The record doesn’t show it, but Eau Claire Memorial has been so close in so many games this season.
So to put a little pep in his team’s step, coach Brandon Fanning started employing a 1-3-1 trapping zone. Just something to shake things up.
It worked to perfection on Friday against a strong Rice Lake team. It didn’t hurt that the Old Abes’ senior point guard broke the game open with an 11-0 run herself early in the second half.
Sydney Hazuga couldn’t miss in a two-minute stretch out of halftime, and Memorial’s defense turned it up in an upset win, knocking off the Warriors 54-40 in Big Rivers girls hoops action at the Eagles Nest.
“We’ve needed something to give the kids some energy,” Fanning said. “So we put(the zone) in, and the kids have really taken to it. Their energy is great, and they are really playing hard in it.”
That zone helped Memorial climb back into the game after falling behind 16-8 seven minutes in.
And after going on a 16-2 run to close out the opening 18 minutes, Hazuga erupted out of the locker room after halftime.
Up 24-20, she sunk three straight 3-pointers — the first from the wing and the latter two deep from the top of the key — before driving by a closeout for a quick layup. She single-handedly made it 35-20, and the Warriors never got back within eight the rest of the night.
“After the 3s, I just thought I’d take it in,” said Hazuga, who finished with 13 points. “It was crazy and unbelievable. Everybody was so supportive, and it was just great.”
“Sydney Hazuga is one of the best shooters in the conference, and we found her,” Fanning added.
Early on, Minnesota-Duluth recruit Brooke Olson had her way for Rice Lake. She stepped outside and hit a pair of 3s and also controlled the paint.
She still got hers — 26 points in all — but the zone made it difficult for her teammates to feed her the rock.
“We were really good at buzzing those passing lanes and then dropping down so Olson didn’t get those post ups,” Hazuga said.
The Old Abes forced 15 turnovers and made life difficult as soon as the Warriors crossed half court.
Every time it seemed like Rice Lake might get back in it — Olson went on a 6-0 run midway through the second — Memorial’s balanced scoring attack would have an answer, whether it was a Jessica Massey driving layup or Jada Biermeier putback.
“We didn’t get the stops that we wanted to down the stretch,” Rice Lake coach Darla Olson said.
Biermeier added 11 points and every Memorial player who saw the court scored.
The Old Abes have been looking for a signature win all season. They got one on Friday.
“We really needed this and really need to grow of this,” Hazuga said. “We really came together tonight, and I’m really proud.”