Appleton North holds off Kimberly in key FVA contest


KIMBERLY (WLUK) -- Appleton North knew how important this week was.

Leading the Fox Valley Association it was to face its nearest competitors -- Hortonville and Appleton North -- on the road. These results would impact the FVA race severely and North didn't leave any doubt which team is the team to beat.

After erasing a double-digit deficit at Hortonville on Tuesday and winning, the Lightning erased a four-point second-half deficit at Kimberly on Friday and remained perfect in FVA play with a 55-48 win, sweeping the season series from the Papermakers.

North is 9-0 in the FVA, while Kimberly is 7-2 and Hortonville is 6-2.

Photos: Appleton North at Kimberly

"We knew this week was important with two big games against Hortonville and Kimberly," North senior Sydney Levy said. "We treated it like sectionals week, two big games, get prepared and play hard."

North, ranked No. 1 in the FOX 11 Top 11, opened a 15-6 lead to start but by halftime it was tied at 29. Then in the second half No. 3 Kimberly opened a 35-31 lead and had a chance to make it a seven-point lead, but a three-pointer was missed.

North took advantage and eventually overtook the Papermakers (10-2) with a 14-2 run to open a 45-37 lead.

"We had the same incident at Hortonville," North coach Joe Russom said. "We were down by 12, 14 and we came back and pulled it out."

North was led by Kari Brekke's 14 points, while Levy had 12, but that is nine points under her average. Russom said Kimberly's defense was impressive.

"(Kimberly coach Troy Cullen) did a great job on Syd and Kari," Russom said. "Credit to him and our team. We were able to pull it out."

North (10-2) is undefeated in the state of Wisconsin this season -- it lost two games on a trip to Florida -- and hasn't lost in the state since the state semifinals in 2016.. The Lightning has the look of a state-title contender which is saying something to Russom who said the loss of Callie Pohlman to graduation was huge void to fill this season.

"You can see our team growing," Russom said. "Everybody said just because you were at state that it's going to be the same team. We graduated one kid (Pohlman) that logged 30 minutes-plus a game and was the heart and soul of our team and kids are starting to fill that role.

"I'm really proud of them, they're really developing."

"Without Callie we're a different team, but I think we're really good this year," Levy said. "I think we have girls who are stepping up, so it's not just one girl trying to take the place of Callie. That's helping us."

Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay