Tigers’ seniority steps up in victory over Eagles

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Gillett seniors combine for 47 points

Greg Bates, Times Herald Correspondent

Gillett High School senior Taylor Yonker drives up the court during a Marinette & Oconto Conference win against Suring on Friday. (Times Herald photo by Jacy Zollar)

A lot can be said for a team with four senior starters.

The Gillett girls basketball team showed rival Suring, which doesn’t have a senior on its roster, that experience trumps youth.

The four Tigers senior starters combined for 47 points to erase a slow start as host Gillett beat Suring 69-42 in a Marinette & Oconto Conference game on Friday.

“After a slow start, I thought our senior leadership really took hold — they didn’t panic,” Gillett coach Justin Daul said. “In a rivalry game like that, you can see a young team that really panics. We answered, and you could tell their youth was taking over compared to our veteran leadership.”

Gillett (13-5, 9-4 conference) was up 11-10 six minutes into the game before the offense got going.

“I think we came out a little overhyped and I think once we settled down a little bit and got into our defense we started to pull away a little bit,” Gillett senior Taylor Yonker said.

The Tigers’ defense rose to the occasion. Suring (7-12, 3-11) hit just six field goals in the next 19-minute span as Gillett’s lead ballooned to 29 points.

“They changed into their zone defense and our girls were maybe a little too satisfied moving the ball around the perimeter vs. attacking the basket, and that showed up on the scoreboard,” Suring coach Shaun Wagner said.

Gillett senior Kaitlyn Schaal hit six first-half field goals and scored 14 of her 19 points in the opening 18 minutes. Her teammate Yonker replicated that feat in the second half with 14 points to also tally a game-high 19 points. Yonker, who came into the game averaging a team-high 13.9 points per game, was 5 for 6 from the field in the second.

“I just have to credit a lot of that to my teammates,” Yonker said. “Them creating shots and making shots themselves, it opened up some open shots for me and some rebounds under the basket.”

As Yonker praised the other girls on her team, her coach knows how capable she is of taking a game into her own hands.

“She’s a competitive kid, and all my seniors are,” Daul said. “It’s been a thing the last couple of games where we’ve started slow, but we’ve answered the bell. I couldn’t be prouder of Faith (Sorlie), Willow (Pecha), Taylor and Kaitlyn; they did a great, great job tonight.”

Gillett started to pull away in the first half thanks to a 20-5 run to make it 31-15. Karissa Schaal and her older sister, Kaitlyn, both converted back-to-back three-point plays.

With Gillett up 38-23 at halftime, the Tigers extended their lead with a 17-3 spurt in the first seven minutes of the second.

Freshman Paige Krueger scored Suring’s first eight points of the game and finished with a team-high 17 points.

With only four regular-season games left before the postseason begins, Gillett has a couple of important showdowns. That starts when Gillett travels to Southern Door on Wednesday. Two days later, the Tigers head to Crivitz. The conference leaders eked out a two-point victory over Gillett on Dec. 21.

“I’m happy that we’re playing all these tough games right before playoffs,” Daul said. “Going into seeding meeting, if we can steal that game from Crivitz and kind of maybe cost them the conference, that would be huge for us.”

With the big games down the stretch, Gillett needs to continue playing well every night.

“We’ve come a long way over the season and with our two freshmen playing as well as they are, it definitely helps to be able to go to the bench and have a solid backup there,” Yonker said. “And I think if we keep playing our kind of basketball, we’ll be able to handle a lot of these teams and make a strong push towards playoffs.”

Suring (42)

Runge 0-3 2, Stelzer 1-2 10, Krueger 1-2 17, VanBellinger 0-0 8, Smith 3-4 5.

Gillett (69)

Young 1-2 6, DeBauch 1-2 8, Sorlie 1-4 7, Kaitlyn Schaal 3-4 19, Yonker 3-3 19, Karissa Schaal 2-4 8, Pecha 0-0 2.

Suring 23 19 — 42

Gillett 38 31 — 69