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Ponies hang with Warriors, fall 54-44
Times photo: Adam Krebs Black Hawks Katie Powers goes up for a layup in transition while being defended by Monticellos Taylor Klitzke (22) and Becky Nelson. Powers made the shot and Black Hawk won, 54-44.
SOUTH WAYNE - Black Hawk coach Mike Flanagan knows that his squad, which finished runner-up at state last spring, is going to get every team's best shot.

Such was the case Thursday, when Monticello (2-7, 1-4 Six Rivers East) gave the Warriors (9-0, 5-0) everything they had for all 32 minutes. In the end, Black Hawk came away with the 54-44 'W.'

"It was one of those games that's just sort of a grind," said Flanagan, whose team is ranked second in both the Associated Press and coaches polls. "I don't know if they could shoot a whole lot better and at times I don't know if we could shoot a whole lot worse."

The Ponies, behind the stellar play of freshman Marissa Berg, had the score to within five points with 2:58 remaining at 47-42. Berg scored 13 of her team-high 15 points in the second half to help keep Monticello in the ballgame.

"We had nothing to lose and went out there pumped up and trying our best," said Berg, who admitted her play may very well boost her confidence on the hardwood. "It (confidence) is really high right now, but it does go down and up. But right now it's really good."

Earlier in the week, Berg had a medical issue to deal with, but still had one her best performances of the season.

"She was playing with a bad foot," Monticello coach Tom Eveland said. "(On Tuesday) she went to the doctor and had her foot drained. I can't ask for anything more from her."

The Ponies as a team rallied together and did something not very many teams do against Black Hawk - keep turnovers and fouls as low as possible.

"We've been working a lot on defense and our footwork. We don't want to reach. We knew Black Hawk is quick," Eveland said. "We were the underdogs. We had nothing to prove. We were just going to go out and play our game, and I think the girls played a very good game."

Monticello stuck with the Warriors from the get go, including taking a 2-0 lead six seconds into the game on a pair of free throws by Taylor Pfeuti (10 total points). Black Hawk led 12-8 after the first quarter, but pulled away a bit in the second and held a 24-17 advantage at halftime.

"Early in the season it seemed like we got to that big lead real fast. When you do that it changes the way you play. Likewise, when things don't happen that way you start pressing the issue and trying to do things you don't normally do," Flanagan said. "One thing we said at halftime was that we'd take better care of the ball, and I thought we did that."

Warrior freshman Jen Wellnitz (10 points) picked up game from the defensive end. Wellnitz corralled several rebounds and forced over a handful of turnovers with her pressure in the backcourt.

"The press we run is always a work in progress. At times we did some good things and others we had some problems," Flanagan said.

But Monticello never let itself get too far down. Trailing 34-22 with 4:11 left in the third, the Ponies came together. Berg drilled a 3 and then Pfeuti hit a jumper in transition. Not long later Taylor Klitzke (8 points) scored in the paint to make it 34-29 and Flanagan called for a timeout.

"We just felt like we were going to put them away but they just kept coming back. That's a credit to them," Flanagan said. "They (Monticello) did some really things."

Again in the fourth the Ponies found themselves down a dozen points at 45-33. But in a 35-second span Berg hit a 3 and a jumper and Pfeuti scored off a steal to pull the score back to within five, forcing another Flanagan timeout.

"Our shooting the last few games has really improved and that's starting to show (in the score book," Eveland said.

But the Warriors, led by seniors Melissa Wellnitz (18 points) and Rachel Rygh (11 points), were able to close the door and get the win.

"I thought we had some kids step up and make some plays when we really needed it," Flanagan said.

Black Hawk is still looking to find the groove it was in before the holiday break and will travel to Durand (Ill.) on Saturday. Monticello, meanwhile, does not get into action again until Jan. 21 for the Six Rivers Challenge.