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Monroe upsets defending champs New Berlin Eisenhower 47-42
Times photo: Adam Krebs Monroes Brooke McBain puts up a shot over New Berlin Eisenhowers Jenny Weiland in the second half of Tuesdays Monroe win. McBain finished with nine points.
MONROE - The Cheesemakers got their overall record back to .500 in perhaps season-changing fashion. Despite mountains of turnover from last year's state qualifying team, Monroe won its biggest game of the season Tuesday against top-ranked - and defending WIAA Division 2 state champion - New Berlin Eisenhower, 47-42.

"It's a big win - they're the defending state champions. Anytime your in that situation you know those games are going to be tough," Monroe head coach Sam Mathiason said. "It's a great win and we'll take it. Anytime you get a win it's good. And when it's the defending state champion, it's great.

"They are really good but were also shorthanded. Anna Hahn, who's a double-digit scorer in the post doesn't play with an ankle injury - that's big - and a sophomore guard blew her ACL in practice. They have two key players that weren't here that are in their normal rotation."

Anna Hahn, a 6-feet, 1-inch senior, helped lead the Lions to the title last year, knocking off Winneconne in the state title game back in March. Winneconne had beaten Monroe. Hahn had averaged 10.5 points per game this year and 14 last year as a second-team, all-state player, but her injury kept her out of action.

"It was a game where we were just saying, 'How can we build? How can we do to keep getting better and do what we need to do to be competitive in that game,'" Mathiason said. "I thought we really competed and hit some big shots early that made it look easy. We kept battling and that's what I like about this group - they compete and they play hard."

The Cheesemakers looked to their captains, seniors Kyleigh Sellnow and Kylee Ritschard, to keep them in the ball game. Sellnow has been on the varsity team since her freshman year and Ritschard joined her as a sophomore.

In the first half, the two kept Monroe not only in the game, but in the lead. Ritschard scored 10 of her 14 points in the opening 16 minutes and Sellnow scored nine points on three 3-pointers to give Monroe the spark.

"I haven't been hitting those 3s lately," said Sellnow, who scored a game-high 15 points. "But I have to thank my teammates for getting me the ball."

Mathiason was impressed by the way his co-captain stepped up.

"Kyleigh's been waiting for that to happen. She's a four-year varsity player and we have a lot of belief in her and I think she needed to believe in herself again. I felt good seeing her hit some of those shots and getting back into a groove. We need her in order to play that way and be that good."

Ritschard drove the lane right away and put the Cheesemakers up 2-0 35 seconds into the game. Eisenhower then got a 3-pointer from Taylor McArthur and a hoop off of a quick steal by Katie Lang to put the Lions up 5-2 with 6:34 left in the first. But Monroe crawled back and took the lead for good on a 3 by Sellnow.

Abby Jacobson added another 3 with 4:13 left in the first to put the Cheesemakers up 12-7, prompting Eisenhower coach Gary Schmidt to call a timeout. The Lions responded and tied the game at 12, but Sellnow dropped another 3 late in the frame to keep Monroe on top.

The Cheesemakers opened the second quarter on a 7-0 run and led by 10 points at 28-18 with 1:27 left in the half. At the break, Monroe was on top 30-21.

"It felt really good playing with a lead because we knew they were the defending D-2 state champs. We knew we had to come out with pressure and play tight defense. We came out with that and I'm really proud of my team," Sellnow said.

Eisenhower fought back in the second half, but the Cheesemakers maintained a constant lead. Monroe shot a remarkable 18-for-20 in the game from the free throw line, including hitting 9 of 11 freebies in the fourth quarter.

Sellnow was 6-for-7 from the stripe in the final two minutes and Brooke McBain was 3 of 4 in the frame.

"The free throws made me really happy because I haven't been making them in my past games and it was nice to hit those free throws where they meant it," Sellnow said. "I was really confident in our team (to stay on top). We have four guards who have really good ball-handling skills. I had confidence that we were going to get the ball in and let them foul us."

Monroe (3-3) has played five games that have been decided by five points or less and is 3-2 in those games. That kind of experience paid off against Eisenhower. The Lions, ranked No. 1 in the Coaches Poll in Division 2, had allowed just 40 points in a game once this season, and in five of their first six games held their opponents to 25 points or less.

"Its really good to get this win because we've been in a flurry by losing so many games. But we practiced really hard on defense the last few days and we came out really great this game," Sellnow said.

Junior Molly Hlubek stepped up for Monroe while coming off the bench. Standing just 5-4, Hlubek used quick feet and deft hands to grab key offensive rebounds and steals, all while breaking a tough press. Shooting-wise, Hlubek failed to hit rim on all four of her shots, but did drain a key 3-pointer late in the fourth to give back Monroe a five-point lead.

"(Hlubek) has really good feet and she really moves well so we know defensively she'd going to be right there. And that 3-pointer was huge for us tonight," Mathiason said. "I thought we handled the end of the game situation very well with the personnel we had in the game."

Hlubek was also one of the defenders on Eisenhowers' Nicole Bauman. Bauman, who was also second-team all-state a year ago and was playing in front of Wisconsin Badgers head coach Lisa Stone, was held to six points, five below her average (11.2 this year, 11.6 last year).

Monroe has a week off before traveling to Elkhorn (4-4) Jan. 4.