The fourth time is the charm, they say, or something like that. And for UW-Eau Claire Barron County, the fourth crack at regular season champion Wausau proved to be the most important one, as the Chargers rallied in the second half for an exciting 52-51 victory in the Wisconsin Collegiate Conference women's basketball state tournament championship game on Sunday at JustAGame Fieldhouse in Wisconsin Dells.
It took a second half rally in the semi-finals just to have a shot, as Barron trailed Fox Cities 45-27 at halftime on Saturday, before roaring back to claim a 63-56 victory behind a game-high 23 points and 14 rebounds from Brandi Gauthier (Bruce HS).
In the other Saturday semi-final, Wausau had no problems with Washington, cruising to a 70-31 win behind 44 points from Patience Pyan (Merrill HS).
That set up a fourth meeting this season between Wausau and Barron, with Wausau winning the previous three by margins of 13, 3, and 7 points. There was a sense it would be another wire-to-wire battle right away, with Barron holding a 15-14 edge after the first quarter. Wausau got going in the second, however, taking 29-21 lead into halftime.
Barron used a big run after the break to re-take the lead, though Wausau would respond, and still led 40-37 after three quarters. Playing with just five players, Wausau struggled to finish opportunities in the final period, and Barron took advantage. The Chargers took a one-point lead in the final minute, and despite several attempts to either tie or take the lead, including two free throws in the final five seconds, Wausau could not find the mark, as Barron held on for the victory.
Gauthier fouled out late in the game, but not before contributing 16 points and 10 rebounds. With Gauthier out for long stretches, Alyssa Ranney (Chetek-Weyerhaueser) picked up a lot of the slack, scoring a team-high 19 points with 19 rebounds.
As she's done all year, WCC Player of the Year Patience Pyan was the driving force for Wausau, scoring a game-high 34 points with 12 rebounds. Brittany Ange (Athens HS) added 11 points and 14 rebounds, while Kateri Hackel (Edgar HS) scored just four points but pulled down 20 rebounds.
The WCC announced the All-Tournament Team at the completion of the event:
Skye Rodriguez, Fox Cities
Madison Aubry, Washington
Brandi Gauthier, Barron
Krista Lien, Barron
Patience Pyan, Wausau