onpackerland Show full post »
3/12 GB Press Gazette

WIAA state girls basketball Division 4 preview: Algoma hopes wave of support helps end title drought

ALGOMA ? Taylor Schmidt probably didn?t get a lot of schoolwork done Monday.

The Algoma senior spent a good portion of the morning taking five pages worth of T-shirt orders to ensure that they would get placed by the 12:30 p.m. deadline.

That was about the same time junior Kennedy Blahnik said one of her teachers discovered the 500 tickets the school had been allotted from the WIAA for Thursday?s Division 4 state semifinal girls basketball game at the Resch Center were sold out.

After going 27 years without a state title in any sport, the Wolves and their fans are hoping time finally runs out on the school?s championship drought.

?I think that we?re going to have one of the greatest crowds there, and they?re going to help us win that gold ball,? said Schmidt, the Packerland Conference player of the year.

Following a 2011 runner-up finish in their first state appearance since winning the Class C title in 1986, the top-ranked Wolves (24-2) have gotten back to state despite having graduated six players that accounted for more than 3,600 points in their careers.

Other than Schmidt and Blahnik, none of the players on the roster saw significant minutes at the Kohl Center two years ago.

However, the combination of senior McKenzie Mueller, juniors Meg Ryan, Kathy Bluett and Leah Blazkovec, sophomores Rachel Feuerstein and Karissa Koss, and freshmen Baleigh Delorit and Anna Dier have proven to be an imposing rotation with all the traps and pressure coach Mark Zastrow employs.

De Pere coach Kelly McNiff saw that early in the season when her team came away from Algoma with a 52-46 victory on Dec. 22.

?When you have a younger group like he has, it may take a little while to get them going to play that kind of style, but I think they?re firing on all cylinders right now,? McNiff said.

In hindsight, Algoma became even stronger when it had to make up for the loss of Blahnik, who missed 10 games midway through the season because of a knee injury.

That led to the rise of Dier, whose older sister, Lizzy, was a senior who Blahnik looked up to as a post player two years ago.

?When I was a freshman, I had all of the upperclassmen to kind of lead the way, and now I?ll have to do that for the younger girls because I?ve been there before,? Blahnik said.

?But I think after they get over the nerves and see the place, I think they?ll all be fine.?

In facing Cuba City at 6:35 p.m. Thursday, Algoma might as well be looking at itself in the mirror, and not just because both teams? colors are black and yellow.

Like the Wolves, the Cubans (25-1) regularly go 10 deep into their rotation and favor a pressure defense. Cuba City also is a rather young team, which is led by the backcourt tandem of sophomore Chloe Pustina and freshman Jessi Marti.

?They throw a lot of different things at you defensively, so you?ve got to be versatile in your preparation as to handling different types of things,? said Zastrow, who has won Packerland titles in each of his seven seasons as coach.

?They got a full-court press and they?ve got a couple different kinds. They?ve got some different half-court traps that they do as well. I think with the teams we?ve played this year, we?re going to be pretty prepared for a lot of what they?re doing.

?It?s a matter of our kids performing at the right time.?

Following Wisconsin sports from the Keweenaw.

The Chicago Blackhawks (and their fans) are to the NHL what the St. Louis Cardinals (and their fans) are to MLB.

Wissports HoF '17
Quote 0 0
3/14 GB Press Gazette

WIAA D3 state girls preview: Kewaunee shows no quit on road back to state
Storm proves it can overcome deficits in sectionals

KEWAUNEE ? Are you ready to throw in the towel?

It was the question posed to the Kewaunee girls basketball team by assistant coach Beth Budnik at halftime of its sectional semifinal against Wrightstown last week.

The Storm was down by double digits and trailing at the half for the first time this season.

?We weren?t going to do that. We fought back because this is everything we?ve dreamed about,? Kewaunee senior Alex Richard said.

The Storm rallied to win in overtime and found a way back to state for a third straight season with a chance to repeat as the WIAA Division 3 champion at the Resch Center.

?I think it proved to them that they can play through adversity,? Kewaunee coach Lynn Geier said.

Other than when it let a double-digit lead evaporate in its lone loss at Algoma on Dec. 13, the Storm had not found itself in many adverse situations before rallying for victories against Wrightstown and Appleton Xavier in its last two playoff games.

With five senior starters who have three years of varsity experience, Kewaunee rolled throughout much of the regular season in winning all but one of its games by double digits.

But the expectations to repeat made the season a challenge despite what many of the final scores would indicate.

?It gets tougher every year because the target is on our back now,? senior Amanda Kudick said. ?But with so much experience on our team, we can handle the pressure.?

That experience not only stems from the last two postseason runs that have seen the Storm finish as the D3 runner-up in 2011 and winning its first title last year, but also from the runs the six seniors had together at the youth level, where they won back-to-back small-school state titles in sixth and seventh grade.

?We know each other so well,? Stangel said. ?We know when people are going to shoot, when to look for the pass and all that stuff. We just click together and mesh very well. We?re so close. We?re really like sisters.?

The Lodi team Kewaunee is facing in a D3 semifinal at 9 a.m. Friday is also a lot like the Storm was two years ago when it was making its first state appearance without a senior on the roster. Coming from a school that was primarily known for its state trips in football, Kewaunee began to make a name for itself in girls basketball by knocking off top-ranked Whitefish Bay Dominican in the semifinals.

Coming from a school that is best known for its 14 state appearances in wrestling, Lodi is hoping to do the same in its first state appearance with sophomore guards Taylor Baker and Meredith Gallagher powering its lineup.

?Any team that is in the final four you know they?re deserving,? Geier said. ?They work hard and are a blue-collar team. They seem to play a lot of zone, so we?ve got to be prepared to be patient and get an inside-outside attack going.?

