There was a silver lining after the WIAA girls basketball tournament for the Assumption and Neillsville girls basketball teams.
Not the silver trophies that both teams brought home from the Resch Center, rather, the way that 14 seniors — six Royals and eight Warriors — impacted their programs, schools and communities.
What each group of girls did for their respective teams is without measure.
With only five starting spots, that left several selfless seniors on the bench with little or no playing time, especially in big games.
But they hung with it, even when many wouldn’t and they should be applauded as much as those who score all the points.
“To keep eight girls out for four years really says a lot about their bond and their unselfishness because only five can start,” Neillsville coach John Gaier said. “The fact that they stayed together is amazing.”
Staying together is likely how the Warriors’ senior class won four Cloverbelt Conference titles, four regional, three sectional crowns and a state championship, not to mention their sparkling 105-3 record.
“That fact that these girls only lost three games in their career and two at the state tournament is unbelievable,” Gaier said.
That kind of success is difficult to comprehend, but the Neillsville girls did it not only for themselves, but the community that supported them.
“I think we brought a lot to our program,” senior Jenny Lindner said. “I think we brought basketball to our community and their support is what made us as successful as we are.”
The Assumption seniors have a similar story and one that is every bit as successful.
Starting as freshmen, Mary Sigler and Brittney Birkhauser paved the way for the rest of their classmates to grew into their roles on the team, which culminated with back-to-back Marawood Conference titles and two straight trips to the state finals.
“I don’t know if the sophomores on our team realize that everyone’s season doesn’t end like this, playing the last game of the season at state for two years in a row,” Assumption sophomore Olivia Skibba said.
Assumption coach Joe Birkhauser, who led the Royals to a pair of WISAA titles and the school’s first WIAA state tournament appearance in 2005, was impressed with what the seniors accomplished the past four years.
“They came in and took the bull by the horns,” Birkhauser said of his senior class. “They did all the summer stuff. They did the lifting and everything else. Sometimes teams are lucky to get here, but these girls earned the right to be here the last two years.”
The Assumption and Neillsville girls might have brought home silver trophies, but what they gave each other, their coaches and communities was gold.