Tigers’ state title special for seniors

The Howards Grove Tigers’ Division 4 girls basketball state championship on March 11 was a result of hard work, dedication and teamwork.

This crowning achievement also climaxed a journey by the Tigers’ seven seniors who had aspirations of winning a state title since their playing days together in grade school.

“Ever since we started playing in grade school we had a goal to win a state championship. We’ve been playing together so long and it has helped. Our chemistry was really good,” said Tiger senior point guard Brittany Schaller.

“We’re all really good friends which makes winning the gold ball [state championship trophy] even sweeter.

“It [state title] will take a long time to sink in. It’s a dreamcome true. It was pretty exciting. To have that good of a run [26 straight wins to finish 27-1] was pretty incredible,” said Schaller.

“I’m not surprised we won it. It was one of our main goals at the beginning of the season.

“We stuck together. We all play for each other and it paid off. It was definitely a big team effort,” said Schaller, a four-year varsity starter.

Schaller credited the team’s reserves for playing a key role in winning the state crown.

“We practiced against them and they helped us prepare, and they all cheer us on,” she said.

“It’s amazing [winning the state championship],” said senior forward Addi Gerber after her team’s 44-43 comeback win over La Crosse Aquinas in the state finals. “We all work together. Our hard work paid off today.

“It makes it a lot more special [sharing the state title with the other seniors]. I’m extremely proud of the team,” said Gerber.

Tiger head coach Heidi Georgeff is also proud of the team.

“I couldn’t be prouder. We fought our way to the top. They say that the toughest road is the most rewarding and we certainly were tested. We had to fight for every win we got since the regional final,” said Georgeff.

“Winning the state title is the top of the mountain, so obviously as a coach it is a dream-come-true. I feel strongly that in the girls basketball program we do things the right way.”

Georgeff pointed out the key reasons her team was able to win two hard-fought games in the state tournament. In the semifinals, HG rallied to defeat Durand, 44-37.

“The will to win that my kids have is beyond compare. This was 3-4 years in the making for my seniors. They put the time in and they did the work but in the end it came down to the size of their collective heart. They are a true team in every sense of the word,” she said.

Most of the seniors played on the varsity for at least three years.

“We support our players in all the sports they play. We accomplished this [state title] with a group of multi-sport athletes. We’ve never tried to make our players just basketball kids,” said the coach.

“Our brand of basketball isn’t fancy but it’s hard work, it’s discipline and most importantly it’s all about the team. I believe we are proof that defense really does win championships and for a defensive coach that validates what we do and why we do it.”

Several players were also members of the Tigers’ volleyball team which won the D-3 state championship last fall. The Tigers who were on both squads include seniors Schaller, Gerber, Olivia Stauss, Sam Yancy and Taylor Bubolz, sophomores Caitlin Schmid and Courtney Binversie and freshman Emily Bruckschen.

The Tigers’ basketball and volleyball titles were both won at the Resch Center in Green Bay.

“It means a lot to us. We put a lot of work into the sports. This shows how much determination and pride we have. All of that hard work and dedication paid off,” said Schaller about the Tigers’ basketball and volleyball state championships.

The fan support the Tiger basketball team had all season was impressive, capped off by a huge following at state.

“It meant a lot to our team. It was the coolest feeling to see all of the fans there. The fans help us get hyped up,” said Schaller.

Schaller said the state basketball title was for the team and the whole community.

“Our parents’ support is tremendous all-year long at every game and to me that’s what matters most. But, when you get to certain level and the whole community rallies behind you that’s pretty cool,” said Georgeff.

“When I looked up into the stands at the Resch Center and saw that sea of blue and gold it brought tears to my eyes.”

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