SIREN – In the span of a year, the Siren girls basketball team went from winless in the Lakeland West to being on the verge of a regional title.
The Dragons ended the regular season with consecutive wins and continued their win streak in the postseason with two more wins, leading to Saturday’s regional championship game. Though they fell a basket shy of entering sectional play, the Dragons’ turnaround is still encouraging.
“We knew this year would be better and the next year will be even better yet,” Siren coach Ryan Karsten said.
The “better” season was boosted by a 69-47 first-round win over Bayfield on Feb. 25. Lindsay Liljenberg scored a game-high 22 points for Siren, sinking four of the team’s eight 3-pointers in the game. Morgan Shetler added 17 points and Hannah Lemieux added 10.
The win gave the Dragons a regional semifinal matchup with South Shore on Friday and more success from 3-point range led to a 53-48 win at home. Shetler and Lemieux combined for five 3-pointers, with four coming in the first half.
Shetler scored eight of her 11 points in the first half while Lemieux sank three 3-pointers before halftime, allowing the Dragons to take a 27-20 lead into halftime despite Liljenberg being limited to just one point in the first.
But, Lilljenberg scored 16 second-half points to help counter South Shore’s Chloe Sipsas, who had 18 of her game-high 24 points in the second half. Sipsas led the Cardinals to within a point of Siren in the final minutes, though the final two of Liljenberg’s six second-half free throws secured the win for the Dragons.
“Liljenberg is the one we wanted to get the ball in the hands of at the end of the game,” Karsten said. “She’s shooting 75 percent at the line and she hit the two late free throws that sealed the win.”
Lemieux finished with 12 points for Siren; Jaidyn Jewell added six. The win gave the Dragons a matchup with Hurley on Saturday for the regional title. Unfortunately for Siren, it was the opponent’s turn to secure a win with late points and the Dragons’ season was ended with a 52-49 loss.
Liljenberg scored eight first-half points but the Dragons still trailed 27-20 entering halftime, due to four 3-pointers from Melissa Digiorgio and three more from Courtney Corullo; both finished with 16 points for Hurley.
But, Shetler and Jewell led a second-half comeback that eventually gave Siren a lead near the midway point of half. Shetler scored 10 points in the second while Jewell had eight. But miscues cost the Dragons the lead and the eventual win.
“We just had multiple turnovers and missed shots in the last three minutes,” Karsten said. “We didn’t score on 10 of our last 12 possessions.”
The Northstars regained the lead and then held it with makes at the free throw line. They sank seven free throws in the second half, preventing a last-second Siren 3-pointer from forcing overtime.
Shetler led the Dragons with 13 points; Liljenberg and Jewell had 10 points each.
Siren concluded the season with a 16-8 overall record, constituting a complete turnaround from its 5-17 record the prior season.