The Watertown-Mayer girls’ basketball team opened the season last week with two close losses against a couple of tough teams.
The Royals opened the season on Tuesday, Nov. 27, on the road against Litchfield. The Dragons, who trailed much of the night in a close contest, rallied late for a 67-62 win. The Royals opened the home portion of their schedule on Friday, Nov. 30, when they again led Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted for much of the night. However, the ninth-ranked Lakers also rallied late to pick up a 63-57 win.
“Both games were very similar in the fact that we were very competitive until the end,” Watertown-Mayer coach John Rosholt said. “In the end, we just didn’t get shots to fall that obviously would have changed the outcome of the game if we knocked them down.”
While the Royals didn’t come away with a win in their first two contests, they got two outstanding efforts from senior Kate Theisen. Those accustomed to seeing Marissa Janning pour in 30-plus points each night for the Royals in the past got to see two more 30-point games to kick off this season as well, even after Janning’s graduation. Theisen scored 30 in each game, adding seven rebounds and three steals against Litchfield and 11 rebounds against HLWW. She shot 11-for-18 from the field against Litchfield and 13-for-25 against HLWW.
“We knew that she has the ability to score,” Rosholt said. “Last year she gave us glimpses of her ability to score like that. … She’s got some good offensive skills and she showed them off in the first two games.”
In the Litchfield game, the Royals enjoyed a 31-27 halftime lead after a back-and-forth first half. The Royals led by as many as six points in the second half, and still led by five, 56-51, with 6:50 left to play after a layup from Theisen. However, Litchfield used a 6-0 run to take the lead on a layup with 3:18 left, and after Theisen again gave the Royals the lead back, 58-57, with 2:18 to play, two straight buckets for the Dragons gave them the lead for good.
Theisen’s layup with 25.2 seconds left brought the Royals within 65-62, but two late free throws clinched the win for the Dragons. Chelsea Wandersee added nine points for the Royals, Hannah Johnson, Liz Miller, Lexy Heldt and Christine Kreatz all finished with four points. Heldt also had five rebounds for the Royals.
Against HLWW, the Lakers led by as many as eight points in the first half when a layup with 5:37 left gave them a 26-18 lead. However, the Royals closed the half on a 14-4 run, and Theisen’s layup with 2 seconds left in the half gave the Royals a 32-30 lead.
Watertown-Mayer pushed the lead to eight points with the first six points of the second half, but the Lakers battled back to take to take a small lead a little more than halfway through the second half. A layup for the Lakers with 4:18 left pushed their lead back to eight points once again, but the Royals had one final push left.
Two free throws from Johnson with 15 seconds left had the Royals within 59-57, but an intentional foul called on the Royals with 12 seconds left helped HLWW seal the win. The Lakers hit all four free throws on their next possession to close out the 63-57 win.
Heldt finished with six points and eight rebounds for the Royals, and Kreatz had five points and three rebounds. Johnson also had five points.
Overall, Rosholt said there were plenty of positive signs from the first two games, against two very tough opponents who lost little from last year. However, Rosholt said there was also plenty for his team to work on in the coming weeks.
“I thought we improved from Game 1 to Game 2,” Rosholt said. “That’s a positive. We played hard all the way up to the end in both games. We were very tenacious. We have to step it up a little defensively, though. We can’t give up 63 points and 67 points and expect to get a W.”
Rosholt also noted that it was nice to see all nine players who saw action in Tuesday’s game get in the scoring column, and eight of the nine in Friday’s game. However, he added that he’d also like to see a bit more balance when it comes to scoring. Theisen scored more than half the team’s points in the first two games.
“We got 30 out of Kate both nights, and that’s really big,” Rosholt said. “I don’t expect her to give us 30 every night. It’s great she’s been able to produce like that, but we’re going to have to get a little more balanced in our scoring.”
The Royals were also in action at Delano on Tuesday, and return to action on Friday, Dec. 7, at Jordan, at 7:30 p.m. The Royals will also take on Belle Plaine on Tuesday, Dec. 11, at 7:30 p.m. At home.