Taylor Schmidt probably didn’t get a lot of schoolwork done Monday.
The Algoma senior spent a good portion of the morning taking five pages worth of T-shirt orders to ensure that they would get placed by the 12:30 p.m. deadline.
That was about the same time junior Kennedy Blahnik said one of her teachers discovered the 500 tickets the school had been allotted from the WIAA for Thursday’s Division 4 state semifinal girls basketball game at the Resch Center were sold out.
After going 27 years without a state title in any sport, the Wolves and their fans are hoping time finally runs out on the school’s championship drought.
“I think that we’re going to have one of the greatest crowds there, and they’re going to help us win that gold ball,” said Schmidt, the Packerland Conference player of the year.
Following a 2011 runner-up finish in their first state appearance since winning the Class C title in 1986, the top-ranked Wolves (24-2) have gotten back to state despite having graduated six players that accounted for more than 3,600 points in their careers.
Other than Schmidt and Blahnik, none of the players on the roster saw significant minutes at the Kohl Center two years ago.
However, the combination of senior McKenzie Mueller, juniors Meg Ryan, Kathy Bluett and Leah Blazkovec, sophomores Rachel Feuerstein and Karissa Koss, and freshmen Baleigh Delorit and Anna Dier have proven to be an imposing rotation with all the traps and pressure coach Mark Zastrow employs.
De Pere coach Kelly McNiff saw that early in the season when her team came away from Algoma with a 52-46 victory on Dec. 22.
“When you have a younger group like he has, it may take a little while to get them going to play that kind of style, but I think they’re firing on all cylinders right now,” McNiff said.
In hindsight, Algoma became even stronger when it had to make up for the loss of Blahnik, who missed 10 games midway through the season because of a knee injury.
That led to the rise of Dier, whose older sister, Lizzy, was a senior who Blahnik looked up to as a post player two years ago.
“When I was a freshman, I had all of the upperclassmen to kind of lead the way, and now I’ll have to do that for the younger girls because I’ve been there before,” Blahnik said.
“But I think after they get over the nerves and see the place, I think they’ll all be fine.”
In facing Cuba City at 6:35 p.m. Thursday, Algoma might as well be looking at itself in the mirror, and not just because both teams’ colors are black and yellow.
Like the Wolves, the Cubans (25-1) regularly go 10 deep into their rotation and favor a pressure defense. Cuba City also is a rather young team, which is led by the backcourt tandem of sophomore Chloe Pustina and freshman Jessi Marti.
“They throw a lot of different things at you defensively, so you’ve got to be versatile in your preparation as to handling different types of things,” said Zastrow, who has won Packerland titles in each of his seven seasons as coach.
“They got a full-court press and they’ve got a couple different kinds. They’ve got some different half-court traps that they do as well. I think with the teams we’ve played this year, we’re going to be pretty prepared for a lot of what they’re doing.
“It’s a matter of our kids performing at the right time.”