Whitewater caps championship story
Whitewater’s history books need to be rewritten.
The newest chapter includes a tale of an undefeated high school girls basketball season, and a page can be saved for a picture with a gold ball.
The Whippets rallied down the stretch in their WIAA Division 3 championship game against Appleton Xavier on Saturday. A 49-43 victory at the Resch Center helped them finish with a 28-0 record, and hundreds of supporters chanted “perfect season” as the final seconds ticked off the clock.
“What a phenomenal group of girls to work with,” Whitewater head coach Judy Harms said. “I’ve never had a team that played as much together as they did this year.
“This year’s theme was, ‘The best way to make history is to write it.’ They did that.”
Sophomore Myriama Smith-Traore led the charge with two critical baskets late and finished with 17 points and 18 rebounds. Senior Sarah Schumacher added 18 points and seven rebounds.
Whitewater captured the title in its first-ever trip to the state tournament.
“This is unreal; I can’t put this feeling into words,” Schumacher said. “I’m so proud of our team for accomplishing this.”
It took a 10-4 run in the final 3 minutes, 3 seconds for the Whippets to hoist the gold ball.
Tied 39-39 in the fourth quarter, Smith-Traore used back-to-back put-back layups to give Whitewater the lead for good. She was the trailer on breakaway plays in both instances, following Whippets’ ball-handlers down the lane and cleaning up on the offensive glass.
“I’m just thinking that, ‘This is it, our last chance, and everyone needs to leave it all on the floor,’” Smith-Traore said. “After this, it’s done. You don’t want to live with regret. If we hadn’t played our hardest, like we did, we would just regret it.”
Smith-Traore scored six of the team’s 10 points during that final stretch, and Whitewater’s team defense rose to the occasion for the second straight day.
Xavier shot just 27.8 percent for the game and made just one basket in the final 5 minutes, 52 seconds.
“Those last two minutes, I would have to say that our kids finally started playing the way we’ve played all year long,” Harms said. “It was kind of like, ‘There they are; they’re back.’ And they wanted it.”
For 29 minutes, Xavier played Whitewater as close as any team did throughout the season.
The Hawks led by five, 17-12, a minute into the second quarter, and Schumacher was on the bench after two early fouls.
Harms allowed Schumacher to play through the foul trouble, and the Whippets responded with a 19-5 run that bridged the halftime break.
Xavier clawed its way back from a seven-point, third-quarter deficit to tie the game heading to the fourth, and it twice led by two points in the opening minutes there.
But Smith-Traore and the Whippets’ defense put an end to any upset hopes for the Hawks with the final game-deciding run.
“The perfect season, it’s unreal,” Schumacher said. “It’s so hard to do. I just never would have imagined this my senior year. I couldn’t have asked for a better season or people to do it alongside with.”
Let the history books read: Whitewater is a state champion.