The Storm?s inside offense comes from Richard and her cousin Kelsey Stangel, who are three-year starters along with point guard Jill Kleiman, the team?s top 3-point shooter (34.0 percent). Meanwhile, Kudick is a stronger defender in the post and on the perimeter, and guard Kiley Heim is another deep-shooting threat.

The bench rotation includes senior Courtney Miller and juniors Amanda Bultman and Carli VanGoethem. However, Kewaunee has been relying heavily on its starting five in the postseason.

?Our ultimate goal is to come home with a gold ball senior year,? Stangel said. ?That?s what we?ve been pushing and fighting for all year.?

Following Wisconsin sports from the Keweenaw.

The Chicago Blackhawks (and their fans) are to the NHL what the St. Louis Cardinals (and their fans) are to MLB.

Wissports HoF '17
Quote 0 0
3/15 GB Press Gazette

WIAA state girls hoops: Algoma routs Cuba City to reach D4 final
Wolves will face Colfax in Saturday's title game

ASHWAUBENON ? Lee Lawrenz forecasted it in December before Anna Dier had even played in an entire varsity game.

The long-time Kewaunee County sportswriter said the 5-foot-11 freshman would be a key reason why Algoma would have a chance to win state this season despite graduating six seniors that accounted for over 3,600 points in their careers.

Lawrenz?s prophecy came true on Thursday night at the Resch Center, as Dier posted a game-high 18 points to go along with 10 rebounds, five blocks and four assists in a 62-39 victory over Cuba City to put the Wolves in the WIAA Division 4 state championship game for the second time in three years.

?She?s a long kid that has good instinct,? Algoma coach Mark Zastrow said

?I think Anna has a good feel for finding the open passing lanes and what she does with those long arms is create a real good target.?

Dier went 9-for-10 from the field (90 percent), scoring all of her points in the paint, as she broke a 22-year-old record for best field-goal percentage in a D4 game, which previously was 87.5 percent.

Overall, the Wolves shot 54.8 percent from the field (23-for-42) and only attempted five 3-pointers, as they tallied 40 points in the paint in addition to having a 37-29 rebounding edge and scoring 19 points off turnovers.

Junior forward Kennedy Blahnik also posted a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds, pulling down five boards in the first quarter when Algoma started the game on a 10-0 run.

?Physically, I thought we were just a little bit stronger,? Zastrow said. ?Our kids, they understand the waves of the game with us. Sometimes it doesn?t look real pretty, but sometimes that?s what we want.?

While the Wolves (25-2) didn?t want to see Blahnik sustain an injury midway through the season that kept her out for 10 games, it may have been the best thing for this year?s younger team.

After moving up to the varsity on a full-time basis four games into the season, Blahnik?s injury forced Dier into a bigger role and it has paid dividends since Blahnik returned at the end of the regular season.

?You hate to have injuries, but bottom line is other kids are forced to step up,? Zastrow said.

Everybody in Algoma?s lineup stepped up on this night, as it had a 27-4 edge in bench scoring against the Cubans (25-2).

That included freshman Baleigh Delorit, who hit both of Algoma?s 3-pointers. The second came midway through the third quarter and sparked a 12-3 run that extended the lead to 46-26 with 1:06 remaining in the third quarter.

?From the first day of practice I knew they were going to be something special,? said senior guard Taylor Schmidt about Delorit and Dier.

?I watched them play with my (younger) sister so I got to see them play all the time. Baleigh hit those 3s for us when we need them. She comes off the bench strong, and I think that?s what we needed. She?s like our sixth man.

?Anna always finishes, so I love giving her the ball.?

Schmidt, who was a starter on Algoma?s state runner-up team two years ago, tallied 13 points and eight assists. One of two seniors on the team, Schmidt came into the season off a torn anterior cruciate ligament and her younger teammates knew how bad she wanted to get back to the state championship.

?With (Schmidt) going out last year, nobody really thought we would have a shot this year,? said Dier, whose older sister, Lizzy, was on a senior on the 2011 runner-up team. ?She?s always stepped up and leads the way, and we have to get the gold ball for her.?

In addition to helping Algoma advance to the D4 championship on Saturday against Colfax, Dier made it farther than her mother, Loni, did when she was on the Wolves? first state team in 1979.

?She actually lost to Cuba City her first year, so we had to get revenge for her team,? Dier said. ?We got that.?

Algoma 12 18 16 16 -- 62
Cuba City 5 13 12 9 -- 39

A: Dier 18, Schmidt 13, Mueller 4, Delorit 8, Koss 2, Blazkovec 4, Blahnik 13. 3-pt: Delorit 2. FT: 14-19. F: 15.

CC: Kaiser 2, Wedige 6, J. Marti 11, Pustina 16, K. Marti, Weber 1. 3-pt: J. Marti, Pustina 2, K. Marti. FT: 7-13. F: 18.

Following Wisconsin sports from the Keweenaw.

The Chicago Blackhawks (and their fans) are to the NHL what the St. Louis Cardinals (and their fans) are to MLB.

Wissports HoF '17
Quote 0 0
3/15 GB Press Gazette

WIAA state girls notebook: Zastrows enjoying the ride with Algoma basketball

ASHWAUBENON ? When Sam Zastrow?s basketball career at Algoma High School came to a close four years ago, she wondered what her father and coach, Mark, would do next.

Would he continue to coach the Wolves like he?d done since her sophomore year or move onto another venture?

In the end, it wasn?t a decision. As Sam soon found out, her father?s only aspiration was to coach the Algoma girls basketball team.

Now a redshirt junior on the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay women?s basketball team, it?s not uncommon for Sam to call her father on a Saturday afternoon and find him working with Algoma?s third- or fourth-grade teams.

When Mark?s not coaching, he makes it a point to be at every one of Sam?s home games for the Phoenix.

On Thursday night, Sam returned the favor as she was among those in attendance to watch her father and the Wolves run through Cuba City 62-39 to advance to the WIAA Division 4 state championship game Saturday.

