ASHWAUBENON — State championship games bring an atmosphere unlike any other games in the season and sometimes teams get thrown off their game by the big stage.
The Algoma girls basketball team, however, was making its third championship game performance in four seasons so it would figure the Wolves would be at home Saturday at the Resch Center.
Algoma, the defending Division 4 state champs, started strong and led midway through the second quarter of their title game against Cuba City but the final two-plus quarters were something Algoma didn’t expect.
After leading, 15-13, the Wolves were outscored, 36-13, and fell to the Cubans on Saturday, ending the dream of a repeat. It was a far different result from last year’s state semifinal meeting when Algoma beat the Cubans, 62-39.
“Bottom line is we didn’t play well enough to win today,” Algoma coach Mark Zastrow said. “Too bad it happened today, but it does happen. I’m proud of my kids. There’s all kinds of teams that want to be having this conversation up here right now and they’re not.”
Algoma entered the state tournament averaging 58 points per game, but the Wolves scored a season-low in points. They made 12 of 43 shots from the field (2 of 17 from 3-point range), including 5 of 24 in the second half (20.8 percent).
Senior forward Kennedy Blahnik led Algoma with 11 points on 5-of-11 shooting, while the rest of the team was 7 for 32 and scored 17 points.
“We got some good looks, but I thought they also pushed us into spots where maybe we get a different spot to hit the shot,” Zastrow said. “We didn’t get a lot of post looks underneath. Usually we find a way to do that. They did a nice job of not allowing that to happen. We had shots that we normally do make.”
Algoma actually had more turnovers (16) than made field goals (12).
“I think it was just the pressure they gave us,” Blahnik said. “We had open looks and the window would just close so fast.”
Sometimes teams can make up for poor offense by getting second chances off rebounds, but Algoma, which had 11 offensive rebounds, only had four second-chance points.
A big reason was Cuba City (27-1) post player Mollie Wedige, who had 18 points and 15 rebounds. She neutralized Algoma’s frontcourt of Blahnik and Anna Dier, who combined for four rebounds.
“She was a major impact,” Zastrow said. “She’s a strong kid and went after the offensive glass.”
Algoma’s dry spell, for the most part, came in the second half. The Wolves (25-3) trailed just 20-16 at halftime, but never could make a run as Cuba City scored the first seven points of the third quarter.
“They went on a little run and I called a couple timeouts,” Zastrow said. “I could kind of feel it slipping a little bit. We tried to find the right answer offensively and just didn’t.”
Algoma didn’t finish the season the way it hoped to, but the Wolves have become a staple at the state tournament, reaching the title game in three of the last four years and winning in 2013. Blahnik knows she’s been fortunate.
“It’s just been an incredible ride,” she said. “I’m just so blessed that I can end three of my four seasons in the state championship game.”
Notes: Baleigh Delorit (7 points) was 2 for 5 from 3-point range, while the rest of Algoma was 0 for 12. … Algoma was 2 for 5 at the free-throw line, while Cuba City was 12-16.
Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay