ASHWAUBENON – Mike Froehlke wasn’t sure when that first win would come for his squad when he took over as head coach of the Wrightstown girls basketball team four years ago.
The Tigers went winless in their first 11 games of the 2013-14 season with three wide-eyed freshmen in the lineup.
A victory seemed like a far-reaching goal at that point, let own the thought of making the short trip north to the Resch Center for the WIAA state tournament one day.
That’s what Froehlke was thinking about Thursday when his team huddled up one last time this season following a 60-38 loss to Madison Edgewood in a Division 3 state semifinal game.
The outcome was far from what Wrightstown was shooting for in its first state appearance since 2004, but the journey to get to this point was quite a ride.
“I couldn’t be more proud of them,” Froehlke said about his seniors.
“They developed into leaders, not just on our team, but in the community and the school, and we’re all very proud of them.”
The Tigers (23-4) were held to a season-low point total and shot just 25 percent (13-for-52) from the field in coming up short of advancing to a state championship game for the first time since 1989.
Other than when it came out with an early 7-0 lead, Wrightstown looked far from the team that was averaging 63.8 points per game and won the North Eastern Conference title this season.
The Tigers’ offensive woes resulted in only four players recording points in the scoring column. Junior Kailee Van Zeeland tallied 12 points, while seniors Danielle Nennig (11) and Alisha Murphy (10) both reached double figures.
“They’re very talented and we really didn’t know what we were going to get,” said Edgewood coach Lora Staveness, whose team will play Martin Luther on Saturday for the D3 state championship. “We just knew offensively they could put four or maybe five players that were going to be very aggressive.”
The Crusaders used a 16-3 run to pull ahead for good and led 27-16 at the half. Senior Brita Hovde scored 12 of Edgewood’s first 18 points and finished the game with a career-high 14 points.
Hovde’s big day was unexpected since she wasn’t one of Edgewood’s top three scorers coming into the game. Estella Moschkau (12 points), Katie Meriggioli (10) and Caitlin Link (9) were all held below their season averages for the Crusaders (24-3).
Moschkau, a 6-foot-2 guard and Stanford recruit, didn’t score until there was less than 4 minutes remaining in the first half. She finished the game with 10 rebounds as Edgewood had a 32-16 advantage for points in the paint.
“If you would have told me we would hold all three of them below their average, I would think we would have a really good shot at winning,” Froehlke said. “The thing I didn’t see is us scoring 38 points.
“They packed it in and every time we drove they had people there, and we weren’t finishing. We got a lot of open looks on 3s, but we didn’t hit them.”
The Tigers shot 21.7 percent (5-for-23) from 3-point range and got just four points off the fast break.
Although its offense didn’t perform like its usual self, Wrightstown did come up with a memorable scoring play late in the game when Nennig drove the lane and scored a layup with 2 minutes, 1 second remaining for the final points of the game.
Nennig broke the school’s all-time scoring record with the basket, giving her 1,142 career points to surpass the 33-year-old record of Mary Verbeten.
“The experience, the atmosphere, it was out of this world,” said Nennig, the North Eastern Conference player of the year. “I couldn’t have asked for a better team to play with. Growing up with all these seniors, it’s going to be hard not playing with them anymore. It was awesome.”
The Tigers had six seniors on their team this season, including Nennig, Murphy, Olivia Hohenstein, Ashley Glodowski, Lexy Wolske and Olivia Vander Heiden.
Nennig (Purdue Northwest) and Murphy (UW-Parkside) will play college basketball for NCAA Division II programs after both surpassed 1,000 career points in their high school careers.
The cupboard won’t be empty for Wrightstown, though, next season. Van Zeeland will be a returning first-team all-conference performer and freshman Bridget Froehlke will be among the team’s top returners whose job will be to build on the foundation that has been established for the program.
“Coming in freshman year, a new coach, I didn’t really know what to expect,” Nennig said. “We just meshed perfectly. We have great team chemistry. Our coaches, I have to thank our coaches, people don’t realize the effort and time they put into our team and outside of practice, too, trying to make us better and trying to prepare us for the next game.
“My team is great. We work together. We create opportunities for each other. We have good team chemistry.”
Wrightstown………….16…..22 – 38
Madison Edgewood..27…..33 – 60
WRIGHTSTOWN – Froehlke 5, Murphy 10, Nennig 11, Van Zeeland 12. 3-pt: Froehlke 1, Murphy 2, Nennig 1, Van Zeeland 1. FT: 7-14. F: 21.
MADISON EDGEWOOD – Frazier 2, Hovde 14, Meriggioli 10, Foti 12, Moschkau 13. 3-pt: Meriggioli 1. FT: 21-27. F: 12.
– firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @andrewpekarek.