WAUKESHA — The Prairie School girls basketball team executed its game plan quite nicely on Thursday night.
Playing Milwaukee Academy of Science in a WIAA Division 4 sectional semifinal game at Waukesha West High School, the Hawks focused on keeping Lady Novas star Shemera Williams in check.
And the Hawks did precisely that by limiting Williams to 23 points — well under her state-leading 40.5 average.
Still, that wasn’t enough for the Hawks, who saw their season come to a halt in a 67-42 loss to the Lady Novas.
“We really prepared for Williams; she’s an amazing player,’’ Prairie junior forward Jolie Larson said of Williams, a junior guard who has already received scholarship offers from Marquette, Wisconsin, Texas and a host of other NCAA Division I schools. “We did a good job on her but then No. 21 hit a bunch of 3s and we didn’t expect that.’’
Larson was referring to Lady Novas sophomore Paris Wilson, who picked the right time to have the best game of her career. Wilson entered the game averaging a meager 4.6 points per game. She finished with 21. She connected on six 3-pointers.
Wilson’s unexpected showing enabled the Lady Novas to get off to a fast start. She scored eight points in the first seven minutes of the game as No. 1 seed Milwaukee Academy of Science (21-4) moved to a 16-7 advantage.
But the Hawks, who finished with an 8-18 record, showed their resiliency. They cut the deficit to 18-14 after Larson scored inside after taking a beautiful entry pass from Brooke Foster.
Larson totaled 11 of her team-high 16 points in the opening period as she repeatedly found crevices in the Lady Novas’ 2-3 zone for easy baskets.
“She was superb,’’ Prairie coach Alan Mills said of Larson. “We felt the weakness in their zone was along the baseline. We got the ball to Jolie and she finished.’’
The Lady Novas took a 25-19 advantage only to see the Hawks respond again. A 3-pointer by Foster, who totaled 11 points in the game, pulled Prairie within 25-19. Andrea Palmen’s basket at the end of the half kept Prairie within 28-21.
One of the principal reasons the Hawks stayed on the Lady Novas’ heels was the sound defense played by Palmen on Williams. The latter managed just nine points in the first half as Palmen made it difficult for Williams to get an open look.
“We all knew she was tough going into the game,’’ Palmen said. “She’s a great player. But I felt I could guard her and I knew my teammates were right behind me to help out.’’
But the Hawks didn’t have any answer for Wilson, especially at the outset of the second half. Wilson opened the period with a 3-pointer and then fashioned a rare four-point play by making another trey and converting a free throw after she was fouled.
Wilson’s seven unanswered points extended Milwaukee Academy of Science’s lead to 35-21 and put the Hawks in a major bind.
While the Hawks were a disconsolate bunch after having their season end this way, they were nevertheless proud of how they turned around their season. The Hawks managed to win only three of 16 games during the Metro Classic Conference season, but reeled off three impressive postseason victories before going up against top seed Milwaukee Academy of Science.
“We had a great season,’’ Palmen said. “We felt we could go far (in the tournament) and that’s what we did.’’
Added Mills: “We had a great finish to our season. I could not be prouder of the girls.”