The Beaver Dam prep girls basketball program has had a lot of success over the years.
The Golden Beavers have won the last three WIAA Division 2 state championships, while also winning 11 straight conference titles and have had many members move on to play college basketball.
All that success can be tied to the 2009-10 team, which qualified for the second state tournament in program history. The Golden Beavers honored members of that team at halftime of their 71-23 Badger North Conference victory over Waunakee on Saturday at Beaver Dam High School.
“That team really built the foundation for something special here in Beaver Dam,” Beaver Dam assistant coach Dan Hallman said. “It was such a competitive group. They always brought a winning attitude to everything they did. That year, they went 24-2 and really established Beaver Dam on the map with big wins over Puis (XI) and Oshkosh West that season to make it to state. Everything kind of snowballed after that.
“We had kids that wanted to repeat that and kids that watched them do that and wanted to do that. We had a lot of players that were role models for players that followed them. They really set the tone and established the winning attitude in Beaver Dam that’s just snowballed for the last 11 years.”
Before the game started, Hallman said members of that 2009-2010 team came into the locker room to speak on the importance of being a family, which Hallman believed really stuck.
“I think mostly that it goes fast and you don’t understand how important that bond is now to stay together, to do team dinners, to do everything together, Special Olympics, Little Hoopsters, and all these things that they can attend together, grow together and strengthen their relationships,” Hallman said. “I think what they said gave us a lot of wisdom. It was the perfect timing for us because this is the time of year where you really want to get clicking.”
It’s especially important now, because Beaver Dam is without head coach Tim Chase, who was recently diagnosed with colon cancer and has taken a leave of absence from teaching and coaching. Hallman said Chase just had surgery.
“We just really need to play well against good teams,” Hallman said. “Ultimately, before this game, we talked about how this was for Chase. We really wanted to do this one for Chase. He couldn’t be here and we just wanted to get this one for him. It was huge for us for when he comes back, things are rolling.”
The fire was lit for the Golden Beavers (15-3, 10-0 Badger North), ranked second in Division 2 by the Associated Press and WisSports.net Coaches Poll, because things were clicking from the opening tip against Waunakee (13-4, 7-3).
After the Warriors scored the opening basket, juniors Natalie Jens (10 points) and Maty Wilke (10) combined to score all the points in a 20-2 run in the first 8 minutes, 49 seconds of the game.
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Wilke led the Golden Beavers with 20 points while Jens finished with 16. And senior Jada Donaldson contributed with eight points as well while leading the team with seven assists.
“Maty and Natalie are two kids that just want to win,” Hallman said. “They don’t care what it takes, and Jada (Donaldson), with what those three have done for this team, they’re so unselfish. That just rubs over to everyone else that might be looking over to them. We’re really fortunate to have such talented players with such unselfish attitudes.”
Jens later made it 35-9 when she stole the ball at half court and went in for a layup with 3:11 left in the first half. Later in the half Wilke got a layup herself to help the Golden Beavers go into halftime with a 37-12 lead.
Defense was the difference maker for the Golden Beavers against the Warriors. Beaver Dam caused 15 Waunakee turnovers.
“We’ve taken a lot of pride in working on our defense in practice and I think the girls are really starting to understand how important help position, recovering, not giving open 3s and everyone needs to do their job in boxing out their player,” Hallman said. “They take a lot of pride in it. We’ve just been working on it.”
Jens finished with a team-high four steals while Wilke had three of the team’s 14 steals. Jens also led the team with four deflections while Wilke had two blocks. Almost every shot by the Warriors were contested, which allowed just Elena Maiar to score a team-high six points for Waunakee.
“Yeah, it seems like we really did make them work for their shots,” Hallman said. “We worked so hard on not fouling and I think that’s just a testament to our girls buying into the system that they don’t get into the bonus or the important things like the fouling game. It’s really important. We just don’t want to foul shooters. We did a good job of that today.”
In the end, Beaver Dam definitely played the way Hallman wanted.
“This is the time of year where you want to see defensive changes,” he said. “I think you’re slowly starting to see the signs of us improving our man-to-man, half-court defense. Ultimately, at the end of the day, that’s what needs to be really good to win the big games.”
BEAVER DAM 71, WAUNAKEE 23</&hspag3>
Waunakee 12 11 - 23
Beaver Dam 37 34 - 71
WAUNAKEE (23) ― (fgm ftm-fta pts) Anne Dotzler 0 1-2 1, Brooke Ehle 1 0-0 3, Melanie Watson 0 3-4 3, Elena Maier 3 0-0 6, Lauren Statz 0 0-2 0, Kylee Grabarski 0 2-2 2, Ebba Harrison 1 0-0 3, Ava Bryan 1 1-4 3, Ashley Sawicki 0 0-2 0. Totals 7 7-16 23.
BEAVER DAM (71) ― (fgm ftm-fta pts) Natalie Jens 6 2-5 16, Carley Burchardt 1 1-2 4, Kylie Wittnebel 2 1-2 5, Maty Wilke 7 6-6 20, Jada Donaldson 3 0-0 8, Paige Hodgson 2 0-0 5, Paige Yagodinski 1 0-0 2, Leila Ashley 2 0-0 4, Avery Stonewall 2 0-0 4, Grace Madeiros 1 0-0 3. Totals 27 10-15 71.