ASHWAUBENON — The feeling of holding a WIAA Division 2 state girls basketball championship trophy aloft at the Resch Center was not a new one for Beaver Dam on Saturday, but that doesn’t mean it’s not still a special experience.
“I don’t think there’s a difference; it feels the same,” junior point guard Paige Schumann said after the Golden Beavers defeated New Berlin Eisenhower 51-41 for the program’s second straight state title. “We worked just as hard (if not) probably harder. We wanted to make BD proud.”
The Golden Beavers accomplished that as they got to see all the smiles coming home Sunday afternoon.
For Beaver Dam head coach Tim Chase, though, the feeling this year was different than last. He noted the difficult schedule the team put together after going 28-0 last season, and the Beavers’ 43-41 sectional semifinal win over Milwaukee Vincent — the only team from Wisconsin over the past two seasons to get within less than 10 points of Beaver Dam.
“For me personally, last year was elation,” he said. “I mean, it really was. It was just an unbelievable feeling to get that state championship. The first one in program history. This year, it was satisfaction, and what I mean by that is we really played a gauntlet schedule this year, going out of state to play some top teams. (And) the game we had to survive against Milwaukee Vincent was unbelievable.
“For me, it was the satisfaction that our kids brought it every day since we left here last year to get back to this point. I’m just very proud of these kids for the work that they’ve done and we were able to accomplish it again this year.”
Senior Afton Bartol said the feeling was much the same — and what led to the championship was definitely the same.
“I don’t know if it was a huge difference. I think something we stuck with that brought us back to this spot was playing stellar defense. I think that’s something that puts us above a lot of other teams in the state, especially on the D2 level. I think we’ve hung together really good, just as we did last year.
“We just wanted this so bad.”
Saturday’s title game was the the first postseason matchup between Beaver Dam and New Berlin Eisenhower since the teams began playing an annual regular-season non-conference game beginning with the 2012-13 season. Eisenhower, which has made the state tournament five times this decade, won the first three games, while Beaver Dam has taken the last four, including a 61-48 win on Jan. 20.
“Tim’s a great guy and I think we’ve become friends, and we enjoy the rivalry,” Lions head coach Gary Schmidt said. “I like to think so. We always like to think we’re one of the better teams in our sectional.”
Schmidt sees continued success in the Lions’ future, particularly encouraged by freshman Nikki Dienberg’s effort in the title game. She scored nine points in 11 minutes.
“We’re building a program we want to continue. We have a freshman that came into tonight and contributed a lot. We hope we don’t drop off too much. Obviously with the kids we’re losing, we’re going to have some drop off. We always hope that at the beginning of the year to the end of the year, we show sizable improvement. I think we’re going to be very good again next year and I look forward to the rivalry. ... I think we’re going to be battling for a long time and I’m glad to be in that same category as Beaver Dam.”
Chase said that he’s hopeful the two can meet in the regular season next year, but it’s not a guarantee because of some out-of-state non-conference games he’s trying to get for his team that reach farther geographically than Minnesota or Illinois.
No rest for weary
After the win Saturday night, Chase joked with a WIAA official, asking him if his team still had time to get a practice in.
“You’ve got a couple hours,” WIAA Communications Director Todd Clark quipped.
It was a playful exchange, but it does speak to the dedication of the girls on Beaver Dam’s roster.
“Obviously, they’re going to take some time away and these kids love basketball,” Chase said. “To have as many kids as we do that have a passion for the game and just want to get better (is incredible). I think that’s always been our motto. We have some confidence in our skills … but we’re just always trying to get better all the time. Even this week, that was always our goal — let’s get better.”
It’s part of the reason why many of the girls who are returning next season will start AAU in the summer.
“We’re definitely going to get back working,” Beaver Dam sophomore guard Jada Donaldson said.
The Golden Beavers might be state champs now, but Chase did admit there were some times during the season when doubt crept in.
Those thoughts went away for good following the Badger Challenge, when the Golden Beavers dominated Monroe on Jan. 13. Beaver Dam was ranked first in Division 2 according to the WisSports.net coaches poll, while Monroe was ranked second at the time.
“Before the Badger Challenge, Monroe was playing at a really, really high level,” Chase said. “I knew that was going to be a challenge going into that game. We had suffered a loss to Maine West (in Illinois), we suffered a loss to Hopkins (in Minnesota), who are the best teams in the Midwest. But after that Monroe game, I felt pretty good about (our chances) because I felt we played pretty well that game.
“I think that was our best game of the year, beating them in the Badger Challenge.”