Fast starts are helping the Whitnall girls basketball team to a strong finish this season.
The Falcons jumped out to a 13-0 lead against rival Greenfield on Friday night, then coasted to a 62-43 victory, their sixth straight.
"That's been the key for us lately," head coach Keith Larson said, whose team improved to 11-6 in the Woodland Conference East Division and 14-7 overall. "A good start to the game, be in control and be disciplined and focused. That has helped us. We've got seniors on the court, and we expect that of them."
Rachael Shulta opened the game with a 3-pointer and Jackie Gruszka netted a pair to key the 13-0 run for Whitnall. The Hawks, by contrast, kept committing turnovers and did not even get off a shot in the opening minutes.
"Whitnall hit on a number of early looks and before we knew it, we were down 13-0 without a shot attempt," Greenfield head coach Rob Graetz said. "Once the girls settled down, they competed well, but it's always difficult to dig yourself out of the early deficit."
Greenfield responded with seven straight points, including a 3-pointer from Tuyet Nguyen, but Shulta hit another trey to close the first quarter at 16-7.
The Falcons held a 29-18 halftime lead and extended that to 43-23 on four free throws from Ashley Markowiak. The Hawks battled back, closing within 46-36 after three periods with the help of a pair of 3-pointers from Mallory Klezcka.
Shulta started the fourth period with a three-point play and the Falcons went on to tally eight straight points for a 54-36 advantage. The Hawks never came closer than 15 points after that.
"We had a few key possessions to dig into the lead a little more, but they just didn't go our way," Graetz said. "I'm proud of the way the girls competed and stayed together."
Shulta finished with 21 points, 10 rebounds, two assists and three steals, while Gruszka had 14 points, three assists and five rebounds. Markowiak added 13 points, Krista Stribling six points and six rebounds and Lizzy Menden five assists and three steals.
"We feel we've got four, five players that can shoot against the zone," Larson said. "They've been doing a good job this year, and particularly in the last six games."
Klezcka tallied 10 points and Dana Schwab and Erika Deubig seven apiece for the Hawks, who fell to 3-15 in the Woodland and 4-17 overall.
The Falcons downed Brown Deer, 51-37, in a makeup game Feb. 13 behind 20 points from Shulta and 13 points by Gruszka. Shulta also had four 3-pointers.
The Hawks lost to Waterford, 70-28, Feb. 14 as Lauren Bullock and Sara Kassel each scored seven points.
Both teams open WIAA regional play this week. The Falcons host Ronald Reagan at 7 p.m. Tuesday, while the Hawks visit Racine Park at 7 p.m. March 1.
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