Published Friday, February 22, 2013 at 12:01 am / Updated at 1:05 am
Palmer powers past Mustangs

Emilie Wolfe’s knack for getting to the free-throw line came in handy for Palmer on Friday night.

Wolfe shot 15 free-throws — four more than Silver Lake attempted as a team — and made 11 on her way to scoring a game-high 22 points as the Tigers beat the Mustangs 55-51 in the Class D-1, District 2 championship at Grand Island Central Catholic. The win gave Palmer its second trip to the state tournament and its first since 2007.

At 5-foot-6, Wolfe might look like a guard who would be satisfied settling for shots from the perimeter. Looks, however, can be deceiving.

“She’s feisty,” Palmer coach Rob Wegner said of Wolfe. “She’s really aggressive and that’s something we’ve worked on this year with our guards. We had some games earlier in the year where we just kind of stood and let the game kind of pass us by.”

Palmer (17-6) finished 18-of-29 on free-throw attempts, outscoring Silver Lake (17-8) by an 18-6 margin at the free-throw line. The Tigers, who head to state riding a nine-game winning streak, got all 29 of their free-throw attempts in the final three quarters, including 15 in the final eight minutes.

“Palmer attacked the basket very aggressively and we didn’t move our feet well at times,” Silver Lake coach Keith Crowe said. “As a result, we got called for some fouls. They’re a quality ballclub: They’ve got good guards and good post players inside and they’re tough to stop.”

Wolfe finished 5-of-7 shooting from the field and had a team-high four assists to go with her 22 points. Jessie Valasek added 12 points for the Tigers, while Shayla Wichmann finished with eight points and nine rebounds and played solid second-half defense against Silver Lake leading scorer Mackenzie Skupa.

“We were trying to take Mackenzie away from them,” Wegner said. “Everything I had heard about Silver Lake was that she was the one and it showed in the first half. We could see that right off the bat.”

Skupa, who finished with 18 points, had 14 in the first half, including 10 in the second quarter. After halftime, Wichmann and Palmer’s packed-in defense helped limit the Mustangs’ 6-1 senior forward to four points on 2-of-6 shooting from the floor.

With the score tied at 38-38, Palmer broke the game open with an 11-0 run to start the fourth quarter. Two Wolfe free throws put the Tigers ahead 49-38 with 2:59 to play.

Kila Timm, who finished with 10 points, kept Silver Lake in the game with eight fourth-quarter points. The junior hit two 3-pointers in the final 2:01, including a trey that cut Palmer’s lead to 50-46 with 1:12 remaining.

The Tigers were 5-of-8 from the free-throw line in the final 46 seconds to keep the Mustangs at bay.

“I told the girls at halftime that we were going to go on runs and Silver Lake was going to go on runs — we’d be doing it all year long in every game we’ve played,” Wegner said. “I think we’re a real similar team to Silver Lake, so it was just a matter of who could outlast who and whoever could make the most runs was going to win this thing.”

Palmer prevailed despite being outrebounded 41-28. Silver Lake enjoyed a 22-9 advantage in offensive rebounds.

“I would’ve said we’d be done,” Wegner said when asked what he would’ve thought if told before the game Silver Lake would get 22 offensive rebounds. “I would’ve thought we’d been packing up and putting on track shoes.

“We focused on (Mackenzie Skupa) a lot and maybe sometimes we overdid it and forgot to look for the ball. We were in position, but we weren’t looking for the basketball at all.”

Palmer (17-6) ................... 11 18 9 17—55

Silver Lake (17-8) .................... 11 17 10 13—51

P: Wolfe 5-7 11-15 22, W.Valasek 0-1 1-2 1, J.Valasek 5-18 1-5 12, S.Wichmann 3-5 1-1 8, K.Valasek 3-7 3-4 9, C.Wichmann 1-1 1-2 3, Tibbetts 0-0 0-0 0, Dvorak 0-0 0-0 0, Fellers 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 17-39 18-29 55.

S: J.Parr 2-5 0-0 4, Rockefeller 2-12 3-6 7, M.Skupa 9-18 0-0 18, Meyer 1-6 0-0 2, Timm 4-8 0-0 10, Al.Ehrman 2-4 0-0 5, Grabill 0-1 2-2 2, S.Skupa 1-5 1-3 3, S.Parr 0-0 0-0 0, Ab.Ehrman 0-0 0-0 0, Thayer 0-0 0-0 0, Fulk 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 21-59 6-11 51.

3-point goals—Palmer 3-13 (Wolfe 1-3, J.Valasek 1-8, S.Wichmann 1-2), Silver Lake 3-11 (J.Parr 0-2, Meyer 0-1, Timm 2-6, Al.Ehrman 1-2). Fouled out—Timm, K.Valasek. Rebounds—Palmer 28 (S.Wichmann 9), Silver Lake 41 (M.Skupa 11). Assists—Palmer 9 (Wolfe 4), Silver Lake 14 (M.Skupa 3, Timm 3, S.Skupa 3). Turnovers—Palmer 9, Silver Lake 12. Total fouls—Palmer 13, Silver Lake 21. Technicals—None. A—NA.

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