Two years ago when Algoma made state for the first time since 1986, Sam couldn?t be there because the Phoenix was playing in the NCAA tournament.

With a night off from the Horizon League tournament the Phoenix is hosting, Sam was able to be on hand to watch her father coach with the state tournament being held at the Resch Center for the first time.

?I?m so proud of him,? said Sam Zastrow, Algoma?s all-time leading scorer. ?We were supposed to have practice tonight from 5 to 7 p.m., but Coach (Kevin Borseth) changed it from noon to 2 p.m., so I could come. I walked in and just got chills right away. It was just emotional because it?s something we both love. I?ve worked it since I was in fifth grade and my dad loved it since forever. Just to be able to be here and in this atmosphere is amazing.?

Mark Zastrow?s passion for basketball developed during his time growing up in Algoma. A self-proclaimed ?rebel,? basketball was what kept Zastrow in school and on the straight and narrow.

With her father entrenched in coaching, Sam took to basketball at a young age and never quit en route to becoming a three-time Packerland Conference player of the year.

The father and daughter never made state together as the WIAA didn't increase its state tournament to five divisions until after Sam's prep career end.

However, the two are enjoying the ride now. For Mark, his decision to stay at Algoma and being able to watch his only daughter play at UWGB provided the best of both worlds

?With her going to GB made it a lot easier because I knew I could make it to almost all the home games,? said Mark Zastrow, who?s 154-16 at Algoma. ?We put a lot of time into this program and our feeder program. Our coaches do a great job and I feel like if I walk out I?m letting these kids down.?

Schmidt overcomes ACL
The only thing that hurt worse than when Taylor Schmidt tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee midway through last season was watching her team lose without her in the D4 sectional semifinals to Oshkosh Lourdes.

As a sophomore, Schmidt helped lead the Wolves to the D4 state tournament but was powerless after sustaining the injury in a Feb. 9, 2012, game against Oconto.

Through the endless hours of rehab, Schmidt made it her goal to return this season and lead the Wolves to their first girls state championship since 1986.

Following Thursday?s win, she?s one victory away from achieving that goal.

?Last year at Seymour when we lost to Lourdes, that was the most heartbreaking thing to watch my team lose and my only goal was to get back and win state,? said Schmidt, who announced this past week her intention to play basketball at UW-Oshkosh next season.

?I couldn?t be happier to have the community I do that supports me and supported me through my whole recovery. It was one of the hardest times of my life. I?m glad I?m here and I?m so excited.?

Schmidt came back to lead the Wolves in scoring (12.5 points per game) and assists (4.0 apg) through 22 contests, but also returned as a better defender and more well-rounded talent.

?Good players are good but they don?t realize sometimes until something is taken away how much they love the game and how much they miss it,? Zastrow said. ?She came back a much better than she was when she got injured. I think when you get something taken away and you get to go back and get it, it adds a little bit to your fire and your passion for the game.?

Storm watch
The Kewaunee girls team made a short trip to the Resch Center on Thursday night to watch Algoma in its state semifinal.

The Storm (25-1), the defending D3 state champions, watch the entire first half of its Kewaunee County rival before leaving at halftime to prepare for this morning?s D3 semifinal game against Lodi (24-2).

The two teams have split their annual ?War on the Shore? rivalry game in each of the past two seasons. With standing-room only in both contests, Algoma beat Kewaunee 49-46 on Dec. 13 before losing 48-36 at Kewaunee on Feb. 1.

?Our crowd is awesome, our student section is awesome, our band is awesome,? Zastrow said. ?We?ve had great crowds all year and that Kewaunee one, that War on the Shore thing, it?s for real. Our kids are prepped for this atmosphere because of those situations.?

Following Wisconsin sports from the Keweenaw.

The Chicago Blackhawks (and their fans) are to the NHL what the St. Louis Cardinals (and their fans) are to MLB.

Wissports HoF '17
Quote 0 0
3/16 GB Press Gazette

WIAA state girls basketball: Kewaunee beats Lodi to return to D3 title game

ASHWAUBENON ? The Kewaunee girls basketball team collectively looked like a prizefighter with one more round left to fight on Friday at the Resch Center.

Seniors Kelsey Stangel and Jill Kleiman had icepacks wrapped around their knees, while Alex Richard?s left calf was heavily swollen and as purple as her No. 34 jersey.

But after slugging out a 40-27 victory over Lodi to advance to the WIAA Division 3 state championship game for a third straight season, the Storm players didn?t mind dealing with their ailments.

They?ve come to expect them in Kewaunee?s quest to repeat as the D3 champion.

?We knew it would be like this,? said Kleiman, who had eight points, five rebounds, five assists and three steals.

?We just have to physically stay strong, but mentally stay strong (as well). If we?re mentally strong then we know we can finish and when that final bell rings, then we know we did it.?

Kewaunee (26-1) led throughout against the Blue Devils to pick up its 22nd straight win by holding an opponent to fewer than 30 points for the 16th time this season.

The Storm?s defense was crucial considering it struggled to finish around the basket offensively in the first half. Kewaunee went 8-for-25 (32.0 percent) from the field before halftime while facing mostly a 2-3 zone from Lodi, which was making its first state appearance.

?It was a struggle because I felt like we had to find our rhythm more,? said Richard, who had 14 points. ?Lodi did a very good job to pack it in, so there were more outside shots. But we definitely pulled it off by making it on the outside and then being able to bring it to the inside.?

After letting a 10-point lead dwindle down to five 2 minutes into the fourth quarter, Kewaunee responded and seemed to take all the air out of the Blue Devils? sails when Stangel hit a 3 and came back with a layup in transition off a steal by Kleiman.

