That sums up the Neillsville girls basketball teams’ 2012-13 season, as the Warriors have rolled to a 26-0 record. The Warriors have played just two games this season decided by single digits, both against Cloverbelt Conference East Division rival Owen-Withee.
Neillsville (26-0), the defending Division 4 champion, has been dominant for a long period of time, having won 54 consecutive games and moves up a division this season in an attempt to win successive championships.
If the streak reaches 56 games, the Warriors will be raising another gold ball. Neillsville faces East Troy on Friday at 9:05 a.m in a Division 3 state semifinal.
“It’s a real credit to the kids and how hard they work and how they prepare. This is a group of kids that just finds a way to win,” Neillsville coach John Gaier said. “Our kids do a great job on focusing and don’t get caught up in the moment, what’s in the future or what’s been done in the past.”
The streak has taken on a life of its own, but it isn’t something the Warriors focus on. It is just part of their preparation and wins just fall into place.
“We don’t want to break the streak, but we know we have to work hard to continue our success,” Neillsville standout guard Jenny Lindner said. “We don’t really feel pressure (to continue the streak) and we stay focused, because we are playing, not just for ourselves, but for our community and our fans.”
Lindner leads the team in scoring (15.6), rebounds (4.8), steals and assists, but the Warriors showed off their depth in the sectional final, downing Ladysmith 37-25 to reach the state tournament, despite just two points from Lindner. That depth has been key to the team’s run this season and over the past 54 victories.
“Coach Gaier makes a point to focus on every member of the team and we are a deep team, we have someone get hurt and others step up,” guard Lindsey Opelt said. “Being a deep team is definitely a key to get down to state.”
Another key to the impressive stretch for the Warriors is cohesiveness.
“Our team has played together for a long time,” Opelt said. “We know our strengths and weaknesses. Coach Gaier puts pressure on us in practice, so when we get to the big gamse its like another game for us.”
Neillsville’s semifinal opponent is no slouch, sitting with a mark of 25-1, and to get a 55th straight win and reach the Division 3 state title game, the Warriors will have to defend. East Troy is led by a talented trio of Breanna Gaspervich, Alicia Oleson and Rachel Atchison.
Gaspervich leads the team averaging 16.7 points per game and Atchison closely follows at 16.5, while Oleson 10.6 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.6 assists.
“They are a veteran squad,” Gaier said. “They know what (the big stage) is like. They have been there before. This group of seniors has probably waited and talked about this time and have a chance to compete for a title. They aren’t really big but they’re very explosive. They can score points in bunches.”
Neillsville hopes to slow down the Trojans’ offensive attack by slowing the pace and taking care of the ball.
“They are small, but very quick and have guards that can shoot it,” Lindner said. “We want to make it a half-court game, pound the rebounds and pound the ball inside. They will be quick, but if we control the tempo we can come away with the win.”
The streak is quite an accomplishment, but the focus for Neillsville is simple, bringing home another state title.
“We take it one game at a time, we’re not worried about the streak,” Opelt said. “It’s obviously a big accomplishment, but we just try to play our best in that moment.”