Gillett girls hoops off to 4-0 run

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Tigers defeat St. Thomas Aquinas

Greg Bates, Times Herald correspondent

Gillett High School’s Kaitlyn Schaal drives toward the basket during Monday’s game at Oneida Nation. (Times Herald photo by Jacy Zollar)

The last time the Gillett girls basketball team started the season 4-0 was 2010-11. The Tigers reached a regional final.

This year’s squad is off to another fast start at 4-0 and the players’ goals stretch behind playing for a regional title. The Marinette & Oconto Conference title is the first thing they are eyeing.

Gillett kept its record unscathed after getting up and down the floor quickly in downing visiting St. Thomas Aquinas 62-29 on Friday.

Gillett coach Justin Daul has been impressed with what he’s seen from his girls early in the season. The passion from his players has been evident.

“Everything is laid out for them,” Daul said. “The depth that we have, the mix. We have great leadership, outstanding leadership with Faith (Sorlie), Willow (Pecha) and Taylor (Yonker). Just kids that have been through this ride three times now. They’ve went to the regional final twice, they’ve smelt it but they haven’t tasted it. Just what they really want it out there is front of them and they know they can have it – they’re that special of a group.”

The five seniors tallied a combined 36 points in the victory. It wasn’t just the upperclassmen who contributed. All 10 players on Dual’s roster scored with a balance attack. The team’s high scorer with Yonker with 11 points.

“We have a bigger bench this year and that’s something we’re grateful for,” said Sorlie, a senior who scored 10 points. “This year, we have a lot of versatile players.”

Daul used his entire bench effectively against an undermanned St. Thomas Aquinas team. The Cavaliers have just six players on the team in the school with an enrollment of only 28 students.

“It was a game that we thought we could get all 10 (players) really good minutes so we’re prepared for down the road,” Daul said. “It’s not just this game, it’s the other 23, 24, hopefully 28. It’s a game where we thought we could get a good balance of everybody in.”

St. Thomas Aquinas had a tough time matching the pace and intensity that Gillett dictated with its pressure defense.

“They can bring in bodies, they can bring in lines like a hockey team,” St. Thomas coach David Corry said. “It’s difficult, but we try to get through and we try to rotate players as best as possible. Foul trouble really hurts us.”

“We did well but we could have done better, to be honest,” Sorlie said.

Gillett finished with 18 steals and had plenty of fastbreak points. However, the Tigers missed a lot of short shots in close, which frustrated Daul. It’s an area the players worked on the previous day in practice.

“That was one of the big speeches at halftime,” Daul said. “I called a timeout even at the end of the first half and kind of gave it to them a little bit about how we’re not concentrating down there on the baseline or at the rim. I told them this game should be 50-9, at the time it was 30-9.”

St. Thomas Aquinas (1-4, 0-2 Marinette & Oconto Conference) jumped out to a 6-5 lead, but Gillett (4-0, 2-0) quickly eliminated any thought of an upset. A field goal by Willow Pecha put Gillett up 16-9. Just 4:48 into the game, all five of Gillett’s were in the scoring column. The Tigers closed out the first half with a 30-6 run.

Daul wants to get his team off to a faster start.

“We need to be more aggressive defensively. I wasn’t very happy with the defensive output that we had,” Daul said. “Offensively, I thought we shaped up in the middle of the first half and Taylor really started to get it going — hit a couple big shots for us and the team started to find flow.”

The Cavaliers cut their deficit to 18, 39-21, early in the second half, but the Tigers answered with an 8-0 spurt. Pecha had a pair of baskets and free throws to fuel the run.

Sophomore guard Sydney Young finished with a nice game: nine points, six steals and three assists. Karissa Schaal came through with nine rebounds and four steals.

St. Thomas Aquinas (29)

Pristelski 4 1-2 13, Beranek 4 2-2 11, L. Benson 1 0-0 2, M. Benson 1 1-2 3.

Gillett (62)

Young 4 0-0 9, DeBauch 3 0-1 6, Britton 1 1-2 3, Long 2 1-2 5, Sorlie 5 0-0 10, Kaitlyn Schaal 2 0-0 4, Yonker 4 0-2 11, Wickman 1 0-0 2, Karissa Schaal 1 2-2 4, Pecha 3 2-3 8.

St. Thomas Aquinas 12 17 — 29

Gillett 35 27 – 62