Tuesday night the Fox Valley Lutheran girls basketball team took a big step in securing at least a share of its third straight Eastern Valley Conference title.
The Foxes played at Xavier, which trailed FVL by one game in the loss column, and after an early deficit the Foxes completed a season sweep of their rival with a 53-49 win in front of a packed Torchy Clark Gym that was loud from the tip to the end.
“There are games left to play,” FVL coach Rev. Dave Wenzel said. “We knew it was going to be a tough matchup. What a great atmosphere in this game.”
FVL, ranked No. 3 in the FOX 11 Top 11, defeated No. 11 Xavier, 58-27, in the teams’ first meeting, but the Hawks were missing key players in that game. Tuesday, Xavier was at full power and opened a 19-13 lead, but then FVL closed out the first half in style, scoring 13 straight points.
FVL upped the lead to 34-22, but Xavier closed the gap to 37-35. With momentum clearly on Xavier’s side, the Foxes responded with junior Bailey Diersen scoring some key baskets as the Foxes held on.
After Xavier cut the lead to two points, Wenzel had a simple message for his team.
“I told them to calm down, make better decisions, don’t rush stuff,” Wenzel said. “We did a better job of that. We play so up-tempo it’s sometimes hard not to play too fast.”
When FVL and Xavier (13-4, 9-2) meet it’s always a happening and Tuesday was no different. The student sections were loud throughout and made a regular season game feel like a postseason game.
Winning in an environment like this, FVL feels, will help down the road in the Division 3 playoffs.
“I think it’s huge for us,” Wenzel said. “We’ve had some games where the margin has been a little bit wider. To have a game like this where they make a run at us and we’re challenged is very helpful down the stretch for us. What a great place for high school basketball.”
Diersen, who scored 11 points, said she enjoyed the atmosphere.
“It was a very intense game,” she said. “It’s a good opportunity for us. It’s a great atmosphere, a good time.”
FVL (12-1, 10-0) is in the driver’s seat in the conference but the Foxes aren’t looking ahead. They know there’s work to be done in order to win another league title.
“Our team, we stay very down to earth,” Diersen said. “Our biggest game is our next game.”
- Notes: Abby Radue led FVL with 16 points, while Xavier was led by Erin Powers’ 16 points. Powers made four 3-pointers. … FVL was 13-22 from the free throw line while Xavier was 3-3. … Only twice has Xavier allowed more than 50 points in a game this season, both times to FVL.
- Game ball: Radue, who made clutch free throws down the stretch.
- Numbers game: 2 Game lead FVL has over Xavier in the conference.
Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay