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February 17, 2012 | 08:26 PMThe stakes were high at Badger High School Friday night.
With a win, the Badger girls basketball team would be on the inside track for its first Southern Lakes Conference title since 1998.
But there was one major road block, Waterford senior Stephanie Rank.
The powerful 5-foot-10 center scored 10 of her game-high 23 points in the fourth quarter, and the Wolverines knocked off Badger, 50-45, to force a four-way tie in the loss column in the ultra-competitive SLC.
Waterford (9-3 SLC) now controls its own destiny for at least a share of the SLC crown despite a three-way tie with Badger and Union Grove. The Wolverines split with Wilmot and Union Grove, but downed Badger twice. The Broncos and Wilmot (8-3) both won Friday, so it will come down to the final two weeks of play to determine the winner.
Badger has the easiest road ahead, with games against Burlington (2-18) and Delavan-Darien (6-13). Wilmot must face Elkhorn (6-10) twice and must travel to Union Grove.
"It's going to come down to the last week," Badger coach David Jooss said. "If we win our last two games, we at least tie for the championship. With everyone controlling their own destiny, that makes it exciting."
On Friday, Badger trailed, 22-16, at haltime before embarking on a 7-0 run midway through the third quarter. Two Lana Wieseman buckets and an Emma Kopp 3-pointer cut the lead to 24-23, and a Karina Reeves coast-to-coast layup gave Badger its first lead of the second half with four minutes left in the frame.
Waterford built a 31-27 lead, but Wieseman's top-of-the-key triple after a Taylar Keenan steal made it 31-30 late in the third. Badger regained the lead briefly at 36-35 with 5:10 to play, but Rank fired off six straight points to give Waterford some breathing room at 41-36.
With 2:45 left, Kopp was short on a triple, but Wieseman dug and clawed for the rebound and made a put-back layup despite heavy contact. The three-point play cut the Waterford advantage to 41-39.
Wieseman got to the line with 48.6 seconds to go, with Badger down 45-41, but missed two free throws. After a Waterford free throw, Reeves missed the front end of a one-and-one with 46.6 seconds. After a Wieseman layup and two Reeves foul shots made it 48-45 with 10.3 seconds left, Rank hit two big free throws to ice the victory.
"Give Waterford credit," Badger coach David Jooss said. "They played a really good basketball game. They were able to score in bunches, and it hurt us."
Rank connected on all six of her free throws.
Wieseman paced the Badgers with 21 points, including 13 in the second half. Both Kopp and Reeves were held to six points.
Waterford utilized a quick, punishing interior defense to thwart Badger drives and was able to effectively defend the perimeter.
"We tried to force things a couple times," Jooss said. "They did some good things defensively."
Badger travels to Muskego Tuesday in nonconference action.
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