GALENA, Ill. — Layla Alt shows extraordinary patience.
Just when you think the Shullsburg guard is dribbling around the defense to dish it off, she maneuvers her way under the basket for a deuce. Alt did so many times in an intriguing cross-state matchup against Galena on Tuesday night.
The 5-foot-7 junior scored 10 of her game-high 21 points in the third quarter, and the Miners used clutch baskets and a pesky defense to hold back the Pirates, 52-39, at Galena High School.
“She has an innate ability to get to the rim, more than any player I’ve ever coached,” Shullsburg coach Nathan Russell said. “There are things she does that you just can’t coach. I’ve been on her a bit lately to get on her game, and she was tonight. No kid is perfect and she had a great game tonight to help push us to the win.”
Anna Wiegel added 11 points and Madison Russell had seven for the Miners (3-0), who were quick and aggressive on defense in limiting the Pirates (5-3) to an arctic 13-for-51 shooting from the floor (25 percent).
“Communication and hard work are what we had to do,” Alt said. “We also had to be physical because we knew they would be physical back. We knew they are a good team and very solid. Having this win sets us up pretty well heading into conference. Our confidence is pretty good right now, but we have to still be aggressive.”
The Miners set the tone from the outset, building a 6-0 lead on Alt’s offensive rebound and putback, then pushed it to 10-2 on Wiegel’s 3-pointer. The Pirates pulled within 10-6 entering the second quarter, where Shullsburg went on the run that changed the game.
Alt’s tough and-1 hoop in the paint while getting whacked by Mackenzie Muehleip extended the lead to 15-6, then a wildly athletic take to the basket by Kayla Klotz closed a 7-0 run to open the quarter at the 5:13 mark.
“You just have to mix it up so they don’t know what’s going to come,” Alt said of her patience with the ball. “Sometimes I pass it off so they don’t just crash down on me every time, and then you have to recognize when they’re crashing on others and take it yourself.”
Shullsburg used the long ball to extend the lead. Jaidyn Strang was fouled from beyond the arc and sank two free throws, then Brooklyn Strang and Wiegel swished treys on consecutive possessions to help give the Miners a 28-9 advantage at the break.
“That changed the whole momentum of the game,” Russell said. “I thought our kids did a great job doing what we do. We shoot quick, we shot on a lot of possessions and it’s a little different for us being down here playing quarters instead of halves. We had a lot of possessions and the key for us was defensively. We played well on defense.”
It was a nightmare of a half for Galena, which shot just 3-for-19 in the first half — with eight turnovers — and went 0-for-7 in the second quarter during the Miners’ 18-3 run.
“It’s kind of been a theme the last week or so, we’ve missed a ton of shots in the lane, shot really poorly from the 3-point line and aren’t making free throws,” Galena coach Jamie Watson said. “We have to win games when we’re not playing well offensively, and defensively we just didn’t do that tonight.”
Muelheip scored a team-high 18 points for the Pirates, who made things interesting in the fourth quarter. Corrina Noble drilled a 3 and then converted a basket plus the foul to pull Galena within 46-37 with 1:17 to play, and as Shullsburg missed eight free throws in the frame, they cut it to 46-39 on a pair at the line by Muehleip. But the Miners stopped them cold from there.
“I think we just played as a complete defensive unit in the first half,” Russell said. “We did an exceptional job, and I don’t want to hand out too many compliments to my team, but they did an exceptional job communicating and switching when they needed to. It got a little close there late, but we mostly did a tremendous job on the defensive end.”
Before the opening tip, a ceremony was held for Galena senior forward Sami Wasmund, who passed 1,000 career points at the Rock Island Alleman Shootout on Saturday. She became only the seventh player in program history to reach that mark.
“She’s been on varsity since freshman year, and she’s really athletic and has really developed her game to be a dynamic scorer,” Watson said. “She can pass really well, is an excellent defender, and getting 1,000 points is nothing to take for granted. She deserves every honor that she gets. She’s an awesome kid and a great player.”
Wasmund finished with five points against Shullsburg in a tough all-around night for the Pirates, but still reflected on her achievement.
“We’ve had such great players come through our program recently, so it doesn’t seem that big saying, ‘Oh, the 1,000-point club again.’ But it really is truly an honor,” said Wasmund, referring to recent grads and 1,000-point scorers Katie Furlong and Sydney Schuler. “I’m really proud to be a part of it.
“It helped being on varsity my freshman year and learning from all those upperclassmen. I put in a lot of hard work to get this far and I’m just proud.”