Lexy Wolske got the marker board as a gift from a friend last year.
The Wrightstown senior forward has kept it in her basketball locker ever since, using it to write a word or phrase her team would focus on in order to win its next game before wiping it clean and starting the process all over again.
“It’s something to get us excited and work towards a goal for the game,” Wrightstown senior forward Ashley Glodowski said.
The Tigers accomplished one of their biggest goals in qualifying for the WIAA state tournament for the first time since 2004.
Wrightstown (23-3) will attempt to advance to a state championship game for the first time since 1989 when it faces Madison Edgewood (23-3) in a Division 3 state semifinal game at 3:15 p.m. Thursday at the Resch Center.
Edgewood has the advantage of having played on the state stage last year.
Wrightstown, meanwhile, knows it has another clean slate to work with.
“We are all super, super excited that this is reality and we’re going there,” said Wolske, one of six seniors on the team. “I think as it slowly approaches we’re going to get a little bit more nervous and that will make us tunnel in and realize that we need to focus.”
The Tigers have proven to be tough to stop because opponents can’t simply focus on shutting down one or two standout players.
Sure, Wrightstown has some blue-chippers in its backcourt with senior guards Danielle Nennig (Purdue University Northwest) and Alisha Murphy (UW-Parkside). Both NCAA Division II recruits surpassed 1,000 career points and are averaging double-digit points this season.
But the Tigers are playing with a stacked deck throughout their lineup as it averages 63.8 points per game this season.
Whether it was the steady presence of junior Kailee Van Zeeland (10.8 points and 6.3 rebounds per game) or the emergence of freshman Bridget Froehlke off the bench to lead the squad in 3-pointers, Wrightstown presents a multitude of matchup problems.
“We have several different shooters,” said Nennig, whose team is shooting 31.1 percent (131-for-421) from 3-point range. “They can’t just take out one of us because another person is going to be open and be lights out, too. That is definitely one component that is a major factor in us winning.”
The roles of players like Glodowski have been just as important. The 5-foot-10 senior provides another defensive stopper in the post to go along with starters in Wolske and junior Taylor Guns.
During Wrightstown’s overtime win in the sectional semifinal, the Tigers forced one of the Kewaunee’s best post players, Ellie Olsen, into fouling out of the game at the end of regulation. A lot of that had to do with hustle plays from someone like Glodowski off the bench.
Those types of players are usually the difference between the teams that can get to state and the ones that can ultimately bring some hardware back from state.
“Ashley has definitely stepped up quite a bit,” said Murphy, who is averaging 10.7 points per game.
“She’s really done the little things right, which I felt helped us, boxing out and getting bodies on some of the bigger girls we’ve faced later on in the tournament.”
Wrightstown faced high expectations from the start of the season with almost its entire lineup returning from its sectional final team of a year ago.
“We felt like this has been building for us,” said Wrightstown coach Mike Froehlke, whose team won the North Eastern Conference title this year. “We’ve obviously been happy with our talent for several years and the girls were committed. We went through a team camp this summer at (University of) Notre Dame in Indiana. We did really well against some of the top teams in the country. I think that really got our girls excited and continued on throughout the summer and into the fall. When the season started we were ready to go.”
Wolske will have a new message on her marker board on Thursday when the Tigers get set to go to the Resch Center.
How Wrightstown’s talented lineup handles the state atmosphere will determine if Wolske will get to write another for Saturday.
“I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like,” said Nennig, who is averaging 14.2 points per game. “I’ve been there before and I’ve seen everything that happens. But being actually in it and competing in it is like a dream come true for us.”
– firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @andrewpekarek.