX.

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Assistant Sports Editor

Todd Sommerfeldt has covered sports for the La Crosse Tribune since 2003 after doing the same previously in the Fox Cities and Rock County.