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Press forces Panthers into turnovers as Warriors roll
Black Hawk sophomore guard Chaesta Shager dribbles up the floor in the second half of Thursdays game.
SOUTH WAYNE - The Warriors are peaking at the right time of the year. Black Hawk (16-1, 9-0 Six Rivers East) more than held their ground at home against Juda's power post players, leading by as many as 26 points at times en route to a 58-44 win Thursday night.

"We did a good job in our press," Black Hawk head coach Mike Flanagan said. "I though we were more effective causing some turnovers that led to some early points. It was a real good defensive effort."

The Warriors held the Panthers' 6-feet, 2-inch center Ellen Kiser scoreless in the first half and to just two points in the third. Kiser, who had averaged 16.6 points per game to open the season, made up for the lost time in the fourth, pouring in 13 points, including 10 in a row.

"Ellen is just so long and she has a quick turn. If you look at her numbers in the first three quarters, that's something we hang our hat on is being good on defense," Flanagan said. "We're a team that if we want to do something down the stretch here, it's going to have to be our defense that carries us. I thought for three quarters we played great shut-down defense against a really good Juda team that causes a lot of matchup problems."

Juda (7-9, 2-6) struggled adjusting to Black Hawk's press earlier in the game, which quickly reached double-digits in turnovers.

"They are definitely running on all cylinders right now," Juda head coach Curt Brown said. "They are hitting their stride at the right time."

By the end of the first quarter, the Warriors led 13-5, and by halftime the scoreboard showed 31-12.

"Offense still comes down to fundamentals - the ability to be tough with the ball, the ability to create opportunities for yourself by cutting or screening. I just think it's a testament to this team that we don't rely on one kid or two kids to get things done. It's a team effort that we look for every night," Flanagan said.

Sophomore Melissa Wellnitz scored 13 of her 15 points in the half and junior Rachel Rygh added 10 of her 12, including a pair of 3-pointers.

Midway through the third, the Warriors eased off the press, but still found ways to get into passing lanes and create steals.

"(Black Hawk) made some key adjustments and we didn't make the key adjustments back. When you play a team that good, no matter what you think it comes down to the little things - the correct pass or the correct reversal pass. They play great defense and they came ready to play," Brown said.

Juda scored 24 points in the fourth quarter, something Brown credited to the slowed pace of the game.

"The game was winding down and our girls maybe felt a little less pressure. Black Hawk is a tough place to play," Brown said.

Four Black Hawk players reached double digits. Katie Place (15 points) and Kim Wellnitz (13) joined Melissa Wellnitz and Rygh. Kiser, a sophomore, led Juda with 15. Six other players score for the Panthers.

In the post against Kiser and Heather Boeke (nine points) were Place and Kim Wellnitz, both seniors.

"We just have to be physical underneath. When the ball gets down low our guards have to come down and dig the ball up," Kim Wellnitz said.

On Monday, Kim Wellnitz became Black Hawk's all-time scoring leader in girls basketball, surpassing former teammate Paige Butler, who set the gold standard a year ago.

"It feels pretty cool. It's a big accomplishment I think. I've tried to work hard over the years to achieve that goal and it's really cool to know that you've set that record," Wellnitz said.

Following Butler's lead, the Warriors reached the WIAA Division 4 state tournament for the first time in school history. Wellnitz said this year looks even brighter.

"This year the team has better chemistry. We are like family - we do a lot together. We play well together and our defense has improved a lot," she said. "I'm pretty proud of this group to accomplish what we're accomplishing right now. We just need to keep playing like we're playing."

The Warriors, ranked fifth in the state in the Coaches Poll, hosts Pecatonica (8-8, 4-4) Feb. 16. Juda, meanwhile, will host Argyle (2-12, 0-7).