Olivia Neis

Oregon sophomore Olivia Neis, right, blocks a shot by Edgewood senior Grace Nwankwo in a Badger West Conference game on Tuesday, Feb. 7. Oregon beat Edgewood 68-41.

Coming out of the locker room even before the shootaround, junior forward Delaney Nyenhuis and her Oregon girls basketball teammates didn’t need any more motivation with what was at stake against Madison Edgewood.

She recalls how Edgewood sophomore Erin Schauer hit a shot in the final four seconds to clip the Panthers in a heartbreaker the first meeting in December. Behind Oregon junior point guard Sam Schmitt and Nyenhuis, the Panthers came out with an urgency to keep their Badger West title hopes alive and steamrolled the Crusaders 68-41 on Tuesday, Feb. 7, at Edgewood High School in Madison.

“We came into it with the mentality that we need this and we want this,” said Nyenhuis, who scored 17 points and grabbed eight rebounds. “It was an important game and if we win we get to compete for the conference championship. We really came together and brought this grit that we knew we needed to bring from the start to the end.”

Oregon (14-7, 9-4 Badger West) is tied with Edgewood (11-10, 9-4) for second place in the conference, a 0.5-game behind Reedsburg (10-4). The Panthers own the tiebreaker against the Crusaders. If Oregon can knock off Mount Horeb on Friday, Feb. 10, the Panthers would then play at Reedsburg for the Badger West Conference championship on Thursday, Feb. 16.

“The team knows we lost some opportunities two weeks ago against Reedsburg and Sauk,” Oregon coach Adam Wamsley said. “We were fortunate to still control our destiny a little bit. We want some payback for Reedsburg as well, but it will be tough going up there if we get that far. Being here on Edgewood’s home court on Senior Night we knew it was going to be tough and they are a really good team. They are in first (place) for a reason. We knew coming in that the first time around we didn’t play our best game and we were fired up and ready to go.”

Schmitt scored a game-high 19 points and had three steals to lead the Panthers. She was thrilled with the victory after the game.

“I could go play three more games right now,” Schmitt said. “I have so much energy and I’m so pumped.

We played with so much energy tonight.”

It’s the second straight loss for Edgewood after the Crusaders had a one-point lead in the final minute before losing to the state’s sixth-ranked Division 2 team McFarland 50-46 on Saturday, Feb. 4.

“We just ran into a buzz saw tonight,” Edgewood coach Lora Staveness said. “We just played McFarland and maybe it’s a letdown because we were up in that game and lost that one. I don’t know if it was the hangover effect about being disappointed about that.”

Oregon opened the game on an 8-0 run. Nyenhuis scored down low and junior forward McKenna Carroll buried a 3-pointer to give the Panthers a 5-0 lead with 16 minutes, 1 second left in the first half. Oregon sophomore guard Klara Tracy then drilled a 3-pointer.

Schmitt knocked down a 3 to extend the Panthers’ lead to 16-6 with 8:25 left in the first half. Schmitt had the hot hand in the first half, scoring 14 points, including two 3s.

“I think right from the get-go they had it rolling,” Staveness said. “The first time Oregon played Reedsburg they had it in their hands and lost it. They had more of a chip on their shoulder coming in.”

Wamsley has come to trust his junior point guard to lead the offensive attack.

“Sam finally had a full game of leading us, controlling the pace and getting her shots,” he said. “She was the spark plug that really gave everyone else confidence.”

The Crusaders trailed 27-16 at the half and had 12 of their 21 turnovers.

Edgewood senior Grace Nwankwo converted a three-point play to start the second half to cut the Panthers’ lead to eight points. The Panthers exploded from there with a 17-8 run. Carroll had seven points during the surge. Nyenhuis scored 14 of her 17 points in the second half.

Nwankwo scored a team-high 11 points for the Crusaders. The Panthers limited her to 1 of 2 shooting in the first half.

The Panthers used Nyenhuis, sophomore wing Olivia Neis and Carroll to front Nwankwo in the post to make it tough to get touches.

“That was a big thing our coaches talked about – shut No. 45 down,” Schmitt said. “We couldn’t let her get the ball. She was one of their main post players.”

The Panthers led by as many as 30 points in the second half. Carroll scored nine of her 12 points in the second half. Neis chipped in six points.

“I thought they played physical, especially down low and we just weren’t in the right headspace tonight for this matchup,” Staveness said. “It was a clinic. They beat us in every phase of the game. I told my team I need to prepare them better moving forward because obviously we were not in the right headspace and we weren’t physically there. That’s uncharacteristic of one of our teams.”

When the Crusaders switched to a 1-3-1 zone, the Panthers got two layups in three trips down the floor and Edgewood went back to a man-to-man defense.

“Last time at home we didn’t execute at all,” Wamsley said of the Crusaders’ zone defense. “During practice we focused on that zone offense that we employ. We looked comfortable and looked like we were ready for it.”

Wamsley, who is in his 10th year coaching at Oregon, recently eclipsed the 100 career win mark. He is sitting at 102 career wins and counting as the coach of the Panthers.

“I can’t do it without the student athletes I have had,” Wamsley said.

“It’s not just me, it's the athletes, assistant coaches and my wife. She gives up a lot and sacrifices a lot. I couldn’t do it without those three groups of people.”

Recommended for you