PREP HOOPS: Angola passes one SAC test, ready for another

Bishop Dwenger senior Ellen Ross is hounded by Angola's Ally Lorntz, left, and Ali Cranston, right, during Friday's sectional game at Bishop Dwenger. (By Justin Kenny of news-sentinel.com)
Angola sophomore Kayla Fenstermaker defends a shot by Bishop Dwenger's Ellen Ross during Friday's sectional game at Bishop Dwenger. (By Justin Kenny of news-sentinel.com)
Bishop Dwenger senior Caitlyn Ryan heads to the basket while Ali Cranston of Angola defends during Friday's game. (By Justin Kenny of news-sentinel.com)

Angola coach Brandon Appleton had a simple request for one of the officials working his team’s sectional game against Bishop Dwenger on Friday.

“Hey, we need to get their bigs in foul trouble, look at us we are tiny!” said Appleton during a break in the action in the first half as the official chuckled. “What can you do to help us out with that?”

The official continued to laugh, with Appleton joining in.

It was a desperation play, some would even say foolish.

But when you’ve lost 10 straight games to Summit Athletic Conference foes and are attempting to win the program’s first sectional championship in 15 years, it’s worth a shot.

Turns out, Appleton and the Hornets did not need any help from the officials in getting the Saints in foul trouble, they were able to do that themselves. Angola fouled out three Dwenger players — including senior standout Ellen Ross — and triumphed 57-53 to advance to Saturday’s 3A Dwenger Sectional title game.

Not a bad time to end a long losing streak against SAC foes dating back to 2014.

“We have been wanting this challenge to play some of these SAC schools to show what we are doing at Angola,” said Appleton.

The Hornets have just three losses on the season, with two of those coming to SAC teams Bishop Luers and South Side. Angola knew going into this week that to capture the program’s second-ever sectional title it would have to beat two teams from the league that has been a nemesis in recent years.

The first step has been achieved.

What Angola (23-3) gives up in size it makes up for in tenacity. Only one player — 5-foot-11 junior Sarah Duvendack — is listed above 5-9 on the roster. To compete with the Bishop Dwengers and Concordias of the world means that the Hornets must excel in aspects of the game it can control.

That includes coaching. Appleton was frequently heard Friday calling out what Dwenger was going to do on set inbounds plays before they happened, showing just how much study went into defending what the Saints do.

Angola is able to play its up-tempo style effectively because it can dip so far into its bench.

“We are small and we can run,” Appleton said. “If we make the game (the full) 84 feet of the court it plays to our advantage. Our ability to get deep into our bench kind of wears teams down.”

On Saturday at 7:30 p.m., the Hornets get a chance to take down their true nemesis. The Cadets have defeated Angola in sectional play in each of the last two years.

What’s the challenge? Oh, just a team that has a top scorer (Carissa Garcia) and a pair of 6-2 posts in Elizabeth Hetler and Chanteese Craig.

The Hornets are used to it by now.

“When we started the year it was a very simple message about where our standards are, and that was Concordia,” Appleton said. “We talked about it in the summer, in the fall and up to this point.

“I told the girls, ‘Now you got them, let’s see what you got.'”

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