MANITOWOC — Allie LeClaire was sporting an ice pack on her elbow Saturday.
But the Green Bay Notre Dame junior had a huge smile on her face after scoring a career-high 32 points to help her team take down a towering Beaver Dam squad 71-50 to advance to state for a second straight season.
The Tritons (20-6) will make the 1.7-mile trip to the Resch Center in Ashwaubenon on Friday to play Milton in a WIAA Division 2 state semifinal.
LeClaire scored all of her points over the final three quarters against the Golden Beavers (22-4), who fell in the sectional finals for a second consecutive year after they had beaten the Tritons early in the regular season.
Notre Dame took the lead for good when LeClaire recorded her first points on a 3-pointer and followed with a steal and layup on the ensuing possession in the opening minute of the second quarter.
It was the start of a 31-14 run, which also saw the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay recruit knock down three 3-pointers and score 10 of the first 12 points in the third quarter.
“She gets our team going, no question about it,” said Notre Dame second-year coach Sara Rohde. “I was telling her the other day that she’s the igniter because she does make our team go in a lot of ways.”
Besides knocking down four 3s, LeClaire went 12-for-14 from the free throw line, earning numerous trips by driving through the lane against 6-foot-4 center Kayln Gebhardt.
“I was on the floor more than I was on my feet,” LeClaire said about the encounters with the Illinois State recruit.
Following an eight-point first quarter, Gebhardt was limited to five for the rest of the game and didn’t make a field goal in the second half.
After a torn anterior cruciate ligament kept Gebhardt out of last season’s sectional final, a full-court trap by the Tritons limited her and 6-foot forward Brianna Johnson this season.
“We wanted to pressure them because I don’t know that they had to deal with a lot of pressure all year long against other teams,” Rohde said. “It was our plan, and we knew that they wanted to get the ball inside, so if they want to get the ball inside, we’ve got to be pressuring them with high hands cause those girls are big.”
But for as big as the Beaver Dam pair were physically, the Tritons trio of Alix Everson, Eliza Campbell and Anika Johnson played even bigger in the post and were a key reason why they forced the Golden Beavers into 12 first-half turnovers, which led to layups in transition.
“We worked each other hard and picked each other up when they would score,” said Campbell, who finished with 16 points. “We worked really well together.”
It also worked out well that senior guard Brianna Byrne would tally 15 points to surpass 1,000 career points in the victory.
After falling to New London in the state semifinals last year, Notre Dame is hoping its experience will lead to a deeper run as it aims for its first title since 2001 in its fifth WIAA state appearance.
“I don’t think we knew how good we were,” LeClaire said. “When all of us come together, and we work as a team, we play really well and are unbeatable. I think at the beginning of the year we weren’t really sure what our roles were on the team, so I think we have that down now.”
Beaver Dam…16 15 7 12 — 50
Green Bay Notre Dame…15 20 19 17 — 71
BD: Ham-Augustynowicz 2, Kaul 8, Cullen 3, Riteris 12, Sether 4, Johnson 8, Gebhardt 13. 3-pt: Kaul, Cullen, Riteris 4. FT: 6-12. FT: 18.
ND: O. Campbell 2, Byrne 15, Everson 6, E. Campbell 16, LeClaire 32. 3-pt: Everson 2, Byrne, LeClaire 4. FT: 22-26: 11.