?We had great all-around defense in the end,? said Stangel, who had 17 points and 10 rebounds. ?We had steals, rebounds, turned passes up the floor, which helped get the lead back up.?

Collectively, the combination of Stangel, Richard and Kleiman accounted for all but one of Kewaunee?s points.

The Blue Devils (24-3) were led by junior guard Gretchen Schutz?s seven points and five assists.

Lodi coach Kristi Paskey felt her team couldn?t withstand the pressure of Kewaunee?s man defense at the end, as it began to wear down in the paint against Richard (6-foot-0) and Stangel (5-10), who are cousins and four-year starters.

?Those girls, you see them on film, it?s one thing,? Paskey said. ?But you see them in person, and (Richard) and (Stangel) walked by us, we were in awe. Those girls are some built, strong girls. We knew we were going to have a challenge.?

The next challenge for the Storm and its six seniors, including five starters, is to avoid having its third straight state appearance at the varsity level end the way it did in grade school.

After winning back-to-back youth state titles, the group came up short in the finals in eighth grade.

?This is it. This is the game. Either way it?s our last game,? Stangel said about facing East Troy in the championship at 3:05 p.m. Saturday. East Troy beat Neillsvillle 68-56 in its semifinal game.

?We only have a six-, seven-man rotation, which is small. We know that. But we want to be on the court. We want to be playing in this atmosphere. This is where we want to be.?

Kewaunee ?7 13 6 14 ? 40
Lodi?4 10 5 8 ? 27

K: Stangel 17, Richard 14, Kudick 1, Kleiman 8. 3pt: Stangel 1, Kleiman 2. FT: 7-13. F: 8.

L: Jiran 2, Baker 6, Schutz 7, Gallagher 3, Paulson 4, Granath 5. 3pt: Gallagher 1, Granath 1. FT: 1-1. F: 13.

Following Wisconsin sports from the Keweenaw.

The Chicago Blackhawks (and their fans) are to the NHL what the St. Louis Cardinals (and their fans) are to MLB.

Wissports HoF '17
Quote 0 0
3/15 GB Press Gazette

WIAA state girls notebook: 'War on the Shore' rivalry got Storm ready for state

ASHWAUBENON ? Lynn Geier isn?t interested in a rubber match with the Algoma girls basketball team.

However, there?s no question in the Kewaunee girls basketball coach?s mind her team?s pair of Packerland Conference games against their shoreline rival this season readied the Storm for this moment.

With Algoma already destined for Saturday?s WIAA Division 4 state championship game, Kewaunee punched its ticket to the D3 final with a 40-27 win over Lodi on Friday morning.

This past season, Kewaunee and Algoma split their series ? dubbed ?The War on The Shore? ? before sharing the Packerland Conference championship en route to this week?s state tournament at the Resch Center.

The Wolves (25-2), who defeated Cuba City 62-39 in a D4 semifinal Thursday, handed the Storm (26-1) its only loss this season, 49-46 on Dec. 13 in Algoma. It was Kewaunee's only blemish as the Storm has reeled off 22 consecutive victories over the last three months.

The Storm will defend its D3 state title against East Troy on Saturday. If Kewaunee is successful, it?ll know who to thank.

?Our Packerland Conference is so strong and they make us so much better,? Storm senior Kelsey Stangel said. ?I love playing them, and I know the rest of the team does, too. They prepare us for the long run. This is where we want to be, and they helped us get this far.?

The mutual respect between the teams was evident in how Kewaunee drove to Green Bay on Thursday night to watch the first half of Algoma?s state semifinal before leaving at halftime to rest for its 9 a.m. tipoff on Friday, for which the Wolves also rose early.

Two years ago, the teams advanced to their respective state title games, but both finished as runners-up with rosters comprised of many of their same players today.

While Kewaunee captured the D3 state title last season, Algoma?s season ended in the sectional semifinals after a knee injury ended point guard Taylor Schmidt?s season.

Now, both have a chance to walk away with gold balls after battling each other so fiercely over the past four years.

?We?re just glad Algoma is in another division for the tournament,? joked Geier.

Under pressure
For the third consecutive year, Kewaunee has assured itself state hardware.

It?s a run Geier couldn?t have imagined when she returned to the program five years ago for her second stint as head coach.

A mother of two daughters, that success has come with sacrifice. Geier split her time this season between coaching the Storm to 26 victories and helping coach her youngest daughter, Brooke, during her eighth-grade basketball season.

A manager by trade at Quali T Screening in Luxemburg, it?s effort both of her daughters appreciate.

?There was a lot of pressure put on her this year again, but she?s used to it from last year and the year before with our state runs,? said Nicole Geier, Lynn?s oldest daughter who played on last year?s state-championship team.

?She definitely has very good time-management skills. She?ll go from place to place and she knows exactly what to do with her schedule. I remember before the regional final game this year, she was actually at one of Brooke?s tournaments to be there for half her game just to support her ? the same day.

?She just balances everything out. She?s always on her computer at night. She never gets a break, but that?s why she?s so successful because she never stops going.?

Early wake-up call
With the state tournament being held at the Resch Center for the first time, the Storm decided to stay at home, 45 minutes away.

After watching Algoma in the first half of its semifinal Thursday, the team returned to Kewaunee at 8:15 p.m. with Geier setting an 8:30 p.m. bedtime curfew to make sure her team got enough rest for its 9 a.m. tipoff.

The team arrived at the high school at 6:45 a.m. Friday for the bus ride to the Resch.

Although a few coaches cut it close, everyone made it in time.

?I told them, ?The bus is leaving at 6:45 a.m. If you?re not there, we?re leaving you behind,? said Geier with a laugh. ?We almost left a few coaches behind, but it was pretty simple ? get to bed if this means anything to you ? and we were preaching that all week already. I was preaching it all week to catch up on your sleep now. You know we have a morning game. I was preaching to the parents to make sure you get them up early enough and feed them a good breakfast.?

