WISCONSIN DELLS - Ariel Gonzales celebrated the new year in style.
Gonzales, a 5-foot-10 sophomore wing from Milwaukee Lutheran, contributed a season-high 24 points, six rebounds, five steals, three blocked shots and two assists to lead the UWM-Waukesha women's basketball team to a lopsided 99-9 victory over UW-Barron in a Wisconsin Collegiate Conference second-semester opener at JustAgame Fieldhouse on Friday, Jan. 4.
It was a season-high point total for steadily improving UWM-Waukesha, which improved to 1-0 in the conference standings and 2-6 overall.
The explosive performance took on added significance as it marked the Cougars' highest point total for a single game dating back to Nov. 15, 2017.
UWM-Waukesha outscored the Chargers 55-7 in the first half - including an impressive 48-0 run heading into the intermission.
The Cougars limited UW-Barron to two points over the course of the final three quarters.
"It was a super-fun experience and great feeling to be able to start off the new year with a victory," said a smiling Gonzales, a key member of UWM-Waukesha's WCC state runner-up squad last year. "Coming off of a difficult first semester, there was a little pressure to succeed but we were determined to come out and play our best.
"First and foremost, our mindset was to work together as a team, have fun and take our game to a higher level. Having played on this court last year in the state tournament, it was special to be back and should serve as a great motivator. Now we just have to focus on improving and win as many games as possible to put ourselves in a good position at the end of the season. Looking back, it was just an exciting experience today."
UWM-Waukesha showcased its talent, depth and balance with all nine players reaching the scoring column, including six in double digits.
Sophomore wing Taylor Peterson from Mukwonago had 17 points with two baskets from 3-point range, seven assists, six rebounds and five steals for the Cougars, who made four 3-pointers, 7 of 13 free throws and generated 29 assists. Freshman point guard Aleah Herron from Milwaukee Rufus King followed with 15 points, a team-best eight assists, a team-high eight steals and six rebounds.
"It was a lot of fun getting the chance to play together for the first time this semester," Herron said. "With some new people on the team, we made a point to focus on learning about everyone's likes and dislikes on the court. As that happened, we were able to execute the gameplan on each possession, play with confidence and build a lead.
"Once we had a good lead, we wanted to avoid playing down to the level of our opponent. That's when we attempted to step it up, maintain the momentum and play up to our potential the rest of the way. With all of the flashing lights and great atmosphere, it was exciting to be able to play on the court where the state tournament is held. Now we just have to keep working hard and do our best to get back here at the end of the season."
Sophomore guard Bri Jashinsky from Sussex Hamilton chipped in 13 points with two 3-pointers, seven rebounds and three steals.
It was a successful Cougar season debut for sophomore forward Alexis Stone from Obama SCTE and sophomore guard Myaiza Allen from Milwaukee Riverside.
Stone finished with 10 points, a team-high eight rebounds, three blocked shots and a steal. Allen chipped in 10 points, seven assists, six steals, five rebounds and a blocked shot. Freshman post player Kylah Schmidt from Slinger had six points and four rebounds.
Sophomore guard Shay Trammell from Milwaukee Bay View, also making her debut with the team, added two points, three assists, two rebounds and two steals.
UWM-Waukesha third-year head coach David Beebe was pleased with how his new-look nine-player team meshed in a game situation.
"It was the first time competing with all nine players so it was important to come out and play together for a full 40 minutes today," Beebe said. "Regardless of the score, it was more about having the opportunity to practice and execute in a situation where everything counts.
"Having gone through all of the trials and tribulations of the first semester, it was important for our original six players to step on this court and get a well deserved victory. With a few new pieces added to the lineup, collectively we're very strong and have the potential to accomplish a lot of nice things. This experience will only help in our progression."
UW-Barron, which is led by first-year head coach and former UW-Waukesha men's assistant Paul Ihrcke, dropped to 0-1 in conference and 0-2 overall.
COUGAR FAST FACTS
What: The UWM-Waukesha women's basketball team defeated UW-Barron 99-9 in a Wisconsin Collegiate Conference game at JustAgame Fieldhouse on Friday, Jan. 4.
Records: 1-0 in Wisconsin Collegiate Conference and 2-6 overall
Scoring Leaders: Ariel Gonzales (24 points), Taylor Peterson (17 points), Aleah Herron (15 points), Bri Jashinsky (13 points), Alexis Stone (10 points), Myaiza Allen (10 points), Kylah Schmidt (6 points)
Rebound Leaders: Stone (8), Jashinsky (7), Gonzales (6), Peterson (6), Herron (6), Allen (5), Rataeshia Hartfield (3)
Notable: UWM-Waukesha, which finished with 44 rebounds, 34 steals and 29 assists in the rout, outscored the Chargers 55-7 in the first half - including an impressive 48-0 run heading into the intermission; The Cougars held UW-Barron to just two points over the course of the final three quarters.