The Sun Prairie girls basketball team was faced with an immediate imposing opponent this season. After looking sluggish out of the gate against Marshfield, the Cardinals’ next opponent was none other than Madison La Follette, a Big Eight rival and consistently solid team.
The Lancers came to play, bringing an aggressive defensive approach. The Cardinals didn’t waver. A second-half scoring outburst from both junior wing Marie Outlay and junior forward Makiah Hawk helped push the Cardinals to a 64-49 win to move to 2-0 on the season.
“It’s always a battle with La Follette,” Sun Prairie head coach John Olson said. “They have great athletes. I picked them to be very tough in the conference this season.”
While Outlay was the difference maker in the second half, she left the scoring up to two of her teammates in the first. Senior guard Rachel Rademacher and junior guard Avree Antony kept the Cardinals afloat early.
La Follette put an emphasis on pressuring the ball from the jump. This, coupled with a full-court press, would have shaken most high school guards. Not Rademacher nor Antony. The two used their speed to their advantage, motoring past clumsy feet and finding scoring opportunities near the rim.
While Rademacher and Antony were pouring it in, La Follette had an answer. Senior guard Demetria Prewitt had some outstanding driving abilities and found her way to the rim often. While the shots weren’t falling, she was a magnet for fouls. She took advantage of her time spent at the charity stripe, knocking down 13 free throws in the first half alone.
The Cardinals and Lancers entered halftime deadlocked at 28 points. Antony and Rademacher had nine points each to pace the Cardinals. The game was tied, but there was no concern from the Sun Prairie locker room. Coach Olson liked what he saw, and saw opportunity for more.
“I told them at halftime, we have to look down the court,” Olson said. “We did a good job of getting some easy buckets in the first half, but we have to keep our eyes up. We just had to get to our spots, there was no one there. Do what we do in practice and one or two passes will open things up to score.”
Sun Prairie’s players followed those directions from the opening whistle of the second half. La Follette had its defensive aggression turned up to the max, but that turned out to be a detriment as the Cardinals played with great spacing and showed patience.
La Follette had a tendency to chase the ball, which opened up scoring opportunities in the post. Junior forwards Lucy Strey and Makiah Hawk were beneficiaries of this, getting open looks at the basket and taking trips to the free throw line.
Still, the Lancers were keeping pace as Prewitt, paired with a quick scoring outburst from senior guard Malia Green, continued to pour it in. The Cardinals trailed by two with 12 minutes left in the game.
That’s when Outlay turned it on. She started with a triple from the left wing to tie the game at 41. The Cardinals never looked back as the 3-pointer sparked a 16-0 scoring run for Sun Prairie. In that run, Outlay nailed another triple as Antony piloted a quick-paced offensive attack that was just too much for La Follette to handle. The Cardinals were finally feeding the paint, setting up three quick buckets for Hawk during the run as well.
“She always has the green light,” Olson said of Outlay. “We knew we had to start moving the ball better in the second half. We moved the ball better and that opened things up for her and the rest of our players.”
The Lancers tried to spark a comeback as Prewitt scored a quick five points, but Outlay snuffed that out quickly. Now operating out of the post, she buried a couple of layups to put the game out of reach.
During this offensive outburst, the defense was impressive as well. Hawk used her long arms to her advantage, swatting away three shots and pickup up a few steals as well. Her performance in post defense can’t be overstated. Her ability to turn some of Prewitt’s attacks away was an integral part of the Sun Prairie win.
“I was really pleased,” Olson said. “We got down a couple times but we battled back to get the win. The girls took this on as a team. They listened to adjustments and made it happen.”
Antony led the Cardinals in scoring with 18. Outlay was next with 15, followed by Rademacher with 13 and Hawk with 10. La Follette’s Prewitt led all scorers with 21, 18 of which came from the free throw line.
Next up, the Cardinals will head east for the Kettle Moraine Thanksgiving Showcase on Saturday, Nov. 27. There, the Cardinals will take on Oak Creek at 5:15 p.m..