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ONALASKA — The message from coach Shane Schmeling after the Onalaska High School girls basketball team lost on Saturday for the first time this season was clear.

The Hilltoppers have to defend better than they have during the challenging schedule they have played if they want to make this season a special one.

Onalaska fought until the end against Stewartville and cut a 10-point deficit with 3 minutes, 28 seconds left to two with 38.7 seconds remaining, but the Tigers walked away from John Shelton Court at Charles Deeth Fieldhouse with an 81-76 nonconference win.

Shane Schmeling mug

Schmeling

“We aren’t going to beat anyone if we give up 81 points,” Schmeling said after is team’s record dropped to 2-1. “I felt like every trip down the floor, we had a defensive breakdown of some kind.

“We let (Erin) Lamb kill us in the first half, and she is what we talked about this week.”

Lamb, a 6-foot-2 sophomore who surpassed 1,000 points in her career at the end of last season, scored 19 points in the first half and 31 in the game to help the Tigers turn the tables after a loss to Onalaska a year ago.

She made six 3-pointers, and Stewartville hit 12 of them as it seemingly took uncontested 3-pointer after uncontested 3-pointer.

But the Hilltoppers, who were led by junior Kenzie Miller’s 23 points, were right there at the end of the game despite Stewartville taking a 73-63 lead on a Maia Peterson drive to the basket with 3:28 left.

Onalaska forced a couple of turnovers with a press and scored the next seven points. Miller hit a 3 -pointer with 2:42 left to cut Stewartville’s lead to 73-70.

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The Tigers pushed the advantage back up to eight, but a Lauren Arenz drive to the hoop, a free throw by Lexi Miller and three-point play by Kenzie Miller cut Onalaska’s deficit to 78-76 with 38.7 seconds to go.

Kenzie Miller mug

K. Miller

The Hilltoppers missed two free throws and a couple of shots the rest of the way in coming up short.

Onalaska made nine 3-pointers. The Miller sisters hit two apiece, and sophomores Molly Garrity (15 points) and Carly Skemp (eight points) matched them. Lexi Miller was second on the team scoring list with 16, but she had just one after halftime.

The Hilltoppers led by eight points twice in the second half, but two 3-pointers by Lamb started an 11-0 run that was finished by five straight points from Stewartville senior Makenna Theobald, who converted an offensive rebound into two points and followed it up with a three-point play that gave the Tigers a 57-54 lead with 10:15 to go.

“We have a lot of talent and a lot of offensive ability,” Schmeling said. “If we aren’t willing to buy into the effort we need defensively, we’ll be no different than any Onalaska team the last 10 years, which is go 18-4, get to a sectional game and go home.”

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Todd Sommerfeldt can be reached at todd.sommerfeldt@lee.net or via Twitter @SommerfeldtLAX

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