Shortly after Bobby Buss was hired as the head coach of the Wisconsin Dells girls basketball program in 2013, he had a simple goal he wanted to accomplish.
“My goal is to make sure we’re working harder than the other team and put a team out there that anyone who ever wore a Dells jersey can come back and watch and be proud of,” Buss said.
In his first five seasons in charge of the Chiefs, it’s safe to say that goal has been accomplished, as Buss and the Chiefs will be taking the court Thursday at 1:35 p.m. to play Marshall in a Division 3 semifinal game at the WIAA State Girls Basketball Tournament at the Resch Center in Ashwaubenon.
For Buss, who is a 1982 Wisconsin Dells High School graduate, the opportunity to coach at his alma mater has been a rewarding one. It’s an experience he has shared with his son Colyn Buss, who joined the program as a junior varsity coach at the start of the season, as well as lead assistant Travis Hartman, who joined the staff when Bobby was hired in 2013.
Hartman previously worked as an assistant coach, along with Bobby Buss, on the Wisconsin Dells boys basketball team. In 2013, both were assistant coaches for the Wisconsin Dells boys team – which included Colyn as a standout senior – that lost in the sectional finals.
When Bobby was hired to take over the girls program, Hartman was the first person he called. It took some convincing, but Hartman decided to join Bobby’s coaching staff.
“I didn’t know how different it would be going to the girls,” said Hartman, who is a 2002 WDHS graduate. “I could tell the first couple weeks, the girls actually listen to you better than the boys do, so I found out it was a little easier.”
For Colyn, he actually got his coaching career started two years ago, when he became the junior varsity boys coach for Stevens Point Pacelli while attending UW-Stevens Point. Then this fall, he began student teaching in Wisconsin Dells, and was a natural fit for his dad’s coaching staff with the junior varsity head coaching position opened up.
Colyn, who helped lead the Wisconsin Dells JV team to a 20-2 record this season, said it’s been a blast experiencing this season with his dad.
“I didn’t know what to expect (coaching girls for the first time), but it’s been awesome, especially coaching with my dad, and with the success we had, both at the JV level and the varsity level,” Colyn said. “I walked into a good spot.”
The coaching staff has also made the season enjoyable for the players.
“Mr. Buss is probably one of the best coaches I’ve ever had,” said senior guard Jamie Bates. “Obviously, yes, he’s very knowlegable about basketball, but he really cares about us like we’re his own kids.”
“It’s definitely easy to get along with (the coaches). They’re easy to joke around with, but we know to get serious and they know when to get serious and firm with us,” added senior Jenna Mace. “They treat us so well. You can definitely tell that they love us.”
Defense has been key
There have been many factors to the success for Wisconsin Dells this season, but none have been bigger than the defense the team has played. That defense has been especially impressive in the postseason, where the Chiefs are giving up an average of 32.25 points in four playoff games.
In the playoff wins over Altoona (62-24), West Salem (60-30) and Hayward (46-29), the Chiefs held those teams to their season-low scoring totals. And for Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau, the 46 points it scored in the one-point loss to the Chiefs in the sectional semifinal was its fourth-lowest point total on the season.
Wisconsin Dells junior Katelyn Meister said it all starts with the game plan.
“A lot of teams that I’ve watched play, I don’t know if they’re not 100 percent aware of who the threats are, but we make it a point, and we know who their prominent scorers are, who their playmakers are,” Meister said. “I feel like shutting them down just takes them out of the game. Putting teams in that uncomfortable position is a big part of it.”
The team’s strong defense also comes from players making an effort to improve on that end of the floor. Junior center Jamie Pfeifer is one of those players. Pfeifer, who is the team’s third leading scorer at 7.3 points per game, is tied for the team lead in blocks with 14.
“I’m obviously not a huge player offensively, so I try to make up for that with my defense,” Pfeifer said. “So this year I came into it with the mindset that defense is just a big of a part of the game as offense is. If I improve my defense, everyone else is going to want to improve theirs. That was my goal this year.”
Assistant coach Travis Hartman said communication on defense has been key, allowing players to help out when needed.
“They’re playing team defense. It’s not one girl stopping the opposing team’s best girls, it’s team defense,” Hartman said. “We’ve tried for the last couple years, we wanted to play team defense and it’s finally coming together.”
Wisconsin Dells senior Jenna Mace scored her 1,000th point during a 61-32 win at Nekoosa on Jan. 19, but she wasn’t the only Chief to hit the milestone this season. Joining Mace in the 1,000-point club was junior Katelyn Meister, who scored her 1,000th point in last Thursday’s sectional semifinal win over Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau.
Meister, who scored 23 points in the win over the Red Hawks, didn’t even know she was approaching 1,000 points. She found out on the bus ride home after the game, when head coach Bobby Buss told her.
“I had no idea that I was even close to getting it,” Mesiter said. “I had no idea how many points I had, and to be honest, I didn’t really care either. I was just playing to play.”
Coach Buss also reached a significant milestone in the postseason. The 46-29 win over Hayward in the sectional final on Saturday was his 100th career win as head coach of the Chiefs.
The one or two games Wisconsin Dells plays at the Resch Center will be the final games for the team’s three seniors; Jenna Mace, Jamie Bates and Caroline Pakos.
Of the three, Mace has made the most contributions on the court. The 5-foot-4 guard is second in scoring at 18.1 points per game, but has also contributed 2.75 assists and 5.2 rebounds per game. Her .731 free throw percentage is second on the team, and she is also the top 3-point threat for the Chiefs, making 45 of 126 of her shots from beyond the arc.
Bates has stepped up in her senior season. The 5-7 forward is averaging 3.7 points per game, but has shown the ability to score more, like she did in a 78-25 win over Belleville, when she finished with 10 points.
Pakos has seen limited minutes this season, but has made the most of her time on the floor. In the regular season finale, Pakos made two 3-pointers and finished with 10 points.
Head coach Bobby Buss said all three have played a key role to the team’s success.
“They deserve it so much. They’ve been here through the whole thing. Caroline doesn’t get a lot of time, but she’s the biggest cheerleader. Jamie Bates has improved so much in the last four years, and Jenna has become such a leader, which we need,” Buss said. “It’s going to be a tough banquet. Just to have them enjoy the ride and get to the state tournament their senior year is something they will remember, and I know I will for my lifetime.”