Whitewater coach hopes early start will give team edge against defending champion
As a longtime physical education teacher at Whitewater High, Judy Harms knows the importance of starting the day out right.
That means getting a good night's sleep, eating a nutritious breakfast and exercising.
As a basketball coach, Harms knows nothing about playing a game at 9 a.m. She'll find out Friday when unbeaten and top-ranked Whitewater plays defending state champion Kettle Moraine Lutheran in a WIAA Division 3 state semifinal game at the Resch Center in Green Bay.
Harms said the key to the early start is keeping things simple.
“I told the girls to pretend they were going to phy-ed class at 9 in the morning,” Harms said. “I know it's not that easy because of what's at stake, but you can't think too big. You have to treat it like just another game.
“And a lot of our girls, especially Sarah (Schumacher), have played a lot of AAU games in the summer where you do have early starts. She knows what to eat and what stays in your system and gives you energy, and I'm sure she'll be passing that information along to her teammates.”
Whitewater (26-0) is one of four unbeaten teams in the five divisions at state and spent the last half of the season as the top-ranked team in D3. The Whippets rolled to the Rock Valley North title but had a tough bracket to get through in the postseason. Whitewater beat third-ranked and previously unbeaten Lakeside Lutheran in a regional final game, and it held on to beat state-ranked Dodgeville in a sectional final game to earn the program's first trip to state.
Reedsburg, Milton and Brodhead knocked Whitewater out of tournament play the last three seasons, and all three went on to play at state.
“We felt like this year was our turn,” Harms said. “That's why it was such a big relief when we beat Dodgeville, because we could finally say we made it to state.”
The Whippets have thrived on their full-court pressure all season, but Harms said they may dial back a little bit at state because of the bigger floor at the Resch Center. Harms knows the Whippets don't have the depth on the bench to allow the starters to pressure defensively for 94 feet.
“We've practiced on the bigger floor, and it really does make a difference,” Harms said. “It really does affect your stamina, so based on that fact, we've got to pick our spots to press.”
Schumacher, who signed with Quincy University, leads the team in scoring. The 6-foot-1 senior forward is averaging 15.5 points and 7.6 rebounds per game.
She became only the third player in program history to pass the 1,000-point plateau in scoring this season, joining all-time leading scorer Brooke Trewyn and Kristi Pease on the list.
“It's a great accomplishment, but Sarah is so not about individual stats,” Harms said. “Sarah's always been about the team, and that's why she's such a great leader. She leads by example whether it's at practice or in a game.”
Myriama Smith-Traore has been the catalyst for Whitewater during the postseason. The 6-foot-2 sophomore is averaging 13.3 points and more than 10 rebounds per game, and in the tournament she has had three double-doubles.
“She's kind of been our secret weapon,” Harms said. “She has really stepped up her game, and I think a lot of that has to do with being totally healthy now. That hamstring gave her problems early on.”
Whitewater is averaging 64 points a game while allowing just under 39. Kettle Moraine Lutheran comes in averaging 51 points per game and giving up 39.
One team will advance to Saturday's state-title game. Tune in early to find out.