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Cheese battle past Warriors
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MONROE - On occasion, basketball can get rough, as was the case Monday as the Lady Cheesemakers took on Waunakee.

"It was definitely a physical ball game," head coach Kevin Keen said after Monroe's 58-40 drubbing of the Badger North's Waunakee. "They are as aggressive and physical as any team we'll see, and we knew that. As physical as they were, there are going to be a lot of fouls called. But we'll take the win."

Both teams had sparks of fury throughout the game, as the two teams tallied 40 fouls combined.

"It's fun. I love it," said Ashley Hermanson, Monroe's 6-foot power forward, adding that it gets her ready for college. Hermanson will play at the University of Nebraska-Kearny next year.

Hermanson led all scorers with 16 points, followed closely by 6-foot, 2-inch teammate, Jamie Armstrong (12).

"It was intense out there all around. They could take it to us at any time," Hermanson said. "We just had to slow it down and take our time and play our game."

Though Hermanson saw plenty of combat in the paint, it was Armstrong who came out with the battle wounds. After the game, Armstrong had four ice packs wrapped around her knees, shoulder and back.

"I didn't know it was going to be that physical," she said. "It was tough. There were a lot of battles. I think it definitely shows that we can be an aggressive team and take control, even when we're being pushed around."

Both teams opened the game slowly, but the Cheesemakers broke a 4-4 tie with a 10-0 run in the final 3 minutes, 30 seconds of the first quarter.

The Warriors (11-7, 7-2), the second-place team in the Badger North, used a heavy press to force turnovers. However, free throws and Monroe's staunch defense were unkind to Waunakee all night. The Warriors finished just 8 of 20 from the charity stripe, while Monroe was 21 of 27.

"Defensively we really shut them down. We've faced some good opponents recently and we need to keep that going," Keen said.

By halftime, the Cheesemakers found themselves ahead 35-15. The Warriors didn't give up, continuing to pressure Monroe throughout the second half, something Hermanson said she liked.

"It's nice when teams don't give up. I compliment them. We need good practice and they were down," she said.

Monroe maintained its lead, keeping the advantage within one possession of 20 points for much of the half. By the start of the third quarter, the Cheesemakers led 48-27.

"With them pressing, a 17- or 18-point lead isn't safe for very long," Keen said, as he left his starters in until the final two minutes. "I thought we had a really good first half. (We got) out to a 20-point lead and kept it there the rest of the ball game."

Kylee Ritschard, Kyleigh Sellnow and Jacklyn Ditter each had eight points for Monroe.

Monroe (18-0, 9-0 Badger South), the top-ranked team in both the Associated Press and Coaches Polls, will defend their home court one more time this regular season Saturday against Monona Grove (6-11, 3-6). The game will also be a charity game raising money for the victims of the earthquake in Haiti.

The Cheesemakers have three final games before the start of playoffs, and all three are on the road at Verona, Fort Atkinson and Stoughton.