Following Wisconsin sports from the Keweenaw.

The Chicago Blackhawks (and their fans) are to the NHL what the St. Louis Cardinals (and their fans) are to MLB.

Wissports HoF '17
Quote 0 0
3/16 GB Press Gazette

WIAA state girls basketball: Algoma wins D4 title

ASHWAUBENON ? It took 27 years, but the gold ball is finally heading back to Algoma.

After enough close calls and white-knuckle finishes to last a lifetime, the Wolves? girls basketball team cleared its final hurdle in capturing that elusive WIAA Division 4 state championship with a 46-30 win over Colfax at the Resch Center on Saturday afternoon.

Since Mark Zastrow took over the program seven years ago, Algoma (26-2) has lost only 16 of its 171 games, but never was able to take that final step.

Until Saturday.

The teams traded the lead nine times in the first half, but the Wolves? relentless defense held the Vikings (26-2) to 30 points ? which tied the D4 record for fewest points in a title game ? and only one basket over the last 12 minutes, 19 seconds of the game.

More than 30 years after her mother, Terri, played on Algoma?s 1981 girls state championship team, junior Kennedy Blahnik scored a game-high 17 points to lead the Wolves to the program?s third state title and first since 1986.

Zastrow has had plenty of state-championship caliber teams over the past seven years ? including the 2011 squad that finished as D4 runner-up ? but the meaning of this title resonated at multiple levels.

?Our kids have worked hard and I can tell you this ? this is our first state championship but I?ve never been disappointed at the end of any season,? Zastrow said.

?This team works hard, these kids work hard and we ask a lot of them. They give it to us daily. There?s not once I?ve been anywhere close to disappointed at the end of a season because of the fact I know they?ve given it everything they?ve had.?

Before the WIAA moved to five divisions three years ago, Zastrow?s daughter, Sam, led Algoma to the brink of state multiple times, but couldn?t break through.

When the Wolves finally advanced in 2011, they fell to Eau Claire Regis 56-42 in the D4 title game before seeing their 2012 hopes dashed when starting point guard Taylor Schmidt tore her anterior cruciate ligament weeks before regionals.

This year, the fortunes changed. Schmidt returned healthy and motivated as Algoma trounced Cuba City in the D4 semifinals on Thursday.

On Saturday, the Wolves absorbed Colfax?s best shots early with Blahnik and freshman Anna Dier sitting out for a majority of the second quarter after picking up two quick fouls.

Algoma still clung to a 22-20 lead at halftime, which was a small victory given the team was playing without its second and third leading scorers.

Coming out of the break, Colfax got off to a frigid start. With Blahnik and Dier back into the fold, Algoma went on a 12-3 run to seize control. The Vikings finished 1-for-16 from 3-point range and scored only 10 second-half points with Wolves freshman Baleigh Delorit providing a needed lift with nine points in 18 minutes and two 3-pointers off the bench.

?I told them when we got into the locker room ? ?If we play as hard as we can the next two quarters, we?re going to come out victorious,?? said Schmidt, who finished with seven points and four steals. ?I think we really stepped it up in the third quarter and that?s what got us the win.?

The meticulous pace of the game almost lent itself to being the lowest scoring D4 state championship game in history, but late fouls pushed it ahead of the 73-point encounter between Pecatonica?s 43-30 win over Wausau Newman in 2001.

Still, it was enough to win the Algoma?s first state championship in any sport since that 1986 girls team squeezed past Fall Creek 49-48 to win the Class C title.

Along with Blahnik, Schmidt was the only current Wolves player to see significant minutes in the state runner-up finish in 2011. It was the ACL injury last season that made this moment all the more special.

?That was my goal ever since that day,? Schmidt said. ?We had one thing to do and it was to get the gold. It was hard to watch last year, so my goal needed to come true this year and it did.?

Algoma11 11 8 16 ? 46
Colfax13 7 3 7 ? 30

A: Blahnik 17, Dier 4, Schmidt 7, Mueller 1, Ryan 6, Delorit 9, Blazkovec 2. 3-pt: Delorit 2, Ryan 1. FT: 13-20. F: 19.

C: Doucette 4, Prochnow 4, Steen 12, Hover 5, Shipman 4, Wait 1. 3-pt: Hover 1. FT: 9-17. F: 18. Fouled out: Doucette.

Following Wisconsin sports from the Keweenaw.

The Chicago Blackhawks (and their fans) are to the NHL what the St. Louis Cardinals (and their fans) are to MLB.

Wissports HoF '17
Quote 0 0
3/16 GB Press Gazette

WIAA state girls notebook: Schmidt inspired by late grandfather during state title run

ASHWAUBENON ? Taylor Schmidt looked up at the Resch Center ceiling and then touched her toes before receiving her gold medal on Saturday.

The Algoma senior had 19 family members in attendance during her team?s 46-30 victory over Colfax in the WIAA Division 4 state championship game.

But to her, there were 20 watching her accomplish her dream.

The Wolves? run to their first state title since 1986 began with a regional semifinal victory against Bonduel on March 1, which was the night her maternal grandfather, J.R., passed away.

?Ten minutes before our game I stopped on the road and said goodbye to him,? Schmidt said. ?That was my last goodbye.?

After finding out about his passing following the game, Schmidt got a marker and wrote a few inscriptions on the toes of her playing sneakers in remembrance of him.

The right shoe read, ?I know you?re with me.?

The loss of her grandfather, who was a regular at Algoma home games, put Schmidt?s pending college choice into perspective. She announced earlier this week that she will play at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.

?That is the reason I?m going to Oshkosh because I know my family means the most to me and being close is important,? she said.

Schmidt, who had to come back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament, said it was a special moment on the court after the game to reflect.

?It?s what I always wanted and I know he was there with me,? she said.

