By Derek Hoesly


CUBA CITY – Holiday Tournament play Tuesday, Dec. 29, saw the sixth ranked Brodhead girls’ basketball squad cruise to an 88-10 victory over St. Francis in the morning, but drop their first game in 2015-16, losing to third ranked Cuba City, 62-50, in the championship showdown.

The Cardinals’ smothering defense held St. Francis scoreless until the closing minutes of the opening half. Brodhead also threw a half court trap at the Mariners that generated a ton of turnovers resulting in transition baskets. Brodhead had a 60-2 lead at the half.

Junior Morgan Cook opened the second half with an inside conversion off an excellent pass by junior Catherine Hazeltine. Cook had a strong game, with 16 points, including 12 in the first 18 minutes. The lead would balloon to 72-4 minutes into the second half.

With the huge lead, every Cardinals player saw extended minutes in the second half. Junior Michelle Loeffelholz scored seven points and played solid defense throughout the second half.

Senior Amber Pickel led the Cardinals with 17 points. Sophomore Erin Nyhus added 16 points, including four three pointers. Senior Cameron Novy chipped in 10 points, all coming in the opening half.

The win set up the highly anticipated championship match with the Cubans.

Early on, it was a back-and- forth battle with neither team getting separation.

Kylie Moe connected on two free throws after getting hammered on a drive to slice the Cubans’ lead to 11-8.

With 7:30 left in the half, Cuba City went on an 8-0 run to go up 22-10. Morgan Vosberg fueled the run with a drive and buried a three-pointer. Kaitlyn Kaiser capped the spurt with a transition layup off a Cardinals’ turnover.

Brodhead never got into a consistent rhythm on offense against Cuba City’s high-pressure man-to-man defense in the opening half. The Cardinals had a lot of turnovers in the first 18 minutes.

“We didn’t get into any offensive flow,” coach Brian Kammerer said. “I thought our spacing wasn’t good. I thought there were some high low looks that we were missing.

“We know that Cuba’s a good team defensively. They talk about defense winning championships. They have 11 gold balls sitting here in the hallway,” Kammerer said.

“We just didn’t do a good job of running our offense in the first half. The second half was a different story. We cut it to six with the ball chance to cut it to four, but we had some costly turnovers and missed some shots. The next thing you know it’s a double-digit game again,” he said.

Pickel collected her own miss and converted a putback to trim the Cubans’ lead to 25-15 late in the half. Cuba City responded with the next four points to take the momentum right back. The Cubans took a 29-17 lead at intermission.

Brodhead came out strong in the second half. The Cardinals got into the paint against the Cubans’ stingy defense in the opening minutes. Trailing 33-19, Brodhead went on a 7-0 run to slice the deficit to 33-26 with 15:17 on the clock.

“We were getting some stops on defense, and it was creating offense for us. Then we come down get in foul troubleand give up easy points and that just digs us back into a hole,” Moe said.

“That’s where I give our girls credit they’re not going to quit. They worked their tails off, like I said, cut it to six,” Kammerer said. “I just feel bad I’m going to take the blame on this. I didn’t have them prepared enough to play one of the top ranked teams in the state.

“I thought heading into this we matched up pretty well, but we talked before the game about doing the little things better than they did, and I don’t think we did that tonight,” he said.

It looked as if the Cardinals were going to come all the way back from the double-digit hole, but Cubans’ Emily Wiederholt drilled a back-breaking three- pointer to push the lead back to double-digits at 36-26.

Brodhead continued to claw back into the game, going on a 6-0 run to trim the Cubans’ lead to 39-34 with 10:40 left. During the run, Brodhead had success getting to the rim, as Pickel and Nyhus got to the basket.

Cuba City answered with a game-changing 5-0 run to push the lead right back to double-digits and halt the Cardinals’ momentum.

Every time Brodhead made a run, Cuba City answered a key basket or run to keep Brodhead from striking distance.

“We were put in similar situations. We have to be able to get past that, but things that we talked about were taking that extra step defensively when they’re driving the lane,” Kammerer said. “Right now, we’re trying to stop bodies with arms, and we can’t do that. We needed to be more aggressive offensively.

“I thought we were too content with being stagnant holding the ball. It’s the little things that we have to try and fix here in the next two to three practices and hope that things will get better next week,” Kammerer said.

Kaitlyn Kaiser converted a fast break layup off a Cardinals’ turnover to extend the lead to 48-36. Kaiser led the balanced Cubans’ offensive attack with 17 points, including 11 in the second half. Cuba City had three other players in double figures.

“Cuba City has a lot of offensive weapons. They have a couple freshmen that come in that are great role players. Kaiser and Marti are excellent players. We have to move on cause it doesn’t get any easier now with Dodgeville and Whitewater next week,” Kammerer said.

The Cardinals couldn’t make a dent in the Cubans’ lead as both teams exchanged baskets down the stretch.

Moe led the Cardinals offensive charge with 17 points. Pickel chipped in 13 points, with seven coming in the second half. Nyhus added 12 points, including eight after intermission.

The schedule doesn’t get any easier for Brodhead. The Cardinals hosted Dodgeville Monday this week.

“They’re a really good team. It was a good game for us to play a tough non-conference game on the schedule. We have a big week coming up next week, so we’ll just take it a game at a time,” Moe said.