Myriama Smith-Traore (above) leads the Lady Whippets in a 48-36 win over Beloit Turner Feb. 26 in the first round of WIAA regional playoffs. Cheyenne Minton (below) and the team saw its hopes for a repeat championship come to an end Saturday against Madison Edgewood, 71-59. (Peter Mischka photo)

Myriama Smith-Traore (above) leads the Lady Whippets in a 48-36 win over Beloit Turner Feb. 26 in the first round of WIAA regional playoffs. Cheyenne Minton (below) and the team saw its hopes for a repeat championship come to an end Saturday against Madison Edgewood, 71-59. (Peter Mischka photo)

Coach Judy Harms reflects on season, looks forward to future

By Kevin Cunningham

Sports Correspondent

The Whitewater High School girls basketball team began its run at becoming back-to-back state champions this past weekend after going undefeated and winning the title a year ago. This year’s team went 21-1 over the course of the regular season, earning a No. 1 seed in the WIAA Tournament and held the No. 1 ranking in the state’s top-25 poll for much of the year.

Cheyenne Minton_0977      With all the success behind them, including a three-year run at winning the Rock Valley Conference title, Whippets head coach Judy Harms said she was surprised at just how well this year’s team was doing as the season went along.

“Coming into this year we lost three really good seniors and we knew that that would be difficult to replace,” Harms said. “Had I ever expected us to be ranked No. 1 in the state again and have the run we did, no we did not. We thought we’d have more losses this year but we did a nice job filling spots for kids who were gone.”

It was said by many that the team chemistry from last season’s undefeated team was practically unmatched and Harms echoed those thoughts.

“I don’t know if anybody could ever match the team chemistry we had from last year,” she said. “In all my years of coaching I had never had a team as unselfish as they were. And that’s not to say all my other teams were selfish, but they were just unique as a team. They didn’t care about playing time or any stats, they just wanted to win.”

This year’s team won plenty as well, and thanks to the 21-1 record, hosted the Regional games over the weekend. Starting with the game against No. 9-seeded Beloit Turner on Feb. 26, the Whippets dominated in the first half like they did for most of the season, leading 32-16.

Beloit Turner made a bit of a comeback in the second half, but the final score on the scoreboard showed a Whitewater victory, 48-36. Harms called the game sloppy overall, but was happy to have home-court advantage against its next opponent in Madison Edgewood.

The Crusaders entered the postseason with a 16-6 overall record and came from the Badger Conference, a conference which has many Division 2 teams. The Crusaders moved down from Division 2 to Division 3, with Whitewater, and it showed early on that the level of competition Madison Edgewood played against throughout the year would be advantageous.

Typically the Whippets got rolling right off the bat to start games this season. This game was different. Harms noticed how physical the game was from the very first possession and when the Crusaders got the ball back and made a 3-pointer to game the game going, she said she knew it wouldn’t be an easy game.

The Crusaders would get off to an 11-2 run in the first three minutes of play. The next 12 minutes of the first half weren’t any different, as with 7:03 left, the Crusaders were up 29-10, forcing Harms to call a timeout. A 6-0 Whippet run followed after the timeout, but the Crusaders would fight back, building its lead to 37-22 going into halftime.

“We’re so used to leading and I told the girls that it’s important to get off to a good start because when we get off to a good start, we play relaxed and much better,” Harms said. “I knew they weren’t going to keep shooting that hot and I was really proud of how our team reacted in the second half.

“Unfortunately, I don’t think we capitalized on the steals the way we needed to. You know, we had a lot of great steals and then we just couldn’t convert on the other end. Our shooting percentage was not good. It might be the worst shooting percentage we’ve had all year.”

In the second half the Whippets outplayed the Crusaders, winning the half by three, but it wasn’t enough, as Madison Edgewood defeated Whitewater, 71-59. With 6:50 left to play, the Whippets trailed by 15 just like it did at half, but over the next three minutes, the team went on an 11-2 run to make the score, 55-49. That was the closest the Whippets would ever get in the game after trailing 6-0 early on.

Madison Edgewood’s Estella Moschkau, a 6-foot-2 junior forward, led all scorers with 24 points. Two other Crusaders scored over 15 while no Whippet had more than 13. Allison Heckert and Rebekah Schumacher each had 13 and Myriama Smith-Traore added 11.

Smith-Traore, a 6-foot-2 junior forward as well, added 17 rebounds, five blocked shots and three steals to her stat-line. As a team, the Whippets shot 8-of-18 from the free throw line, 24-of-67 from inside the arc and 3-of-16 from three-point range. Conversely, the Crusaders made 25-of-30 from the charity stripe.

Harms talked about how the Crusaders’ record was deceiving as they played tougher competition all year, lost one game on a half-court shot and had many games that could have gone both ways. She noted two games all season in which she thought they didn’t play well.

“I really think whoever comes out of our Regional will be state champs,” she said. “And you might not, but that’s my gut feeling. At this point I hope Stoughton and Madison Edgewood go on and win the whole thing. That way we can say this year we only lost to two state champs, but even if they do go on, we’re going to say, ‘it could have been us’.

“Madison Edgewood is young, too. They’re going to be back. That’s going to be the one team we’re going to really hone in on over the summer as to who we want to beat now. They’re going to be a big rival for us.”

Harms made note of Cheyenne Minton and Keely Fiedler, two of the team’s seniors, saying Minton played extremely hard and had probably her best game of the season against Madison Edgewood. She also said the five seniors from this year’s class have a lot of heart and that they had a big role within the program.

“I guess the memory [from this past season] is the crowd, being at home,” Harms said. “Jeff Behrens getting a lot of sponsors to sponsor the video board – that was really cool to debut that during the tournament. I certainly thank the sponsors who paid for it. That was really a special thing for this year and we’ll always remember that.”

Harms also said she isn’t thinking about next year and that she just wants the kids to be outside and have fun over the offseason.

“I know they’re going to keep working and I know the opportunity is going to be there next year. Myriama has a double-digit amount of offers to play D-I. When you have a teammate of that caliber, I know our team will be hungry for success in the future.”


Comments are closed

Sorry, but you cannot leave a comment for this post.