Blahnik's state title collection grows
Kennedy Blahnik added her fifth state title to her resume on Saturday.

But this one was just a little bit sweeter for the Algoma junior.

After winning WIAA Division 3 state titles in track and field for the shot put and discus as a freshman and sophomore, Blahnik was thrilled about getting her first team championship medal.

?This is much better,? said Blahnik, who tallied a game-high 17 points and nine rebounds. ?With track it?s always individual, and I like sharing it with everybody. Just how everyone came together this year, it could be anyone on that floor. I?m glad I could win it with these girls.?

Joining her mother, Terri, who was on Algoma?s first state title team in 1981 and her aunt, Amy, who was on the last in 1986, Blahnik did so during a season that featured an up-and-down January.

She made a verbal commitment to the University of Wisconsin for track and field, but sustained a knee injury that forced her to miss 10 games.

?Track wasn?t even on my mind when I hurt the knee,? Blahnik said. ?I even argued with my doctor a little to push the limits and get back for my team.?

Another run for Algoma?
The Wolves will graduate senior starters Taylor Schmidt and McKenzie Mueller, but the rest of their deep roster that usually featured a 10-player rotation for most games will return intact.

?This is kind of the same situation after our last state run,? said Blahnik, who was a freshman on the 2011 state runner-up team. ?We lost two seniors and everyone thought we were going to be back. There? s going to be a big target on our back and our conference is still going to be strong.?

In addition to standout freshmen Anna Dier and Baleigh Delorit gaining a year of varsity experience, the team also will have Schmidt?s younger sister, Tori, joining the high school ranks as an incoming freshman.

?I think the experience is going to help build our program, though,? Blahnik said, ?and hopefully we?ll make it back.?

Following Wisconsin sports from the Keweenaw.

The Chicago Blackhawks (and their fans) are to the NHL what the St. Louis Cardinals (and their fans) are to MLB.

Wissports HoF '17
Quote 0 0
3/16 GB Press Gazette

WIAA girls basketball: Kewaunee wins state title on buzzer beater

ASHWAUBENON ? Find a way to finish.

It?s been the goal all season for the Kewaunee girls basketball team, and it certainly accomplished that on Saturday at the Resch Center.

Jill Kleiman cut to the hoop and fired a pass across the lane to fellow senior Alex Richard, who finished under the basket with the game-winning layup as time expired to give the Storm its second straight WIAA Division 3 state championship with a 60-58 victory over East Troy.

?We were all just looking and waiting for it to go in,? said Kleiman, who had 11 points and three assists. ?Once it went in I just jumped so high. I was congratulating (Richard) and saying thank you for finishing my assist.?

It was a connection that didn?t go as planned.

?It was a busted play,? said Kewaunee coach Lynn Geier, who took a timeout with 16 seconds remaining.

?We told the team if it does break up you just get yourselves together, get yourselves composed and just look for the last shot.?

After rallying from a 13-point first-half deficit to take the lead in the fourth quarter, the Storm (27-1) got the final possession after East Troy senior Breanna Gaspervich tied the contest with her first 3-pointer of the game with 39 seconds remaining.

?Besides Jill passing me the ball, I think that cleared my memory about the rest of the game,? said Richard, who had 16 points.

East Troy (26-2) became the first team to score 50 points this season against Kewaunee. The Trojans built a 17-4 lead to start the game with Kleiman drawing two fouls in a 19-second span in the first quarter, which forced the Storm point guard to sit for the most of the frame.

Leading 32-23 at the half, East Troy would see Gaspervich ? its top scorer and a Northern Michigan University recruit ? pick up her third foul and have to sit midway through the third quarter.

That?s when the Storm came roaring back on a 10-0 run to close the gap to 38-37 with 1:57 left in the third.

The run began with senior Kelsey Stangel hitting a 3-pointer, and she would later hit another to tie the game for the first time before giving Kewaunee a 48-46 lead with 5:27 left to play with a layup on the next possession.

Stangel tied a career high with 27 points and made 10 rebounds. She went 9-for-18 from the field, including 3-for-5 from the 3-point range.

Kewaunee?s five made 3s was more than that of East Troy, which made 11 in its semifinal win against Neillsville on Thursday.

?For the most part, the hot-shooting team that they are, I thought that we kind of controlled them because they can be a lot hotter than that,? said Geier about the Trojans going 4-for-10 on 3s.

In addition to limiting the Trojans on the perimeter, another key to Kewaunee?s comeback was locking down inside to stop East Troy?s guard-oriented lineup from driving through the lane at will like it did in the first half.

The Trojans had eight points off fastbreaks in the first half and just two for the remainder of the game.

?They beat us off the dribble in the beginning but that?s what we talked about,? Stangel said. ?We needed to move our feet quicker and to be able to control them and keep them in front of us because that?s what your job is when your guarding the ball. Then let your help-side defense do their jobs.?

Kewaunee certainly finished the job they set out at the beginning of the season to do.

?The emotions are just flowing, it?s unreal,? said Stangel, one of six seniors. ?It?s so amazing to end your senior year this way.?

Kewaunee 6 17 17 20 ? 60
East Troy 17 15 12 14 ? 58

Kewaunee: Stangel 27, Richard 16, Heim 3, Kudick 3, Bultman 11. 3-pt: Stangel 3, Heim 1, Kleiman 1. FT: 11-14. F:15.

East Troy: Olsen 10, Oleson 10, Gaspervich 13, Atchison 21, Riemer 4. 3-ppt: Gaspervich 1, Atchison 3. FT: 10-14. F: 17.

Following Wisconsin sports from the Keweenaw.

The Chicago Blackhawks (and their fans) are to the NHL what the St. Louis Cardinals (and their fans) are to MLB.

