DEFOREST — Beaver Dam’s prep girls basketball team got an added boost of emotional energy for Thursday night’s Badger North Conference showdown — state showdown, in fact, as both teams entered ranked in the top three in Division 2 — against DeForest when coach Tim Chase, who’s currently fighting his way back from colon cancer, told the team earlier in the week he’d be on the bench for the game.
The Golden Beavers harnessed it in a big way — though it did take a little while for the scoreboard to show just how big.
After a hotly contested first 24-plus minutes that saw both sides trade big runs to keep things deadlocked heading toward the home stretch, Beaver Dam held the Norskies scoreless for a stretch spanning 7 minutes, 45 seconds to pull away, ultimately claiming a 63-40 victory and the outright Badger North Conference championship.
“It was a boost having him back,” interim coach Dan Hallman said. “A lot of happy faces in the locker room. It’s just great to have him back — we need him back”
Added Maty Wilke, who had a game-high 25 points to go along with nine rebounds, nine assists and three steals, “Just having his presence (here) and knowing that he always has our back — and knowing the stuff he’s been through and him still being here for us, it means a lot.
“We always know he’s watching, even when he wasn’t on the bench. But having him there — just playing the whole game and looking over and seeing he’s there, it makes you want to work a little harder for him.”
Beaver Dam (18-3, 13-0 Badger North), ranked second in D2 according to both the WisSports.net coaches poll and the Associated Press, played its best when it mattered most — when the game was on the line.
Clinging to a 34-32 lead, Wilke scored on a slip-cut to the basket with 10:35 remaining to jump start a 23-0 run that made it 57-32 with 3:58 left.
But it was Carley Burchardt who delivered the biggest blows of the night.
The senior connected for 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions during the big run, the first of them from the left wing bouncing high off the rim before falling and the second, with 9:07 left, swishing in from the right corner to make it 45-32.
“Carley is kind of our sniper” Hallman said. “She loves that baseline 3 in transition, and she’s just a gamer — she’s always been a gamer. I taught her at Lincoln Elementary School when she was a kid and she was out with the boys leading the football game. She’s always been a competitor and just a great athlete.”
“Hallman calls her a microwave,” Wilke added. “When she gets hot, she can shoot from anywhere.”
In the first half when DeForest (18-3, 11-2), which had won nine straight following a 62-40 loss to Beaver Dam back on Jan. 7 and entered Thursday’s contest ranked third in both D2 polls, delivered counter-punch after counter-punch, it was Wilke who carried Beaver Dam, scoring 17 before the break and seven during an 8-0 run that gave the Golden Beavers a 14-7 lead.
But after Beaver Dam went in front 23-13, DeForest answered with a 10-0 run to tie things up. The Golden Beavers finished the half on a 4-0 run to take the lead for good, although the Norskies never trailed by more than four over the first 7:25 of the second half.
That’s when the Golden Beavers’ relentless defensive pressure finally began to take its toll on the Norskies.
“We’ve been working on defense like crazy all week long, and you could just see the tide turn and our defense shutting them down,” Hallman said, crediting assistant coach Aly Wilke for implementing a lot of what was working. “Just the pressure and different changes got to them a little bit — they didn’t react quite as quick as they were in the first half.”
That defense fueled the big run, which saw Wilke and Burchardt score six points apiece, Jada Donaldson add five — including a big 3 from the right corner in transition that made it 39-32 — Natalie Jens score four and Paige Hodgson two.
Jens finished with a dozen points and four steals on the night while Hodgson had six points and 11 rebounds. Burchardt finished with eight points, all in the second half, and Donaldson had 10 points.
You have free articles remaining.
“We just give the ball to whoever’s hitting,” Wilke said. “In the first half it was me, and then in the second half — which makes us so good — is that everyone was able to hit.”
And in so doing, it made for a special night for Chase, who announced on Jan. 20 that he was taking a medical leave of absence because of colon cancer. Chase had successful surgery for the cancer on Jan. 30 and said Thursday night that he feels like he’s “on the right track with everything” but that “with this stuff it takes some time.”
He didn’t want to miss out on Beaver Dam clinching the conference title, though — in particular because of how highly he thinks of this year’s team.
“I love this group of girls — they just get after it; their attitudes are great and I’m really, really proud of them,” he said. “I obviously wanted to be back and be part of something tonight, and the doctor said I could come back and do a little bit of work at school this week — and come back for some of this.
“I’m so proud of our group of girls that I really wanted to be part of this tonight.”
For their part, they delivered a victory.
And more hardware to add to the trophy case.
“I don’t think people understand how hard it is to win conference, especially for us having a target on our back,” Wilke said. “Everyone plays us their best game, so being able to pull out another conference championship means a lot.”
“We got it clinched tonight, and that’s fun,” Hallman added. “It’s never easy man, I’ll tell you.”
It certainly wasn’t Thursday, not with red-hot DeForest standing in the Golden Beavers’ way.
But they embraced the moment.
“We like those kind of challenges,” Hallman said. “We have that kind of culture in Beaver Dam and our girls just love the big games — the bigger stage.
“That’s what our kids thrive on.”
BEAVER DAM 63, DEFOREST 40</&hspag3>
Beaver Dam 27 36 — 63
DeForest 25 15 — 40
BEAVER DAM — (fgm ftm-fta pts) Natalie Jens 4 1-2 12, Carley Burchardt 3 0-0 8, Maty Wilke 8 7-7 25, Jada Donaldson 3 3-4 10, Paige Hodgson 3 0-0 6, Leila Ashley 0 0-3 0, Avery Stonewall 1 0-0 2. Totals: 21 11-16 63.
DEFOREST — Alyssa Laufenberg 1 0-0 2, Natalie Compe 1 0-0 2, Maya Pickhardt 1 1-3 3, Maggie Trautsch 2 0-0 6, Jaelyn Derlein 2 2-2 7, Sam Schaeffer 1 2-3 4, Taylor Tschumper 2 1-2 5, Megan Mickelson 2 4-4 8, Brooke Buhr 0 1-2 1, Morgan Han 1 0-0 2. Totals: 13 11-16 40.
3-poitners: BD 8 (Jens 3, Burchardt 2, Wilke 2, Donaldson 1) DeFo 3 (Trautsch 2, Derlein 1). Total fouls: BD 17, DeFo 14. Fouled out: None.
Follow Dan on Twitter @Danny_Larson_8 or contact him at 920-356-6753.