GAME OF THE WEEK (March 7–13)
WIAA GIRLS BASKETBALL (D5 State Championship): #1 Black Hawk 51, #2 Clayton 36
GREEN BAY — With a state title on the line, Black Hawk buckled down and went to work in the second half to come away with the coveted gold.
The top-ranked Lady Warriors claimed the Division 5 state title and completed an undefeated season by topping the #2-ranked and previously unbeaten Clayton Bears, 51-36, at the 2019 WIAA State Girls’ Basketball Tournament held at the Resch Center in Green Bay on Saturday, March 9.
“I want to dispel the myth that thirteen is an unlucky number. This is season thirteen for me and I finally got one. Thirteen is a lucky number,” said Black Hawk head coach Michael Flanagan after leading his team to a state title in his fourth state appearance. “Just for them to persevere and finds ways in the second half to get the job done, I’m pretty proud of them.”
Black Hawk (28-0 overall) raised the gold ball for the first time in program history with the win, while the Bears (27-1) earned the silver ball for their school’s first-ever state trophy in their fifth trip to state.
“I’m very proud of our kids for the way they battled and continued to play hard,” said Clayton head coach Kevin Fall, who has led the Bears to four straight state appearances. “We’re happy we’re here on Saturday. There are no losers today.”
Black Hawk had to wait a year for a shot at redemption after falling to Bangor, 39-29, in last year’s D5 state championship game. A year stronger, a year quicker and a year wiser, the Warriors were ready to finish their “unfinished business”– the motto they adopted for this season.
“It was a bit arrogant. We wanted that to be a multi-dimensional motto. For us, words are powerful and these girls are protectors of their own culture,” commented Flanagan. “We really believed that– and this is no disrespect by any means to Bangor because they had a great team last year– but we felt like in a lot of ways we should have been more in (last year’s state finals) game.”
Junior forward Natalie Leuzinger got Saturday’s finale started off on the right foot by swishing a 3-pointer just seconds into the game. A jumper by junior Hannah Butler and a free throw by sophomore Bailey Butler pushed the Warriors out to a 6-0 lead less than three minutes gone in the half.
“It’s just amazing. I’ve had this dream since I picked up a basketball. I’ve always wanted to win a gold ball. We worked so hard for this. It’s just so awesome,” said Leuzinger.
Leuzinger added a putback and B. Butler converted an “and-one” three-point play to put the Warriors ahead 11-2 with 13:56 remaining in the half.
Things slowed down offensively for the Warriors the rest of the first half as they missed 11 consecutive 3-point attempts after sinking their first trey. With the Warriors misfiring from long range, the Bears methodically chipped away at the deficit.
A Leuzinger layup put the Warriors ahead 21-15 with 2:46 to go in the half, but the Bears took over from there and fought to deadlock the score at 21 all at the intermission. Senior Kailey Ketz nailed a 3-pointer and then added a layup with 37 seconds remaining to forge a tie with the Warriors, who had not been down or even tied at the halftime break all season.
Just one team was with single digits of the Warriors prior to Saturday’s game (Platteville), and the Warriors had led their previous 27 games at the half by an average of nearly 28 points.
“I looked around the locker room and started wondering where they were in terms of their confidence and emotions. Then, I started thinking that I’ve been around these kids long enough to believe that they just felt like they had it. They didn’t look concerned. They were really level. I didn’t have to say much at halftime. They took care of things,” explained Flanagan.
Things began well for Black Hawk at the start of the second half with the defense forcing a turnover on the Bears’ opening possession. Then, B. Butler drove in for a layup a short time later to put the Warriors ahead to stay at 23-21.
B. Butler drove through the Bears’ D for another layup less than a minute later, and she knocked down one of the Warriors’ four second-half 3-pointers with 14:53 remaining to extend the lead to 28-21. The Warriors shot 4-of-6 from beyond the arc in the second half after going 1-of-12 in the first half.
