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Monroe clips Sauk
Monroes Sydney Mathiason scores on a shot over two Sauk Prairie defenders during the first half of a game in Monroe Tuesday. Monroe beat Sauk Prairie 41-34. (Times photo: Anthony Wahl)
MONROE - With Sauk Prairie collapsing to double and triple team Monroe's post players, the Cheesemakers needed to hit an outside jump shot.

Monroe sophomore Lexi Hilliard answered the call, drilling back-to-back 3-pointers early in the fourth quarter to spark a 16-5 run to rally the Cheesemakers to a 41-34 non-conference win over Sauk Prairie Tuesday.

"I think I got a lot of people excited and got us going," said Hilliard, who scored a game-high 12 points and had five rebounds. "It was really exciting. It feels good to be able to win."

Monroe (2-5, 1-2 Badger South) won despite committing 21 turnovers and shooting just 34 percent (13 of 38). The Cheesemakers shot 50 percent in the second half (7 of 14) and made 10 of 12 free throws in the final 3 minutes, 36 seconds to seal the win. It was a team effort. Monroe senior Alacia Keegan scored 11 points and had seven rebounds. Freshman teammate Sydney Mathiason scored four points, grabbed seven rebounds and had five blocks.

"In elementary school, I remember Kyleigh Sellnow saying that making free throws wins games," Keegan said. "Our girls did a great job at the free-throw line of putting them in."

Monroe coach Sam Mathiason liked the resiliency the Cheesemakers displayed.

"That was key when Lexi made a couple 3-pointers," Mathiason said. "We were able to make our free throws down the stretch. That is what we have to do to win those close games. Any time you face a team that pressures, you have to find who is open and where they are open. In the second half, we were a little more consistent getting it to who was open. We got some post touches and that led to some open shots from the outside for Lexi."

Early on in the first quarter, it appeared the Cheesemakers would run away from the Eagles. Hilliard knocked down a 3-pointer and Mathiason scored down low to give the Cheesemakers a 6-0 lead 2 minutes into the game. The Eagles answered with a 16-2 run that spanned from the end of the first quarter into the second. Sauk Prairie junior Ali Roach scored seven of her 12 points during the spurt. Sauk Prairie senior Beth Yanke scored on a layup and Roach hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key to give the Eagles a 16-8 lead.

"I feel like when they pressed us, our guards were a little shaky," Keegan said. "It was hard to get into the flow of the offense."

The Cheesemakers battled back by getting the ball inside. Keegan converted a conventional 3-point play and then scored down low with 2:43 left in the second quarter to cut the Eagles' lead to 16-13. Sauk Prairie senior Katie Vieth scored on a layup before the buzzer to give the Eagles a 18-15 lead at the half. Despite shooting 6 of 24 in the first half, the Cheesemakers trailed by just three points.

"We just needed to slow down a little bit, not force any passes and just run the offense," Hilliard said.

Roach knocked down a 3-pointer to start the third quarter to give the Eagles a 21-15 lead. The Cheesemakers chipped away at the Eagles' lead in the second half. The first 3-pointer Hilliard hit in the fourth quarter sliced the Eagles' lead to 29-28. Then she drilled a 3-pointer to give Monroe a 31-29 lead with 5:26 left, and the Cheesemakers never relinquished the lead.

The Cheesemakers clamped down on defense and limited the Eagles to 21 percent shooting in the second half (6 of 28). Roach picked up her third foul early in the third quarter and was forced to the bench.

"I knew coming in that Roach could score a lot of points for them," Mathiason said. "She can shoot the three and take it off the dribble. In the second half, Alacia Keegan did a nice job on her. She had some 3-point looks, but they weren't easy looks. In the second half, we made it more difficult on her."

Monroe will host Badger South rival Stoughton at 7:30 p.m. Thursday. The Cheesemakers expect a physical game against the Vikings.

"They (Stoughton) have more size, are more physical and will probably pressure us," Mathiason said. "We can't turn the ball over and give them layups. The thing about Stoughton is they have a lot of players who can score. We will have our hands full Thursday night for sure."