Larsen puts on a show in Panthers’ semifinal loss


ASHWAUBENON — With less than one minute left in Friday’s Division 3 girls state semifinal basketball game Oconto Falls guard McKenna Larsen was taken out of the game and waiting for her was a hug from her coach and a standing ovation from the fans.

The senior has just finished the most impressive basketball career in school history and went out with a bang, scoring a career-high 31 points.

It wasn’t how Larsen wanted her basketball career to end, but if it had to what a way to do it. Larsen put on a show, but in the end it wasn’t enough as Falls lost to Kettle Moraine Lutheran, 64-41, at the Resch Center.

“Excuse me if I’m emotional,” Falls coach Mike Kaczmarek said. “She’s a heck of a player and a heck of kid. You saw McKenna at her best today.

Oconto Falls-KML Photo Gallery

“To get here was a heck of an accomplishment for the team. We all wanted to get a piece of hardware for her. It just didn’t happen today. She deserves a piece of hardware.”

“It’s tough with the loss,” Larsen said. “To be on the floor and playing in front of all of your fans, really wouldn’t want to go out any other way.”

Larsen has battled a torn ligament in her non-shooting right thumb for the last month, but never let it bother her. However, she couldn’t control everything Friday.

KML (26-1) opened the game on a 9-0 run, hitting three 3-pointers against Falls’ 1-3-1 zone, setting the tone. The Panthers (22-4) thought their zone would be able to slow down the Chargers, but that wasn’t the case.

Andrea Meinert dominated the inside with 19 points and 12 rebounds, while guard Mikayla Voigt added balance on the perimeter with 19 points.

“Typically we’ve been a 1-3-1 team all year,” Kaczmarek said. “Going in we thought we had a matchup for them, but Meinert, too much of a matchup problem. We could not match up with her. They’re a very good team. They had a two-headed monster. We couldn’t get stops to get back in.”

Larsen basically kept Falls in the game for three-plus quarters, but when a team has just one scoring option and it’s playing a quality team like KML it usually won’t be enough, and it wasn’t.

Larsen was 10 of 21 from the field, including 5 of 9 from 3-point range. She added eight rebounds and five steals. The rest of her team was 3 for 27 from the floor (11.1 percent).

“We didn’t have anybody else step up today,” Kaczmarek said. “Everything seemed a little bit short today. We just didn’t have that No. 2 person step up today.”

Larsen finishes her career with 1,578 points, 537 rebounds, 440 assists and 357 steals. The impact the three-sport star had on the basketball program can’t be overlooked.

“What she’s done for the community; my girls absolutely love her,” Kaczmarek said. “Everybody wants to be McKenna. She deserves everything she gets.”

Kaczmarek has endless praise for Larsen, who knows the last four years have been special.

“He’s a real emotional guy,” she said. “It means a lot. I’m definitely going to miss him and his family. He’s definitely helped me become the player I am today.”

And Friday, that player went out on top, even if her team didn’t.

Notes: KML was 23 for 40 from the field (57.5 percent). … Falls was outrebounded, 34-24. … Falls was 13 of 48 from the floor (27.1 percent). … In her final three games Larsen scored 71 of her team’s 114 points (62.2 percent).

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Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay

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