“We saw the boys (win state) in football this year and we wanted to experience it, too. That’s exactly what we did. It’s crazy. We knew we had to step up in the second half,” said B. Butler, whose 7-0 run put Black Hawk back into the lead for good.
Clayton got back to 32-29 with 11:29 to play following a layup by senior forward Alison Leslie, but Leuzinger sandwiched a pair of treys around a triple by B. Butler to spark a 14-2 run that shot the Warriors out to a 46-31 lead with under six minutes remaining.
“Our biggest adjustment was the way we handled their ball screens. We sat back a little more and allowed them to come to us,” Flanagan said. “That first (defensive) stop of the second half was big. I felt that as soon as we got the lead back we were relentless about hanging on to it. Those threes we hit were also big. We thrive so much on those perimeter shot. That was a big part of getting things back in our favor.”
Black Hawk went 5-for-8 from the free throw stripe over the final 3:56 to seal the 51-36 victory.
“I believed in our team the whole entire half. Once we got the lead, I knew if we kept getting stops and putting the ball through the rim then we’re going to finish this out. It was the most amazing feeling I’ve ever had,” remarked senior forward Sydney Delzer.
The team’s only other senior, guard Mia Jackson, was also very happy to be a part of this championship run in her final season. “Being a senior, it’s awesome. I wouldn’t want to go out any other way. Not a lot of people get to do this. It feels great. We got hardware last year, but this is the hardware we really wanted,” she said.
Coach Flanagan couldn’t be more proud of his two seniors, who had sacrificed their egos and accepted lesser roles on the team behind the Warriors’ talented underclassmen.
“They are those lead-by-example kids. They aren’t concerned about their roles. They just came in every day and did their jobs. When you think about it, they had to defer to underclassmen; and, if you’re an upperclassman who allows the underclassmen to thrive, I think that’s a big thing. They have been wonderful. I’m so happy to do this with them and send them out on top,” Flanagan commented.
The team had another of their players in their hearts and minds over the weekend. Junior Amy Heimann had to leave Green Bay on Friday morning after a van carrying nine of her family members got into a serious accident on their way to the state tournament. With family members in the hospital with different degrees of injuries, Heimann missed the state games on both Friday and Saturday to be with them.
“We focused on doing what we could do because unfortunate times come. We focused on praying and we focused on staying strong. These girls did such a good job of reaching out to their teammate who was hurting. The best thing is to be strong for the family, and the Black Hawk community is strong,” said Flanagan.
Leuzinger poured in a game-high 23 points while adding four rebounds, two assists and two steals in the Warriors’ victory. B. Butler finished with 19 points, two assists and a blocked shot, while junior sister Hannah Butler tallied five rebounds and three assists to go along with four points.
All three Warriors were named to the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Division 5 All-State First-Team following the tournament.
Junior guard Maddy Huschitt pulled down five rebounds and dished out two assists, and sophomore Kaylee Marty registered two steals for Black Hawk.
Ketz scored 13 points and Leslie chipped in with 11 to lead the Bears, who had seven seniors on the roster who had made state in both basketball and volleyball in all four seasons of their high school careers.
With seven of their top eight scorers from this season set to return next year– including all three All-State players along with two other Six Rivers East All-Conference players, Black Hawk will be looking to expand their business with another gold ball.
WIAA DIVISION 5 STATE FINAL
Clayton………… 21 15 – 36
Black Hawk…… 21 30 – 51
Clayton (27–1) – Leslie 11, Patrick 9, Fall 3, Ketz 13. Totals- 14 2-6 36.
Black Hawk (28–0) – Bailey Butler 19, Hannah Butler 4, Kristen Knapp 3, Natalie Leuzinger 23, Maddy Huschitt 2. Totals – 19 8-12 51.
3-point goals – C 6 (Patrick 2, Fall 1, Ketz 3), BH 5 (B. Butler 2, Leuzinger 3). Total fouls – C 15, BH 8. Fouled out – none.