It took awhile for the Rhinelander High School girls' basketball team to figure out what to do to take D.C. Everest out of its game Tuesday night, but once the Hodags found the key, they were unstoppable.
Cynthia Beavers scored a game-high 21 points, Kenedy Van Zile chipped in 19 and the Hodags pulled away to a 56-42 victory in Schofield.
Rhinelander used a 15-0 run in the second half to finally pull away from a pesky D.C. Everest squad. Beavers and Van Zile made big plays during the run and Sophia McGinnis hit back-to-back 3s to give Rhinelander (7-4, 4-0 Great Northern) a double-digit lead.
"We just wore them down, caused a lot of turnovers and got a lot of easy baskets finally," coach Ryan Clark said. "They got out of their rhythm of being very patient. They were forced to try to scramble offensively so we could keep the tempo up."
Rhinelander took the lead for good on a Kenedy Van Zile 3-point play off a steal in transition with 9:31 remaining, but the Evergreens were still within a point when Rhinelander made its decisive push. Van Zile knocked down a 3 on the left wing to put Rhinelander ahead 42-38 with 7:25 remaining and the converted on a drive in the lane on the Hodags' next possession. Beavers then recorded a steal at half court and drove in for a layup to make it 46-38.
After both teams traded a couple of empty possessions, McGinnis came up big. Averaging less than a point per game, the 5-7 senior hit a pair of open 3s to put the lead to 52-38 with 3:55 remaining.
"That was huge for us. It was an eight-point game, she hit two threes and that got us to double figures," Clark said. "We just kept it from there. It's nice to see. Last week against Lakeland we had Ella (Schiek) and Megan (Brown) hitting 3s. Tonight Sophia hit a couple, Ella had another one. Everyone's starting to contribute a little bit better as we go through the season."
Rhinelander trailed 20-11 with just less than five minutes remaining in the first half when it made a push, scoring the final nine points of the half, capped off by a Beavers 3 with 1:19 to play to tie the game at 20 heading to the locker room. The key, according to Clark, was finally finding a pressure defense that slowed down the Evergreens (2-9, 1-2 Wisconsin Valley).
"We switched to our 1-2-2 and just really applied ball pressure as soon as the ball came in, just forced the action with strong ball pressure and looking to trap early. That got them out of their rhythm," he said. "It's nice to have a variety of presses you can go to and the girls are doing a good job of changing on the fly. Even within a press, we might have different emphasis on where we want to put the pressure. They're really doing a good job of adjusting with us."
Kiara Hammond scored 17 for D.C. Everest, inducing a pair of threes early in the second half that gave Everest a 30-29 lead. Hanna Stuedemann added 13 for Everest, which shot 48.5% from the floor, but was held to only 33 shot attempts in the contest.
Beavers added a team-high six rebounds and four steals to go along with her 21 points for Rhinelander.
"I thought Cynthia had a fantastic basketball game," Clark said. "She was all over the place defensively, rebounding. She had just had a great year for us. She was the one, we were down 20-17 and she hits the 3 to tie it shortly before the half. She's just playing well - in transition, in the half court."
Rhinelander travels to Antigo Friday to take on the Red Robins in the first half of a girls-boys doubleheader. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m.
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at email@example.com.
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