By KELLY FENTON
The Denmark News
this story was updated from Tuesday’s capsule
DENMARK – The basketball careers of eight Denmark seniors were extended at least one more game when the Vikings held off New Holstein, 72-66, in the opening round of the D3 playoffs on Tuesday in Denmark.
Denmark trailed only once in the game and led for the final 31 minutes but could never fully put the Huskies away, though the Vikings were never seriously challenged in the second half. New Holstein drew within five with 25 seconds left, as close as the Huskies would be in the second half.
New Holstein missed its final seven free throws or it could have been more of a nail biter.
Junior Abby Maricque came up big, leading Denmark with 25 points and, unofficially, five assists and five rebounds. Claire Sipple added a double-double, scoring 10 points and pulling down 11 boards, while also dealing a pair of assists.
Denmark, which concluded the North Eastern Conference at 5-13 with a win over Waupaca on Feb. 15, improved to 8-15 overall and earned a trip to second-seed Valders on Friday. Valders (17-5) beat the Vikings, 73-50, in the second game of the season back in November.
It was vintage Viking basketball on Tuesday. Ten players played; all 10 scored.
New Holstein pressed the entire game and while the Vikings coughed up 20 turnovers, they also exploited the Huskies’ aggressiveness for fast-break baskets time and again. The play of the night came with 6:30 left on an inbounds play. On their own end line, Maricque handed it off to Lakin Derricks, then streaked downcourt to receive a court-length pass from Derricks for a layup and a 58-45 lead.
Once again, though, New Holstein (8-15) refused to go away, raining in a pair of three-pointers and getting a rebound bucket to stay within eight points with plenty of time remaining.
Denmark’s final field goal came on a Derricks’ drive through the lane with 4:22 left, but the Vikings made 10 of 14 free throws over the final four minutes to hold on.
After a chilly shooting effort from deep against Waupaca, Denmark came out on fire on Tuesday, making 4 of its first 6 from beyond the arc before cooling off to finish 6 of 21. Inside the arc, though, they were 18 of 29 thanks to all those breakaway baskets and drives to the rim.
The Vikings’ first three field goals were threes – from Sipple, Maricque and Abby O’Brien. O’Brien’s, with 13:40 left in the first half, put Denmark ahead to stay at 9-7. The Huskies were within four with two minutes left before Maricque scored inside and Sipple knocked down a pair of free throws to stake the Vikings to a 33-25 halftime lead. Maricque’s pull-up in the lane to open the second half gave Denmark its first double-digit lead which eventually grew to 12 on Maricque’s steal, layup and free throw at the 11:57 mark.
New Holstein’s 8-2 run, though, had them back within six before threes by Maricque and McCartney Jens and a driving layup by Sipple extended the lead to 14, Denmark’s largest of the night.
Derricks added 11 points, four rebounds, four assists and two steals, while O’Brien finished with seven points and three assists.
Jens and Lexi Penovich each added five points.
The teams were even in turnovers (20 each) and rebounds (33). New Holstein made 9 of 22 from three, 23 of 52 overall, but missed 12 of 23 free throws. Denmark was 18 of 28 from the line.
In Denmark’s regular-season finale, Maricque had 17 points, nine rebounds and three assists in a 48-34 win over Waupaca. Sipple added seven points as Denmark concluded the NEC campaign in eighth place at 5-13. Wrightstown, Freedom and Little Chute shared the crown at 16-2.
In the first meeting with Valders, Maricque had 23 points.