With the only light coming from his computer and game film projected on the white dry-erase board, Beaver Dam girls basketball head coach Tim Chase was busy in his classroom Sunday night.
His Golden Beavers had dominated West De Pere in the sectional championship game not much more than 24 hours earlier to earn a second straight trip to the WIAA Division 2 state tournament at the Resch Center in Ashwaubenon, and Chase wanted to get a head start on the game plan.
One thing is for certain: He’s got plenty of options at his disposal.
And while that certainly isn’t anything to complain about, it does present some challenges nonetheless for defending state champion Beaver Dam (23-2).
“Every game is a little bit different; you try to keep the continuity with kids playing enough minutes that they feel comfortable in the game at the same time trying to keep people fresh,” Chase said. “Obviously all the kids on our team are worthy of playing, but it’s hard. It’s just kind of an impossibility with trying to keep the continuity out there. It’s a fine line between trying to get that right and the mix right.”
So far, Chase has walked that line perfectly. And he’ll try and do it twice more beginning with the Golden Beavers semifinal matchup with Hortonville (20-6) at 1:35 p.m. Friday.
Seniors Afton Bartol and Maryn Ferron, juniors Aly Van Loo, Paige Schumann and Tara Stauffacher, sophomore Jada Donaldson and freshmen Natalie Jenz and Maty Wilke all receive regular minutes. But Beaver Dam also has very capable players deeper down the bench in seniors Kaylee Miller and Kirsten Storhoff, juniors Grace Scharfenberg and Rachel Uhrich, sophomore Carley Burchardt and freshman Paige Hodgson, who all got plenty of time on the floor this year thanks to the number of blowout victories the Golden Beavers racked up.
“I think that every girl on our team is here for a reason,” Bartol said. “Everybody can play good basketball when they have to. Everybody, when they get their minutes, they step up and do what they need to do. I think every game the rotation is obviously a little bit different depending on matchups. Everybody has had some great moments this year.
“I think that’s going to show down the stretch.”
Members of the team are also wholly committed to one another, willing to do anything for the team on a moment’s notice.
It’s that level of unselfishness coupled with all the talent on the floor — in games and at practice — that has Beaver Dam on the cusp of a second straight state title.
“It’s harder practicing against our team than other teams we play,” Storhoff said. “It makes us better because we’re practicing against — in my opinion — the best team in the state.”
Chase can attest that practices in Beaver Dam aren’t easy, but that all the girls come in with the right attitude, put their heads down and simply get to work. And not only that, they also do their own workouts outside of practice as well.
It’s a work ethic the likes of which even the most blue-collar of Americans would admire.
“Absolutely; it’s why they’re successful,” Chase said. “What they do is not easy. We’re a pretty demanding staff as far as what we expect from our kids. We expect to push them and we expect them to respond and then do the best they can. Every day, they usually meet that challenge. There’s very few times in a practice where I’ve got to say, ‘Hey, we’ve got to work harder.’
“Our attitudes are strong. They’re collectively a great group of kids. I think that’s where some programs struggle is that they don’t have that collective group that really wants to push each other and get better. I’ve had many teams in old years where it doesn’t always happen that way. We feel very fortunate.”
Chase and his coaching staff spend a great deal of time game-planning, and the reason isn’t just to script the Xs and Os but also to be ready for whatever situation might unfold.
“We try to plan ahead a lot, but obviously foul trouble — for instance with (Saturday’s) game when both Jada and Maty were in foul trouble,” Chase said. “That changes rotations a little bit. We try to look for matchups. A lot of it is how we try to defend a team. A lot of times you have to weigh it with what you are looking for — offense or defense at that time.
“Sometimes they don’t coincide. One player may be better on the offensive side of the floor where another player might be better on the defensive end of the floor.”
The other obvious benefit of having so much depth is that in the second half of games when other teams might be wearing down, the Golden Beavers’ tank is usually still pretty full.
“The first people off the bench, there’s not really a drop-off from our starters to them,” Storhoff said. “If one player is having a bad game, then someone can come in for them and go off, too.”
That’s the reason it’s so hard to defend the Golden Beavers. They don’t just have talented players — they have a lot of talented players.
And that’s the way it’s always been, going all the way back to third and fourth grade when most of the girls got started in the Beaver Dam Positively Hoops program.
Just ask Allyson Wilke, the JV coach and Chase’s varsity assistant, who as Maty’s mother has also had a big hand in the success of Positively Hoops.
“When they were young, they had a tenacity to them. They were competitive by nature. They worked extremely hard. Then they worked on the skills in the offseason and they just got better and better and better,” Allyson Wilke said. “It’s been a great ride over the years watching them all grow up on the court and off the court.
“Certainly, getting the opportunity to play at state, it really is a dream come true seeing them come together.”
“It’s harder practicing against our team than other teams we play.” Sr. Kirsten Storhoff on the team’s depth