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Cheese smothers Pretzels
Monroe senior Chelsea Brice looks to pass in the second half of Saturdays 64-24 win over Freeport.
FREEPORT, Ill. - The border battle between the Monroe girls basketball team and Freeport turned into a blowout as the Cheesemakers cruised to a 64-24 win over the Pretzels Saturday.

Monroe (16-0, 8-0 Badger South), ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press and Coaches polls, came out on a blistering shooting pace from the outside. Monroe senior Gwen Sutter scored a game-high 19 points and made four of the Cheesemakers' seven 3-pointers.

The Pretzels were content to play a 1-2-2 zone to contain Nebraska-Kearney recruit Ashley Hermanson and Jamie Armstrong inside. Monroe senior Chelsea Brice had the hot shooting hand early on as she scored 12 of her 14 points in the first quarter to ignite a 16-4 run. She drilled a jumper with 3 minutes, 8 seconds left in the period to give the Cheesemakers a 13-2 lead.

"No matter what, if I get open shots I will take them," Brice said. "Luckily, I was hitting them tonight. I think everyone got a crack at them and was hitting them."

Late in the second quarter she drove in for a layup on the break and was fouled. Brice converted the conventional three-point play at the free throw line to give the Cheesemakers a 16-4 lead. However, she wasn't done. She hit a running buzzer-beating 3-pointer before the end of the period to give the Cheesemakers a 22-6 lead heading into the second quarter.

"We shot it very well," Monroe coach Kevin Keen said. "You have to choose what you take away with us. If you take one away, we have the other one," he said of the Cheesemaskers' inside and outside games.

Sutter had the hot hand in the second quarter. She buried a 3-pointer midway through the period to give the Cheesemakers a 28-6 lead, which was never in jeopardy from there. The Cheesemakers led 34-16 at halftime and continued to put on a show in the second half.

"When you come out and make your first shot of the game, it always gives you a boost of confidence," Sutter said. "You just feel better when you make your first shot."

Keen was impressed by how well the Cheesemakers attacked on offense.

"They were playing a 1-2-2 and collapsing on our post," he said. "We did a good job of moving the ball and took advantage of some open looks on the perimeter."

The Cheesemakers went on a 13-4 third-quarter run culminating in Brice's jumper with 2:17 left in the period. Hermanson and junior Kylee Ritschard's rebounding led to several second chance scoring opportunities and the Cheesemakers built an insurmountable 54-18 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Ritschard scored eight points. Armstrong added six points and five blocked shots. Hermanson chipped in five points and had nine rebounds.

Monroe played the second game of a Thursday-Saturday schedule. It was a dress rehearsal for the schedule the Cheesemakers will follow in the postseason with games on Thursday and Saturday.

"It was nice to have a setup like this so we can experience it before playoffs start," Sutter said.

After a big win over Sauk Prairie Thursday, the Cheesemakers showed the same intensity Saturday against the Pretzels.

"I haven't had any reservations about whether the team would come ready to play," Keen said. "They know what has to be done. They have done it all year and tonight was no different."

Monroe junior Kyleigh Sellnow again missed the game due to a groin pull.

Keen said she hasn't been cleared to play yet.

"Hopefully, we will have her by next Friday," he said.