WISCONSIN DELLS - With a trip to the state finals on the line, Hannah Bricco caught fire from the perimeter.
Bricco, a tenacious 5-foot-6 sophomore guard from Mukwonago, scored a game-high 35 points with six 3-point baskets, seven rebounds, five steals and two assists as the University of Wisconsin-Waukesha women's basketball team knocked off two-time defending state champion UW-Marinette 65-48 in the semifinals of the Wisconsin Collegiate Conference state tournament at JustAgame Fieldhouse on Saturday afternoon.
UW-Waukesha, which improved to 16-3 overall, advanced to face undefeated WCC regular-season conference champion UW-Marathon, 18-0, in the championship game scheduled for Sunday at noon.
UW-Marathon defeated UW-Fond du Lac 82-52 in the other semifinal.
The victory took on added significance as it clinched a berth in the state finals for the second time in the last three years.
As the game remained tied 24-24 at intermission, UW-Waukesha responded to the pressure-packed challenge by outscoring the Buccaneers 27-14 in the third quarter - highlighted by what proved to be a decisive 17-4 run over the course of the opening five minutes.
Bricco made three 3-pointers to power the key scoring surge, including back-to-back long-range shots to extend the lead to 32-26 with 8:10 remaining.
"Heading into the second half, I really tried to put the team on my back and just continued to shoot with confidence," said Bricco, who had 30 points in the second half. "Today, the shots kept falling so it was just a great feeling to see it happen in the biggest game of the year. Having made it to state in high school, it was exciting to be able to play in that type of atmosphere again.
"We've been working to get here all season so it was a great feeling to be able to rise to the occasion in the state semifinals and defeat the two-time defending state champion."
Freshman guard Mya Whiters from Ashwaubenon followed with 11 points, six rebounds, three steals, two assists and two blocked shots for the Cougars, who converted seven 3-pointers and 20 of 24 free throws. Junior point guard Justice Hawkins from Wauwatosa West contributed eight points - including 6 of 6 free throws - 12 rebounds, seven assists, two steals and a blocked shot.
"Coming off a tough loss at home to UW-Marinette in the final game of the regular season, it was exciting to be able to bring our best effort to the table and get a great victory in the state semifinals," said Hawkins, the all-time leading scorer in program history who eclipsed the prestigious 1,000-point career mark in a WCC quarterfinal victory over UW-Barron. "Having been to state my freshman year, I was able to use some of my experience to help settle us down and work through some of the nervous energy.
"At halftime, we just went in with the mindset that the score was even and it was a whole new ballgame. I thought if we could come out and go on a quick run, it would be the difference in the game. That's when we scored eight straight points, went on the big run and continued to hustle on every possession to put the game out of reach."
Freshman forward Tavariana White from Milwaukee Lutheran chipped in seven points, five rebounds, an assist and a steal for UW-Waukesha, which generated 16 assists and maintained a 52-42 rebound advantage. Freshman forward Kailey Kennow from Kenosha Indian Trail added four points, a team-best 14 rebounds, two assists and a blocked shot.
"It was an exciting accomplishment," said UW-Waukesha second-year head coach David Beebe, of defeating the two-time defending state champion. "With it being tied at halftime, we really approached it with the attitude that if we start to make our shots the game would be over. That's when we hit some huge shots, went on the big momentum-shifting run and never looked back. It just meant a lot to be able to step up to the challenge, play up to our potential and come away with a great victory in the first round of the state tournament."
Sophomore forward Tori Wangerin and freshman guard Mariana Meissner each scored a team-high 10 points for UW-Marinette, which ended the season 12-8 overall.
COUGAR FAST FACTS
What: The University of Wisconsin-Waukesha women's basketball team defeated two-time defending state champion UW-Marinette 65-48 in the semifinals of the Wisconsin Collegiate Conference state tournament at JustAgame Fieldhouse on Saturday afternoon.
Record: 16-3 overall
Scoring Leaders: Hannah Bricco (35 points), Mya Whiters (11 points), Justice Hawkins (8 points), Tavariana White (7 points), Kailey Kennow (4 points)
Rebound Leaders: Kennow (14), Hawkins (12), Bricco (7), Ariel Gonzales (7), Whiters (6), White (5), Bri Jashinsky (1)
Notable: As the game remained tied 24-24 at intermission, UW-Waukesha responded to the pressure-packed challenge by outscoring the Buccaneers 27-14 in the third quarter - highlighted by what proved to be a decisive 17-4 run over the course of the opening five minutes.