BEAVER DAM — The scoreboard said one thing, and it came as no surprise.
But what Jessica Howe saw said another thing — and it was that thing that she was most concerned about, anyway.
What the coach of Portage’s prep girls basketball team saw during the Warriors’ 87-10 Badger North Conference loss to Beaver Dam — the three-time defending WIAA Division 2 state champion and top-ranked team in D2 according to the first WisSports.net coaches poll of this year as well — was a group of girls who embraced the opportunity to get better against likely the best opponent they’ll see all year.
“It’s something we talked about before the game, at halftime and after — it’s about the process, not the outcome,” she said. “Don’t pay attention to the scoreboard.
“This is the best team so let’s put it to a test, these little things that we’re trying to work on: Could we get three stops in-a-row on defense? Can we prevent them from getting offensive rebounds? Can we get to the free throw line? Can we find our opportunities to score? So all those pieces we really had the opportunity to work at it and we were challenged, and I think the girls feel really proud of themselves — they see that we’re growing and we’re getting better.”
Portage’s defense was pretty solid early on, keeping Beaver Dam (1-0 Badger North, 4-0) from putting the pedal to the metal as the Golden Beavers were a little slow going offensively in the first 5 minutes or so.
But a 3-pointer in transition by Maty Wilke — WisSports’s top-ranked junior in Wisconsin, who has 19 NCAA Division I offers — turned the key and by halftime the Golden Beavers led 55-3.
Portage (0-1, 0-4) was held to just one field goal in the first half and two in the game — both by Katelyn Bellau, who had five of the Warriors’ 10 points. Still, the Warriors did a good job of making the Golden Beavers have to work at forcing turnovers, which they did in bunches.
“We really knew that the (defensive) pressure was going to be on us and so we worked hard at handling traps and holding onto the ball just a little bit more to create some fouls,” said Howe, whose team did accomplish that goal for the most part by generating 19 free throw attempts.
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“So I was very happy with them trying to do that,” she added. “Beaver Dam’s pressure is just so intense. One slip — one time where you’re uncomfortable — you force a pass and it’s a turnover, and they run the score up pretty quickly.”
That’s exactly what the Golden Beavers did — early and often.
A 3-pointer by Grace Madeiros in the opening minutes of the second half gave Beaver Dam a 61-3 lead and Portage simply couldn’t get into any kind of rhythm offensively in order to make the final score a little more respectable.
But that matters little to Howe anyway, because as far as she’s concerned, her team got exactly what it wanted out of Friday night’s game.
“We’re grateful,” she said, “that we get to face them right at the beginning of the season so we can test (what we learned) against everybody else.”
Portage 3 7 — 10
Beaver Dam 55 32 — 87
PORTAGE (fgm ftm-fta pts) — Balleau 2 1-3 5, Nelson 0 1-2 1, Kreuziger 0 2-4 2, Ratz 0 2-3 2. Totals: 2 6-19 10.
BEAVER DAM — Jens 4 4-5 14, Burchardt 2 1-1 5, Wittnebel 0 2-2 2, Wilke 6 4-5 21, Donaldson 4 0-0 9, Hodgson 3 0-0 7, Streblow 0 2-2 2, Wendt 1 1-2 4, Ashley 3 0-0 6, Stonewall 6 0-0 12, Madeiros 2 0-2 5. Totals: 31 14-19 87.
3-point goals: P 0, BD 11 (Jens 2, Wilke 5, Donaldson 1, Hodgson 1, Wendt 1, Madeiros 1). Total fouls: P13, BD 20.