Cagers bounced in regional
Injury to Latt in crunch time crucial in regional final upset
The Hamilton girls basketball team endured its share of nicks and bruises this season, losing senior starter Jenny Shernell for the year with a torn ACL and missing several players for various stretches of time with injuries and illness.
But heading into the regional final against Arrowhead on Saturday, the one thing that had not befallen the Chargers was anything sidelineing All-State candidate Mackenzie Latt. When it came, it couldn't have come at a worse time.
Latt went down with a right knee injury in the fourth quarter, and red-hot Arrowhead - riding a momentum swing throughout the fourth quarter already - put the finishing touches on a crushing 46-40 loss. The top-seeded Chargers were kept from the sectional for a second straight year, while fourth-seeded Arrowhead advanced to face Waukesha West on Thursday.
Arrowhead rattled off a 27-11 run to close the game after the Chargers led late in the third, 29-19.
Latt finished with 13 points for the Chargers (21-3), but crumpled to the floor along the baseline after a scramble for the ball out of bounds with 3:13 to play. She was helped to thesideline, putting no pressure on her right knee, and finished the game on the bench.
It was a somber finish for Hamilton, which won its second straight Greater Metro Conference title this season. Meanwhile, Arrowhead - a team that already has wins over highly ranked New Berlin Eisenhower, Mukwonago and Waukesha West since Jan. 29 - marched onward.
"Without (Latt) in the game the last two minutes, it's a different basketball game," Arrowhead coach Rick Witte said. "We were playing well, finally getting vertical and attacking the rim, getting some defensive rebounds … with her down low, it's tough to get to the basket. So those last 2 ½ minutes, we really took advantage of that."
Fortunately, an MRI on Monday showed that Latt did not sustain ligament damage.
Hawks take control
Arrowhead's Vanessa Voss, fouled on the play that resulted in Latt's injury, sank 1 of 2 free throws to break a 35-35 tie and give the Warhawks their first lead of the night. Arrowhead hit 11 of 15 free throws in the fourth quarter and never trailed again, though Hamilton baskets by Hannah Menzia twice drew the Chargers back within one possession.
"We didn't quite get the looks we wanted, and they started to get to the basket and ran up the foul total," Hamilton coach Dan Carey said. "And they're a good free-throw shooting team. We did well in the first half defending without fouling and keeping them off the line, but as the fouls added up, they hit their free throws."
Arrowhead forced nine turnovers in the fourth quarter alone and 21 overall.
"They're so much longer and bigger than we are and sitting in that zone," Witte said. "If we didn't start turning defense into offense, we were going to watch this game slip away. We put that diamond full-court trap on, and it worked out. We weren't going to sit back and let this happen. We figured out how to box out and transition."
Hamilton nursed a 20-17 lead into halftime, and though the Warhawks hit the first basket of the second half, Hamilton's 9-0 run put the Warhawks on red alert.
Arrowhead shot just 2-of-13 in the third quarter and found itself down entering the fourth, 29-22, only because of a Smith 3-point play as the final points of the period.
The Warhawks (16-8) were still down by a 33-24 count with 5:41 to play after a Taylor Klug bucket. Perhaps the biggest Arrowhead basket of the night came less than a minute later, when Tori Miller banked in a 3-pointer and drew a foul, a 4-point play that had the Warhawks within 33-30.
Hamilton also fell in upset fashion to Waukesha West in last year's regional.
"Rick is as good as a coach and as classy of a coach as you'll find," Carey said. "He's got them doing the right things. … We kind of lost our composure a little bit there, and credit to them, they took advantage.
"I'm proud of (my team), it's the most special group I ever coached, and I don't want it to end. I love them."
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