Ask any basketball coach and he or she will tell you guard play is always a key to success, especially in the postseason.
Guards have the ball in their hands more than any other player on the court and are the ones who start the offense.
And if you have a blue-chip type player with the ball, you become that much better.
Three teams at this week’s girls basketball state tournament possess a player like that. Notre Dame has Allie LeClaire, Oconto Falls has McKenna Larsen and Kimberly has Frankie Wurtz.
LeClaire and Larsen, both seniors, have scored more than 1,400 points in their careers, while Wurtz, a junior has topped 1,000. Basketball is a team sport, but no question each is the major reason her team is playing for a gold ball this week.
"You need guards in general, in my opinion, because you can have an amazing post player, but if you don't have a guard to get them the ball it doesn't really matter, unless that post player can handle the ball and bring the ball up the floor,” said Notre Dame coach Sara Rohde, who was a star guard at UW-Green Bay. “Guards really do a lot. They get the post players involved, they get everybody involved.”
Eliza Campbell plays alongside LeClaire, the two-time Fox River Classic Conference player of the year, who leads Notre Dame in scoring (20.4 points per game), rebounds (5.2), assists (3.3) and steals (3.1). Campbell knows the importance of having a good point guard like LeClaire, who will play next season at UW-Green Bay.
"Playing with Allie, and I've played against Frankie and McKenna, and they're hard to play against,” Campbell said. “Playing with Allie just makes you better; you get open looks. I just fell like she makes you a better player, because she looks to pass it first before she shoots.
“And playing against McKenna and Frankie, they're really good, too. Having them on your team is a big help."
Wurtz, the two-time Fox Valley Association player of the year, leads her team in scoring (16.4), rebounds (6.8), steals (53), assists (40) and blocks (15). She hit the game-winning shot in the sectional final win against Arrowhead, and as her coach says, you need players to come up big in the postseason.
"I think you have to have step-up players that can make shots,” Kimberly coach Troy Cullen said. “Frankie did that against Arrowhead; she hit a big basket at the end of that game. It's very important, because I don't think you get through the teams we got through if you don't have players like Frankie."
Larsen, the Bay Conference player of the year, has been invaluable to her team's success. The guard, who will play softball and volleyball at Winona State (Minn.), has played through a torn ligament in her non-shooting thumb to lead the Panthers to their first state appearance.
Falls coach Mike Kaczmarek Jr. can’t say enough about what Larsen has meant to the team. She leads the team in scoring (17.9), assists (5.2) and steals (3.8) and adds 6.2 rebounds per game.
"I've been saying it for two, three years now,” he said. “This community doesn't know how fortunate they are to watch this athlete perform. Most likely we won't see another one like this in a long time. Northeast Wisconsin likely won't see another one like this in a long time."
Time will tell, but this weekend the terrific threesome will be on display at the Resch Center, and it should be worth the price of admission.
Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay