Girls Varsity Basketball · White Hawks Girls Basketball Invades Orono, Spartans Fall

Mound Westonka White Hawks girls varsity basketball defeats the Orono Spartans, 54-35

By Jason Hirdler

On Jan. 3, the Orono Spartans girls basketball team came dressed for battle, wearing their crimson and blue. The 2017 state champions were out to defend their home turf against the high-flying Mound Westonka White Hawks. After the teams’ battle cries sounded and tipoff commenced, both teams clashed back and forth like the 300 Spartans clashed with the Persian Empire of Xerxes I. Both teams secured their basket, keeping the score at zero apiece, until Coach Alan Hiebert and the rest of the White Hawks commanding officers pulled out the reconnaissance card and found some weaknesses in the Spartans’ armor.

Junior point guard Makala Shelton was the first to score (after nearly 4 minutes of scoreless play) with a 3-point raindrop from the troposphere. The Spartans quickly answered back with a few quick points of their own.

It was apparent that the Spartans did some reconnaissance of their own. They kept a tight lid on White Hawks senior forward Jen Schaible. With Schaible being pressed and double teamed, it gave junior forward Melissa Drill opportunity to show some military muscle. Pushing the defense back, Field General Drill fought for hallowed ground in the paint, and she tossed up two points after spinning free of the Spartans’ Kraken-like grip.

On the defensive side of the ball, Schaible and senior Ela Springer battered the Spartans offense with multiple blocks. The Spartans were no match for the Twin Towers of Schaible and Springer, and they proved once again that size does matter.     

Senior forward Maya Thurston also ensured ample damage to the Spartan offense. Thurston – always the intrepid warrior – fiercely protected the net, laying it on the line time after time. At one point, Thurston blocked a staggering shot and ran it to shores of Stubb’s Bay for an easy layup.

Junior Taylor Hollins entered as the first half came to a close. Eager to put her mark on the crosstown battle, Hollins exhaled a 2-point shot with 5 seconds left, making the score 28-18 in favor of the White Hawks. The Spartans seemingly outplayed the Hawks in the first quarter of the game, but the Orono lead dwindled and the Spartanic team began to resemble the Titanic.

Coming into the second half with the lead, the White Hawks coaching staff tossed Shelton back into the mix. The “Mak Attack” ran wild like Hulk-a-mania, as she uncorked 3-point shots, a couple of Pistol Pete assists to Thurston and a hot-dog-up-the-middle underhand jumper that kept the crowd amused as they choked down the day old Orono popcorn.

Schaible and Springer also kept up their defensive assault in the second half. The fleet of foot Spartans, however, began showing that they are the former state champs and are to be respected. This was evident at the score keeper’s table, as the Hawks tallied up a few fouls in the scorebooks. But not before Schaible blocked a shot from point-blank range and tossed it to Shelton, who then marbled it in for another two bones.

With 5 minutes left in the game and time running out for the Spartans, in walks senior Melissa Christlieb. Christlieb, being the strong silent type, put in her contribution to extinguish any momentum that Orono may have left and dropped in a basket that essentially gave the Vegas oddsmakers little to worry about for the remainder of the game.

To solidify the win, Coach Hiebert gave a free rein to up-and-coming basketball disciples, sophomores Sydney Eidsness and Greta Blanck and junior Sam Otto.

In the end, the once mighty Spartan Empire fell to the invaders from Westonka. Both teams fought exceptionally hard, leaving nothing on the court when the smoke cleared. And like all reputable rivalries (except for Green Bay) good sportsmanship was outstanding by both teams, as well as by the fans; reminding us all that at the end of the day, basketball is still just a game.

Coaches Corner with Alan Hiebert: “This season, so far, has been about our ability to defend. Last night, we defended with intensity and purpose for 36 minutes. Maya Thurston, in particular, was fantastic in frustrating their main offensive player. Every other player fed off of her, and we made their offensive life difficult the whole night. We started a little slow offensively, but once we got into the game we were able to use our size advantage down low and it really keyed our run to end the first half. I’ve been very proud to coach this group, and I’ve been really enjoying watching them defend all season. If we can keep it up, we’ve got a great chance for continued success.”