State dream comes up short for Polar Bears
Hortonville girls fall to Neenah in semifinal
By Greg Seubert
A No. 1 seed doesn’t guarantee a trip to state.
The Hortonville girls’ basketball team found that out the hard way, as the Polar Bears ended up on the short end of a 65-60 score to Neenah March 3 in a WIAA Division 1 sectional semifinal at Kimberly High School.
The Polar Bears defeated the Rockets twice during the regular season on their way to a Fox Valley Association championship, but didn’t have an answer for Allie Ziebell, who scored 22 of her game-high 30 points in the second half.
Neenah will play another FVA team, Appleton East, for a sectional championship Saturday, March 5, in Oshkosh, while Hortonville’s season ended at 24-2.
Ziebell and the Rockets sealed the win from the free-throw line after a controversial call with less than a minute to go in the game.
After Ziebell gave the Rockets a 62-60 lead with a pair of free throws with 21 seconds remaining, one of the game’s three referees called Hortonville’s Kamy Peppler for traveling while Peppler signaled for a time out in front of the team bench. A technical foul on Hortonville’s coaching staff followed and Ziebell gave the Rockets a 63-60 lead by making one of two free throws.
Neenah kept possession of the ball because of the technical and Ziebell connected on two more free throws after getting fouled with 11 seconds to go.
Hortonville never got another shot off and the fourth-seeded Rockets had their first win over the Polar Bears in three tries.
Neither team led by more than six points in the game. Hortonville took a 24-18 lead late in the first half on Trinity Mocadlo’s basket, but the Rockets ended the half with a 6-2 run and trailed 26-25 at the break.
Neenah’s 32-28 lead early in the second half quickly turned into a five-point deficit, as Mocadlo hit a three-pointer and Peppler added two of her own that gave the Polar Pears a 37-32 lead.
Hortonville had a five-point lead three more times before Ziebell made one of two free throws to give Neenah a 60-57 lead with 33 seconds to go. Rainey Welson’s three-pointer tied the game on Hortonville’s next possession, but Ziebell gave the Rockets a 62-60 lead with two free throws on Neenah’s next possession and soon had the ball again after the turnover and technical.
Peppler and Welson led Hortonville with 16 and 14 points, respectively, while Amaya Jones and Shelby Roth also finished in double figures for Neenah with 12 and 10.
Twenty-two of Neenah’s 65 points came at the free-throw line and the Polar Bears made four of eight.
The game turned out to be the final high school contest for Peppler, who is headed to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee to join her former Hortonville teammate, Macy McGlone.
“They played one of the best games of their life,” she said. “You always have to expect the opponents’ best and we knew that coming in.
“We didn’t make a lot of shots, but that’s going to happen,” she added. “Not much went right for us tonight, but at the end of the day, I’m so proud of this team and all the work we put in.”