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Led by 18 points from Freshman Bruna, Hanover advances past by Bucklin 57-43.

Yesterday's game for the Hanover Lady Wildcats says so much about not just the 2024 team but the Hanover program as a whole. Yesterday was proof that with hard work on and off the court, in the weightroom and everything in between you can be successful. That's what the Hanover athletics programs are about. That's what they've always been about. No matter if you are a top senior, a leading scorer all the way down to a freshman bench player, if you work you will be successful.

We know the names by now, the Katelyn Klipp's, the Anna Jueneman's and the Drew Bruna's of the world that we expect to control the pace and push their team forward. But in the Lady Wildcats' first round game against Bucklin, if you had a big game from Freshman Gracie Bruna on your Bingo card congratulations.

Bruna had shown flashes of being an offensive spark off the bench for Hanover this season.

But nothing like what the freshman unleashed on Bucklin in Thursday’s state quarterfinal. Having hit double figures just twice this season, Bruna nearly got there in the first quarter when she hit a trio of 3-pointers in the final two minutes, including back-to-back ones that broke an 8-all tie. They would end the quarter on an 8-3 run and led 17-11 after 8 minutes.

In the 2nd quarter, it was the Hanover defense that caused Bucklin's woes. Hanover came out in a 3-2 zone defense switching from their normal 2-3, providing a bit of extra pressure and forcing Bucklin into several turnovers and finally a frustration timeout by the Aces head coach.

This defensive change along with some trapping defense kept Bucklin to only 5 points in the 2nd quarter and gave Hanover a double-digit halftime lead at 27-16. Bucklin shot only 6 of 17 from the field in the first half.

Out of the locker room the Red Aces showed some signs of a comeback even narrowing the deficit to just 6 behind some improved shooting led by Karlee Evans who came on strong in the 2nd half with 10 of her 14 coming after the break. Evans finished as the leading scorer for Bucklin in the game.

Later in the quarter, Klipp went up for an offensive rebound, laid it back in and was fouled to get the lead to 12 once again at 41-29. With the lead sitting in that area for the rest of the quarter, Bucklin did hit a shot in the waning moments of the 3rd and as we headed into the 4th period, it was Hanover 41 Bucklin 32.

Back to back 3 pointers from Hanover opened the 3rd quarter and it looked like what little air was left in the Bucklin sails was gone. Add in a jumper from Klipp and one final three pointer from Gracie Bruna and Bucklin emptied their bench to allow their starters to get one final send off.

After a few customary end of game free throws by Anna Jueneman, Coach Chris Beikmann allowed his girls the same privilege but with a much better feeling as they knew they were going to fight another day and as the horn sounded Hanover would take the first round win 57-43.

Now don't get me wrong, the usual factors still had some of their best games of the year, Anna's 14 points including 9 of those coming from the 3 point arc, was 2nd on the team while Klipp and Drew Bruna still grabbed 5 and 7 rebounds respectively. So nothing was out of the ordinary in that aspect, but a 5 of 5 night from 3 (6 of 6 overall) has shown one more time that this Hanover team has the real opportunity to play deep into this tournament and win the thing even from the 5 seed.

Next up for the Lady Wildcats is a game against the 8 seed Northern Valley who knocked off the top seed South Haven in the first round. Hanover is 21-4, Northern Valley is 13-11. That game is at 4pm Friday afternoon.

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