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Melrose-Mindoro's Mesa Byom fights off a reach by Manitowoc Lutheran's Amanda Pautz in the first half of Thursday's Division 4 state semifinal at the Resch Center. The Mustangs won 64-30, earning a spot in Saturday's title game.

GREEN BAY — The Melrose-Mindoro High School girls basketball team wanted a good start to the first game it had ever played in the WIAA state tournament.

The Mustangs got much more than that Thursday night.

Melrose-Mindoro scored the first 14 points and held Manitowoc Lutheran scoreless until 5 minutes, 48 seconds had passed on the way to an impressive 64-30 victory in the second of two Division 4 semifinals at the Resch Center in Green Bay.

The win gives second-ranked Melrose-Mindoro (27-0) a shot at top-ranked Aquinas (27-0) in the championship game at 12:45 p.m. Saturday.

The Mustangs hounded the Lancers into 20.8 percent shooting in the first half (5-for-24) and forced them into 17 turnovers on the way to a 41-11 halftime lead.

Sophomore Emily Herzberg scored 18 of her 20 points in the first half, turning steals into layups a handful of times. She made four 3-pointers and gave Manitowoc Lutheran defensive problems all over the floor.

Herzberg, a South Dakota State recruit, also had six of her eight rebounds and all four of her assists and blocked shots in the first half.

“It wasn’t just from an offensive perspective,” Melrose-Mindoro coach Joey Arneson said of Herzberg. “Having to guard 6-foot with those long arms creates a matchup problem, and she took advantage of it.”

The Mustangs put the Lancers (21-5) in a tough spot early with the 14-point run to open the game. Herzberg had five of those points, and Calette Lockington gave Melrose-Mindoro its 14-0 lead on a 3-pointer with 12:38 left in the first half.

While Manitowoc Lutheran stopped the bleeding when Grace Melso scored with 12:10 on the clock, Melrose-Mindoro immediately went on 7-0 that started with a layup by Mesa Byom.

Byom finished with 11 points and a game-high 12 rebounds and four blocked shots. The Mustangs blocked nine of the Lancers’ shots.

“I think that was a big factor,” Manitowoc Lutheran coach Mike Behnke said of the Mustangs’ length. “They list (Byom) at 6-1, but she’s more like 6-3, and her wingspan can really take away space, so their length hurt us.”

Entry passes were difficult to say the least, and Melrose-Mindoro was also effective with its ball pressure and forced 25 turnovers. Leading scorers Melso and Emily Behnke, who combine to score 23 points per game, were held to a combined nine on 4-for-16 shooting.

The Mustangs also held a 44-29 rebounding advantage, and Behnke said that doesn’t happen to his team very often.

Lockington added 12 points for Melrose-Mindoro, which hasn’t lost since a setback against the Blugolds in last season’s sectional semifinals. She was also responsible for the flow of the Mustangs’ offense, which produced assists on 18 of their 26 field goals.


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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.