Wissports HoF '17
Quote 0 0
3/16 GB Press Gazette

WIAA girls basketball: Storm is first area girls program to win back-to-back state titles

ASHWAUBENON ? The Kewaunee girls basketball team completed not only the greatest stretch in program history, but one of the best the area has seen all-time.

In winning its second straight WIAA Division 3 state championship with a dramatic 60-58 victory over East Troy, the Storm became the first squad in the Green Bay Press-Gazette coverage area to win back-to-back WIAA titles and the 11th overall in the state to accomplish the feat.

As the only defending champion to even make it to championship Saturday at the Resch Center this year, Kewaunee ended the season with a state-best 23-game winning streak.

It began after the Storm sustained its only loss of the season by letting a double-digit fourth-quarter lead evaporate against Algoma on Dec. 13.

The Storm would come back to beat the Wolves on Feb. 1 and be the last team to do so, as Algoma went on a winning streak of its own en route to the D4 state title.

Kewaunee also handed Green Bay Notre Dame its last defeat before the Tritons went on to win the D2 title.

Powering the Storm during this season were six seniors who finished their high school careers with a 90-17 record, including 74-9 during a stretch of winning a share of three straight Packerland Conference titles and making three straight state appearances.

?They?ve got a bond that is hard to break,? Kewaunee coach Lynn Geier said. ?There?s just the bond of not letting your teammate down. They?re a special group.?

Considering the program had not won a Packerland Conference title since 1992 prior to this senior class?s arrival, the dominant stretch it has been on seemed to come out of nowhere.

But it was something Geier and many of the youth coaches at Kewaunee knew could happen.

Coupled with last year?s five seniors, the Storm had a pair of classes entering high school having combined to win three youth state titles.

But following the graduation of the 2012 class that helped lead Kewaunee to its first state title in any girls sport at the school, it remained to be seen how this year?s seniors would finish with a less experienced bench behind it.

The Storm started five seniors and went with a seven-player rotation on average when games were still in question for most of the season.

Ultimately, Kiley Heim, Amanda Kudick, Jill Kleiman, Courtney Miller, Alex Richard and Kelsey Stangel finished their high school careers with the exact inverse of their youth playing days, when it won back-to-back state titles before finishing as a runner-up in eighth grade.

?They just know how to win in big games,? Geier said. ?These kids they just wanted it so bad and they played like it (Saturday).?

The unheralded trio
Opposing coaches usually focus most of their attention on Kewaunee?s top three scorers of Kleiman, Stangel and Richard.

The trio combined to score 93 of the Storm?s 100 points at state this year. However, the team?s role players came up with crucial plays at the right time on Saturday against East Troy.

Junior Amanda Bultman played 15 minutes and took a charge in the fourth quarter when the Trojans had a chance to retake the lead in the fourth quarter.

Senior Kiley Heim made three steals in the second half to go along with five assists and a 3-pointer that cut the deficit back down to two points at the end of the third quarter.

Senior Amanda Kudick completed a three-point play with a hard drive to begin and set the tone for the fourth quarter in addition to making three steals and three assists.

The latter trio has been making those unheralded plays all season.

?Being a part of this team you have more than just points,? Stangel said. ?You have people who rebound the ball, assists, pass the ball up the floor and that?s exactly what we did. We came together as a team, everybody did their part.?

Storming ahead
Needless to say, Kewaunee will be a rather inexperienced team next season when it has to replace five starters and six of the top eight players in its rotation.

However, the players on the roster who didn?t see a lot of time in games this year do have the experience of going against this year?s senior class in practice every day.

The incoming freshman class also will feature coach Geier?s youngest daughter, Brooke.

Following Wisconsin sports from the Keweenaw.

The Chicago Blackhawks (and their fans) are to the NHL what the St. Louis Cardinals (and their fans) are to MLB.

Wissports HoF '17
Quote 0 0
3/17 GB Press Gazette

Mike Vandermause column: No place like home for 3 area state champions

ASHWAUBENON ? The chants from the Green Bay Notre Dame girls basketball cheering section Saturday night at the Resch Center were loud and clear.

?This is our house,? the fans shouted in unison as Notre Dame captured the Division 2 state championship with a 42-33 victory over New Berlin Eisenhower.

That sentiment was shared by fellow state champions Kewaunee and Algoma after a glorious weekend when Northeastern Wisconsin became the center of the girls high school basketball universe.

It was a gold ball bonanza for area teams and was accomplished inside the cozy confines of the Resch Center, which served as host for the first time in the 37-year history of the girls state tournament.

?We felt like we made this our home court,? said Kewaunee senior Kelsey Stangel, who scored 27 points Saturday afternoon and ignited a furious Storm comeback that culminated in a 60-58 victory over East Troy in the Division 3 championship game. ?This is our area. This is our turf. We wanted to own it, and we came out and did that.?

The same could be said for Algoma, which downed Colfax 46-30 to claim the Division 4 state crown.

It was the perfect trifecta, with the three area state tournament qualifiers posting a combined 6-0 record. And if you ask any player or coach from those teams, they staunchly favor keeping the tournament at the Resch Center for good.

?We kind of had the home-court advantage, where we could just sleep in our own beds and then get up and go play a game like a normal day,? said Kewaunee senior Jill Kleiman.

The local teams also had large and often boisterous fan support, which boosted the tournament attendance well beyond last year?s total at the Kohl Center in Madison.

The teams and fans from Kewaunee and Algoma, located 10 miles apart along the Lake Michigan shoreline, acted like one big happy family and showed support for one another during the afternoon session.

Algoma coach Mark Zastrow stuck around after his team?s victory to watch Kewaunee, a Packerland conference rival, claim its title in the next game.

?We?re fortunate to have a great battle with Kewaunee, and they earned everything they got,? Zastrow said. ?They deserve it, and I respect everything they do.?

The feelings are mutual in Kewaunee. Storm coach Lynn Geier said Algoma?s championship served as motivation for her team.

