March 14, 2012 | 08:27 AMEVANSVILLE — On March 6 in a WIAA Division 3 playoff opener at Evansville, the Big Foot girls basketball squad kept clawing and scratching but couldn't dig out of an early hole.
The Blue Devils jumped out to a 17-8 lead after the first quarter and held off a late Big Foot rally in a 63-58 victory.
The ninth-seeded Chiefs finished the season 5-18. Evansville, the No. 8 seed, lost in the next round to East Troy.
Big Foot battled back to trail 28-22 at the half, and Evansville opened a 44-36 lead after three quarters.
But the Chiefs closed to within three points with two and a half minutes left in the fourth thanks to some sharpshooting from Brittani Isham, who led all scorers with 22 points. But Big Foot was forced to foul late, and Evansville knocked down some key free throws.
Evansville's leading scorer, Kayla Klitzman, scored 20 points, nine more than her season average. The Blue Devils also got 11 points from Breanna Kinney and 10 from Lydia Eager, two players who average in single digits.
"They got off to a quick start," Big Foot coach Rodney Wedig said. "They shot well early. We shut down their main scorers, but some girls who usually don't score made some big shots."
Despite the loss, Big Foot senior Alyssa Lueck commended her team's effort.
"I thought we played really well," Lueck said. "We went in knowing that if we wanted to win we needed to leave everything we had out on the court, and I truly believe we gave it our best shot."
Junior Jen Petkoff added 13 points for the Chiefs.
A learning experience
For the first time since 1999, Wedig finished with a losing record. It was Wedig's first season as head coach of the varsity team.
Wedig, who led the 2009 Big Foot football team to a state title, said in 1999 his Almond football team was 3-6 while his girls basketball team won conference.
"It's kind of ironic that my last losing team was a football team," he said.
Despite the unfavorable record, Wedig said his girls left it all on the court this season.
"I never questioned their effort," he said. "We had a great group of kids. We played our best versus the best teams but struggled against lesser teams."
Wedig said his squad made progress throughout the season.
"In our first game, we were awful," he said. "We adjusted to what we do best. We had to change to an up-tempo style because we didn't have an inside presence. We competed in most games."
Big Foot started the season 3-16 and suffered a six-game losing streak from Jan. 31 to Feb. 17. But the girls broke the losing streak by splitting their last four games, including wins over Beloit Turner and Palmyra-Eagle.
"It had been eight years since I coached varsity girls," Wedig said. "As the year went on, I utilized every resource. I want to be back and better next year."
Big Foot will say goodbye to nine seniors, including Isham, Lueck, Kayleigh and Kelsey Wedig, Alex Martin, Sarah Abel, Mary Bopp, Katie Pearce and Lindsay Mazur. Rodney Wedig said all of the seniors are multi-sport athletes. He was proud to have his two daughters, Kayleigh and Kelsey, and sons Jake and Gus, all play varsity basketball this winter.
"It's kind of cool," Rodney Wedig said.
Rodney Wedig said the offseason workouts must pick up in order to get Big Foot back on the winning path.
"The time to catch up is from March to November," he said. "We need to get better as individuals and as a team. That means going to camps, playing games and lifting."
Isham will miss Big Foot basketball.
"Throughtout the years, I have given countless hours and endless dedication to basketball," she said. "I'll miss being a part of something. I play other Sports, but basketball has always been my favorite."
Lueck said the team improved on its consistency throughout the season after struggling early. She said there was a deep connection with this team.
"I have never felt closer to a team before this one," Lueck said. "We had nine seniors this year and we have all been playing together since fourth grade. The three juniors fit right in with us, making jokes and making practice and games more enjoyable. I really enjoyed playing with all of them, and I will never forget all of the memories we have made over the years. There were a lot of tears at the end of the season."