WISCONSIN DELLS — Mia Morel’s magnificent final bow was a long time coming.
When the Madison Memorial senior played in Wednesday’s Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association’s All-Star games on Wednesday, it ended a 538-day span since she last played in an organized game.
Morel’s return to action couldn’t have gone much better. After a slow start, the 5-foot-7 guard heated up in the second quarter, scoring 10 of her game-high 21 points and leading the Division 1 North team to a 93-73 victory over the Division 1 South.
The North opened a 20-point halftime lead, finished with five double-figure scorers and made 10 3-pointers. Watertown’s Teya Maas scored 13 points for the South, which made five 3-pointers.
Morel, who won back-to-back WIAA Division 3 state championships in her freshman and sophomore years as a standout at Marshall, transferred to Division 1 Memorial before her junior season. But that season ended prematurely when she suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament during a 79-58 victory over Madison La Follette on Jan. 23, 2020.
Morel worked hard throughout a long rehabilitation process, and was cleared to play early during her senior season of 2020-2021. However, that entire season was lost when the Big Eight Conference chose to cancel the entire winter sports season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
That decision, Morel said, was a crushing blow.
“Just every single second of the day I was working on my knee, because I was ready to come back. I did reach the point where I was ready to go, and I was really excited for the season,” Morel said. “When I heard they weren’t having (a season), and it was taken away from me, I was hurt to the core.”
With no senior season to prepare for, Morel has been a frequent visitor to the Princeton Club, working on exercises focused on strengthening her knee and putting up a lot of shots in the gymnasium.
With Wednesday’s All-Star game now behind her, Morel is focusing on the next chapter of her basketball career. She leaves on Friday for California Baptist University where she will play for the NCAA Division I Lancers in the Western Athletic Conference.
Morel can’t wait to see how she fits in with a Baptist squad that finished 26-1 last season, with the only loss coming to Rice in the third round of the WNIT. California Baptist wasn’t eligible for the NCAA tournament despite a 24-0 regular-season record, because it was in the third year of a four-year transition process to full Division I membership.
“What I’m looking forward to the most is seeing how I can reach my full potential in basketball, because I know I haven’t hit it yet,” Morel said. “College is definitely going to make me realize what I can improve on and what I’m really good at. I think going out there and really finding out who I am as a player is what I’m most excited for.”
In Division 2, North burst out to a 26-9 lead after one quarter on the way to a 111-71 blowout over South. Natalie Jens of Beaver Dam paced North with 25 points, scoring 16 in the first half. Olivia Gamoke of Onalaska and Green Bay Notre Dame teammates Sammy Opichka and Georgia Gregoire each added 14 points for North.
- Oregon’s Carleigh Roberts was the South’s lone double-digit scorer with 10 points.
- In Division 3, South defeated North 100-83 behind a 14-point scoring advantage in the second half. Julia Hirt of Lake Country Lutheran hit four of South’s 14 three-pointers, leading the way with 16 points. Baluck Deang of Madison Edgewood added 14 points and Beloit Turner’s Olivia Tinder scored 10 of her 13 points in the second half for South.
Isabella Lenz of Prescott led North with 17 points.
- In Division 4, South outscored North by 12 points in the third quarter to run away with a 77-57 victory. Marshall’s Anna Lutz led South with 18 points, and Maddy Near of Howards Grove scored nine of her 11 points in the second half. Raegan Sorensen of Unity paced North with 27 points.
- In Division 5, South beat North, 51-49, holding North to eight points in the fourth quarter. South’s Bailey Butler of Black Hawk made a 3-pointer in the fourth quarter and led her team with 13 points.