?When they won that gold ball, it?s like, you know what, we want to really go get it, we want to share that moment with them, and it was just awesome,? Geier said.

Kewaunee and Algoma tied for the conference title and split their games this season, with the Wolves handing the Storm its only defeat.

No one on either side wanted to offer an opinion on which team was better. ?No comment,? said Geier with a smile, content to bask in the glow of a second straight state title.

Each area team claimed a championship in its unique way.

Kewaunee was like a heavyweight prizefighter getting knocked to the canvas in the first round. The Storm trailed by 13 points just 7 minutes into the game and was still down by 11 points early in the third quarter.

But Kewaunee displayed the grit and determination of a reigning champion that refused to give up the throne.

?I was just hoping things would turn,? Geier said. ?I know these kids play with a lot of heart.?

Algoma used a tenacious, suffocating defense that limited Colfax to just 10 second-half points.

?I?m going to enjoy it for the rest of my life, I really am,? said Zastrow. ?It?s a joy. Not many people get this opportunity.?

Notre Dame took a roller coaster ride to its title. The Tritons jumped to an early lead, fell behind in the third quarter by as many as five points, only to finish on a 14-5 spurt over the final 6 minutes to win going away.

Tritons coach Sara Rohde said she will savor the experience for a long time. Considering that Notre Dame is located less than 2 miles from the Resch Center, Rohde is a huge proponent of keeping the tournament here.

?It?s way more convenient for me as a coach,? Rohde said. ?I can go home and sit in my bed and watch film. I don?t have to pack a bag. I would love to see it here (permanently). I thought it was a great atmosphere. ? I thought the Resch was a perfect place.?

Perfect in every way. There?s no place like home for all three area state champions.

Following Wisconsin sports from the Keweenaw.

The Chicago Blackhawks (and their fans) are to the NHL what the St. Louis Cardinals (and their fans) are to MLB.

Wissports HoF '17
Quote 0 0
3/19 GB Press Gazette

Girls basketball: State champions Algoma, Kewaunee return to roots

It?s funny how things come full circle.

A day after winning WIAA state titles, the Algoma and Kewaunee girls basketball teams were back in a gym getting ready for another state run.

But not their own.

Senior Taylor Schmidt was helping run the scoreboard at a youth tournament in Algoma, while senior Kelsey Stangel was giving advice to grade-school players following an assembly in Kewaunee on Sunday

The state youth basketball tournament will take place in Stevens Point next month and that?s where future players will be honing their skills in hopes of one day accomplishing what their high school heroes did at the Resch Center on Saturday.

It doesn?t sound like something that fits the bill of the ?War on the Shore? that the Algoma and Kewaunee games have become known for, but it certainly is the foundation for it.

?That?s where it all started for them,? said Oconto girls basketball coach Russ Young, whose daughter, Jaysa, was competing at the Algoma youth tournament.

Having sustained all five of his losses to Algoma and Kewaunee this season, Young was fully aware of what the two were capable of.

The 22nd-year coach of the Blue Devils was just happy the rest of the state got to witness it as well, giving him a little bit of vindication when his Packerland Conference peers won state titles.

?I spent my weekend telling anyone that would listen that we?re the second-best team in Division 3 and Division 4,? Young joked.

?Seriously, though, the ownership that those communities took in those girls was special to watch. There is such an appreciation and mutual respect for hard work there. I?ve seen some good rivalries through the years, but perhaps nothing like what those two have.?

Over the past three years, Algoma and Kewaunee have combined for a 150-15 record, five state appearances and shared the Packerland Conference title each season after splitting the ?War on the Shore? series.

But the greatest meeting in the rivalry took place when both fan bases filled one end of the Resch Center to watch the Wolves and Storm, respectively, win the D4 and D3 state titles on Saturday.

?I think we bring out the best in each other,? Kewaunee coach Lynn Geier said. ?It?s a standard that we both are working towards.?

The simultaneous rise of both programs had a lot to do with hard work, but the timing was also right for it.

If the WIAA never had expanded the postseason from four to five divisions in 2011, the Wolves and Storm would have met in the playoffs and wouldn?t have been able to make state runs together like they?ve done two of the past three years.

?To be able to put that out on a big stage like that for people to see what both teams are made of and how they compete, it was a very rewarding feeling,? Algoma coach Mark Zastrow said.

?People aren?t just coming to watch a basketball game. They?re coming to watch our kids give 110 percent at all times and really put everything they have out there on the line.?

The Wolves will return three starters and its entire bench next season, while the Storm will have to replace all of five of its starters.

Many feel that means the end of the line for the ?War on the Shore? in its current form. However, Young doesn?t it see it that way, pointing to Kewaunee?s bench and the incoming freshmen class that will include Geier?s daughter, Brooke.

?Kewaunee may take a little step down because they won?t have the offensive threats of Stangel, (Jill) Kleiman and (Alex) Richard, but they sure have kids that play hard. That?s the biggest thing a program needs to come back around,? Young said.

Following Wisconsin sports from the Keweenaw.

The Chicago Blackhawks (and their fans) are to the NHL what the St. Louis Cardinals (and their fans) are to MLB.

Wissports HoF '17
Quote 0 0

Boys Basketball Alumni Round-up: February 21st, from @ColtonWilson23 #wisbb -- https://t.co/0K6CZzZWpf https://t.co/715tfpBGVS


WSN15: Boys Basketball Top Teams #12 -- Two NCAA Division I players at one WIAA Division 4 school = state champions… https://t.co/1MThqzce9L


Predicting winners of every state wrestling title plus a look By The Numbers, from @Nate_Woelfel -… https://t.co/HgU1bLP7d6


Join the free Boys Basketball Playoff Pick 'Em Contest; Staff picks coming Tuesday #wisbb -- https://t.co/Y6yTA3OgP8 https://t.co/hA6Uyw9uje