New Berlin Eisenhower, playing with basically five players down the stretch dropped a thrilling 43-39 decision to defending state champion New London Saturday night in Madison at the Kohl Center in the WIAA Division 2 State Girls Basketball Championship.
Ike junior Erin Ganske left the game with a concussion late in the first half and never returned, leaving the four starters and sixth-man Kristen Hesselbach playing most of the game.
Except for Jessa Hahn, who played five minutes, Nicole Bauman (32), Katie Lang (30), Taylor McArthur (30), Jenny Weiland (29) and Hesselbach (22) played the rest of the game.
When asked about the injury, Ike coach Gary Schmidt said, "I don't believe in making excuses, but we were dragging at the end and I feel we limped to the finish line. But I am so proud of these kids and especially this girl sitting by my side."
Schmidt, of course, was talking about Bauman, who played her final game for the Lions before going on to the University of Wisconsin in the fall.
The game was a classic, as two great defensive teams battled head-to-head.
Bridget Pethke battled Bauman all night and helped hold her to four first-half points as the Bulldogs led 20-13 at intermission. But after scoring the first basket of the second half, Ike made the first of two second half runs.
Trailing 22-13, Ike went on an 8-0 run as Lang scored on a drive and a jumper, Bauman fed Weiland for a layup and Lang nailed another jumper to make it 22-21.
But Pethke hit a free throw and Michaela Roland a jumper, before Bauman stole the ball and hit Hesselback for a layup and Weiland scored to cut the lead to 27-25 after three.
The Lions then battled back and took a 34-31 lead with 3:23 left to play with a 9-4 run. Lang scored, Bauman hit a 3-pointer, Weiland got a pass from Lang and hit a jumper and then Hesselbach found Bauman for a bucket.
But then New London closed out the game with a 12-5 run as a crucial call went against the Lions.
Bauman nailed a 3-pointer that the official wiped away that would have given Ike a 37-35 lead with 2:14 to play. But Bulldogs' star Tara Knapstein scored a bucket and Bauman nailed a 3-pointer from the top of the key to tie the game at 37 with 1:26 to play.
But Knapstein scored again and Emily Steffanus hit a free throw to increase the lead to 40-37. Morgan Steinert hit two free throws to make it 42-37 and Bauman scored in the paint with three seconds left, her final points in an amazing career.
Pethke hit a free throw to close out the scoring.
Bauman finished with 14 points, scoring 10 in the fourth quarter, and she had six rebbounds, two assists and 10 turnovers. Knapstein led New London with 12 points.
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