Patriots drop girls basketball season opener

Girls Basketball

MARINETTE, Wis. — Millie Benson remembers them all too well. There was the season-opening 50-31 win over Stockbridge, and then a 41-29 win over Oneida Nation on Dec. 15, 2014, during her freshman season.

Those were the last St. Thomas Aquinas Academy girls’ basketball wins. Until Friday night, when the Cavalettes defeated Goodman/Pembine 41-33.

The win was especially sweet for Benson, who endured a winless season last year and no girls basketball program at St. Thomas Aquinas Academy in 2015-2016.

“It’s long deserved,” Benson said. “It’s a good group of girls. We really stepped up, worked hard in the offseason.”

Although the shots didn’t fall early, the Cavalettes kept themselves in the game with a tight zone defense.

“That really worked for them tonight,” Patriots coach Stefanie Goyak said. “Hard to get shots.”

St. Thomas misfired on its first 12 shots before Alexa Pristelski drove to the basket at the 11:18 mark of the first half. That cut Goodman/Pembine’s lead to 4-2.

Once Pristelski removed the lid from the basket, they went down one after another for the Cavalettes. She quickly tied the game, then hit a 3-pointer at the 10:12 mark. Benson’s basket widened the lead to 9-4.

Junior guard Katelyn Morrison helped keep the Patriots in the game with three baskets, but Pristelski scored on a fast break and hit back-to-back 3-pointers for a 19-10 lead with 4:05 in the half. Pristelski, a sweet-shooting junior, scored 20 points.

“All that adrenaline and momentum really gets you going, especially when you’re ahead,” Benson said.

Halle Beranek beat the halftime buzzer with a midrange bucket for a 24-16 lead.

“They obviously have some really good, clean shooters,” Goyak said.

St. Thomas cruised through much of the second half with an eight- to 12-point lead until the Patriots made a late run. Morrison split a pair of free throws, then attacked the basket and scored two buckets to pull her team within 38-32 with 3:06 remaining. Madison McLain’s basket cut the lead to 39-34 with under two minutes left, but Halle Beranek answered with a midrange jumper, and Pristelski swatted away a shot to help preserve the lead.

“We’re getting better every day,” St. Thomas coach David Corry said. “I’m so happy for those girls. All the credit to them. They played hard and they played good defense.”

It was the season opener for Goodman/Pembine. Morrison scored 15 points and Rachel Braaten added 10.

“I tried to use my first half to put everyone in,” Goyak said. “Just super-proud of them.”

Beranek added 11 points for STAA (1-1), which played Sevastopol tough in its season opener.

“I’m hoping it builds confidence,” Corry said. “We can take this and keep going.”

The Patriots host Niagara on Monday.

GOODMAN/PEMBINE (34) — Geib 2, McLain 2, Braaten 10, Davis 1, Morrison 15, White 2, Nelson 2. FGs: 15-53; FTs: 4-6

ST. THOMAS AQUINAS ACADEMY (41) — Pristelski 20, Beranek 11, L. Benson 2, McMahon 0, M. Benson 8. FGs: 17-61; FTs: 1-4

Halftime score: St. Thomas 24, Goodman/Pembine 16