KIMBERLY — The last time the Neenah and Kimberly girls basketball teams met it took a last-second shot by Frankie Wurtz for the Papermakers to keep their perfect record intact.
Friday, they met again and Kimberly hoped its star player wouldn’t need to make a heroic shot again.
Wurtz didn’t have to and Kimberly did prevail but it wasn’t easy. Neenah hung around all game, kept the Papermakers on their toes but in the end Kimberly outlasted a gritty Rockets team, 41-33, in a Fox Valley Association game to improve to 14-0.
“We knew it was going to be a tough one,” Wurtz said. “It’s a great win. Neenah’s always a tough opponent.”
Kimberly (10-0 in the FVA), ranked No. 1 in the FOX 11 Top 11, is once again defined by its defense and Friday that was on display. For the 12th time this season the Papermakers held an opponent under 40 points, and if it wasn’t for a late-game run Neenah wouldn’t have hit 30 points.
On a night when the offense played in spurts the defense never rested and keyed the season sweep over the Rockets (6-6, 4-6).
“It’s where we get all our energy,” Wurtz said of the defense. “If we struggle on our offense we can rely on our defense.”
“We’re going to have off nights on offense, but we need to keep playing defense,” coach Troy Cullen said. “That needs to always be there for us.”
Offensively, Kimberly started slow but it appeared Wurtz would get it going. She scored all of the Papermakers’ first-quarter points as they led 8-3, but after that it was hot and cold.
Neenah trapped Kimberly and played man-to-man and never allowed Kimberly to get comfortable and it kept the Rockets in the game.
“They just play so hard,” Cullen said. “They make you work. I’m just glad we were able to do enough.”
Neenah concentrated on containing Wurtz, the reigning FVA player of the year, and she obliged in some cases finding the open player when pressured. The junior said that is necessary to win.
“This is a very unselfish team, which is why we’re undefeated,” Wurtz said
No matter how the Papermakers have played, they’ve won this season, but Wurtz said she is not thinking about going undefeated during the regular season. That seems hard to believe, but Wurtz actually seemed believable
“We can’t do that,” said Wurtz, who scored 14 points. “Our regional is tough, our conference is tough. We just have to take one game at a time.”
“We haven’t talked about it,” Cullen said. “We’re just trying to go 1-0 every time we play.”
While Kimberly has won every game this season there is room for improvement, Wurtz said. It’s about growing each game.
“We’re starting to learn from each other,” Wurtz said. “We need that chemistry and we’re getting that a little more every game.”
- Notes: Jenna Smarzinski added 12 points for Kimberly. … Alyssa Barnes led Neenah with 12 points, while Kauri Jensen added 10. … The teams combined for eight third-quarter points, with Kimberly outscoring Neenah, 6-2. … Kimberly won the teams’ first meeting, 44-43.
- Game ball: Wurtz, who got Kimberly out to a fast start and handled Neenah’s pressure.
- Numbers game: 14 Straight wins for Kimberly
Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay