The Waterford High School girls basketball team gave head coach Dena Brechtl a nice present on her birthday Friday in the team’s season opener.
But the celebration almost didn’t happen.
Senior forward Annie Benavides scored a basket with 1.5 seconds left in regulation, giving the Wolverines a 60-59 nonconference victory over Milton at Milton.
The victory was a little payback for Waterford — the Red Hawks beat the Wolverines twice last year, including in a WIAA Division 1 sectional semifinal that ended their season.
“It was nice to come here and get a win,” Brechtl said.
Waterford led by eight points with about six minutes left, but Milton (0-1) started making some free throws, the Wolverines missed the front end of the bonus three times and also had a few other miscues.
“Those were killer,” Brechtl said. “(Milton) is a good enough team and they capitalized on those opportunities. Before we knew it, we were down with 12 seconds left.”
With the score 59-58 in favor of the Red Hawks, Brechtl called a time out with 10 seconds left to set up a play. Brechtl figured Milton would try to trap senior Katie Rohner on the inbounds play, so when that happened, Rohner passed to junior Torie Loppnow, who found the 5-foot-9 Benavides near the basket for the game-winner.
“It was intense,” Brechtl said. “It almost slipped out of our hands, but we were strong enough to get through it.”
Benavides had a big game even before being the hero, finishing with 13 points and 17 rebounds. Rohner led Waterford with 15 points and Loppnow added 11 points and four blocked shots.
“(Benavides) was a rebounding machine,” Brechtl said. “She is so physical — they didn’t have anybody to match her and we took advantage of that.”
Abbie Campion led Milton with 26 points.
UNION GROVE 67, ST. CATHERINE’S 29: In a matchup of Racine County teams, the Broncos beat the Angels Friday in a nonconference game at St. Catherine’s.
Despite having an off-night offensively, Union Grove coach Rob Domagalski said, the Broncos (2-0) rode a strong defensive effort to pull away in the second half.
Running a 1-3-1 zone for the majority of the game, Union Grove finished with 31 steals. The Broncos used those extra possessions to their advantage, attempting 83 shots and shooting 32% from the field.
On offense, the Broncos were led by freshmen Sophia Rampulla and Sydney Ludvigsen. The 5-foot-10 Rampulla was dominant, finishing with a triple-double of 15 points, 10 rebounds and 11 steals, along with five assists and two blocks. Ludvigsen scored 11 points, shooting 3 of 5 from 3-point range.
“Sophia’s very reactive, she can anticipate well and she’s growing,” Domagalski said.
The Angels, playing in their season opener, were led by freshman Kennedee Clark with eight points, including two 3-pointers.
WHITNALL 61, PARK 46: The Panthers struggled offensively in a nonconference loss Friday at Greenfield.
Park (1-1) fell behind early against the Falcons (1-0) as they were unable to get anything going offensively, shooting 13 of 71 (18%) from the field.
“We had enough opportunities to get the job done, we just fell way short tonight,” Park coach Carey Palacios said.
The Panthers controlled the boards, finishing with 29 offensive rebounds and outrebounding the Falcons 62-52.
Park did improve at the free-throw line. After going just 11 of 32 in their season opener Wednesday, the Panthers went 17 of 45 (37.7%) against Whitnall.
Despite struggling on offense, the Panthers fought hard on defense to keep things close in the second half, Palacios said. They had 17 steals and were able to force Whitnall into 26 turnovers.
Alexis Betker led the Panthers with 18 points and also had 11 rebounds and a team-high eight steals. Azia Price also put together a solid outing, leading the team with 12 rebounds, and Ombriana Barkley also had 11 rebounds.
Ellie Wolff led the Falcons with 28 points.
BROOKFIELD ACADEMY 60, PRAIRIE 41: Playing in their first game of the season, Prairie couldn’t overcome a size disadvantage and lost a nonconference game Friday at Brookfield Academy.
The Hawks fell behind 27-14 at halftime, shooting just 18% from the field in the first half. The disparity in size didn’t allow Prairie put together a second-half comeback, Prairie coach Alan Mills said.
Prairie improved its shooting percentage to 37% by the end of the game. Despite struggling on offense for the majority of the game, the Hawks managed to play more competitively in the second half, limiting the Blue Knights to 37% shooting.
“We played really good defense for the most part,” Mills said. “I was really pleased with our defensive effort.”
Andrea Palmen led the Hawks with 22 points, going 6 of 9 from the field and 8 of 11 at the free-throw line. Jill Decker added six points and a team-high four rebounds.
Erina Weiss led the Blue Knights (2-0) with 20 points and eight rebounds.