The girls basketball season once again ended for local teams the way it did last season — with Notre Dame holding up a gold ball.
The Tritons were the only local boys or girls basketball team to win a state title this season, but they weren’t alone in receiving a ball at the girls state tournament.
Five local teams made the state tournament at the Resch Center and in addition to Notre Dame winning a gold ball, Algoma settled for silver in the D4 state title game. Algoma was bidding for a repeat state title like Notre Dame, but Cuba City turned the Wolves away.
With the season over, it’s time to look back one more time at the season:
Kimberly entered the state tournament with a 26-0 record but had its season ended in a tough way. The Papermakers led Oak Creek by five points in the final minute of their D1 semifinal before falling 46-40 in overtime.
Kimberly had been living on the edge in the postseason, winning its three previous games by a combined four points, and the close call finally got the Papermakers. The loss was tough to swallow, but the Makers will be back with a great backcourt duo in Frankie Wurtz and Jenna Smarzinski. And believe it, that team will be hyper-focused next season.
Point guards shine
Notre Dame’s Allie LeClaire, Oconto’s Laken James, Oconto Falls’ McKenna Larsen and Kimberly’s Wurtz took control of their team’s season and were impressive. LeClaire was the Fox River Classic Conference player of the year, James shared the Packerland player of the year, Larsen was the Bay player of the year and Wurtz the Fox Valley Association player of the year
They were dynamic, could score, assist and defend. Wurtz is the only one that will return next season, but what a time it was watching these players.
Springs, Falls first-timers
Based on seeds, Oconto Falls and St. Mary’s Springs were not expected to reach the state tournament, but did anyway. Falls defeated Fox Valley Lutheran and Two Rivers in sectionals, while Springs ousted Lourdes Academy and Dominican.
While this game is a team sport, no doubt Larsen and Kelli Schrauth were major reasons for their teams’ success. At state, Larsen scored 31 points, while Schrauth scored 17 points and had 13 rebounds, respectively. Both lost semifinal games.
- Notre Dame fastbreak: With LeClaire leading the way the Tritons pushed the ball as often as possible and normally ended in a layup, usually with LeClaire or Eliza Campbell finishing. They were dynamic in the open court
- Laken James’ passing: While James could score at will, she was as good a passer as there was in the area, averaging 5.6 assists per game. Good news is she will be at the Kress Center the next four seasons helping UW-Green Bay. I’m good with that.
- Algoma duo: Blahnik and point guard Meg Ryan were key in the Wolves’ run to the state title game in D4. Blahnik was great from the paint and Ryan was solid as a ball handler and shooter.
- McKenna Larsen: Let’s be honest, Larsen was the heartbeat for the team pretty much her whole career. She leaves as the program’s all-time leading scorer and she finished her career with a 31-point performance at the state tournament with a torn ligament in her non-shooting right thumb. Just a special player.
Watch out for who next year?
- Algoma’s sophomores: So, Blahnik and Ryan are gone. Yes, losses, but the Wolves will be back with another outside-inside combo in Baleigh Delorit and Anna Dier. The sophomores are more than ready to become go-to players, have played in two state title games already and have the ability to become special players. Algoma isn’t slowing down.
- Olivia Campbell: The sophomore was a key player at the state tournament for Notre Dame and scored 23 points combined in two games. She’s already a great defender (FRCC defensive player of the year) and now her offense will shine. It has to for the Tritons’ sake.
- Natisha Hiedeman: Already with 1,000 career points, the Green Bay Southwest junior can take over games. Look for Hiedeman, a Division I recruit, to lift the Trojans to more success next season. She is almost impossible to stop off the dribble.
- Julia Silloway: Maybe the most unknown player in the area. The sophomore left-hander from Berlin can score in plenty of ways. Her team won just three games this past season, so she was under the radar. But if she keeps scoring at a high rate (18.2 ppg. last season), more people will discover Berlin has a player worth the price of admission.
So with that I give you the final FOX 11 Top 11 girls basketball poll of the season:
1. Notre Dame (27-1): Tritons cap off great season with second straight gold ball.
2. Kimberly (26-1): Season ends on sour note for Papermakers.
3. Algoma (25-3): Wolves fall short in bid for repeat, but silver isn’t bad.
4. St. Mary’s Springs (22-4): Ledgers reach first-ever state tournament with Kelli Schrauth leading the way.
5. Oconto Falls (22-4): McKenna Larsen keys Falls to first-ever state tournament.
6. Fox Valley Lutheran (23-2): Foxes’ tournament run fell short, which was a surprise to some.
7. New London (20-5): Bulldogs fall one game short of making fourth straight state tournament.
8. Oconto (20-4): Blue Devils will have a big hole to fill with Laken James graduating.
9. Lourdes Academy (21-4): Knights lose the program’s all-time leading scorer in Maddy Reed and Lauren Fischer.
10. Xavier (19-5): Hawks place second in Eastern Valley Conference.
11. Reedsville (20-3): Panthers piece together strong season and win Olympian Conference.
Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougitchay