DE PERE - Last season after eight games the De Pere girls basketball team was 4-4 and not playing near the level many expected it to.
However, from that point on the Redbirds didn't lose a game, won 20 straight games and captured the Division 1 state title.
Friday night, De Pere was in a much different position after eight games, sporting an 8-0 record as it hosted Green Bay Southwest in a Fox River Classic Conference game.
The Redbirds have been playing at a high level for one year now and the Trojans were the latest team to get a taste of what De Pere is all about. Not on its offensive game, De Pere turned up the heat on the Trojans on defense, overwhelming them in the final three quarters en route to a 40-23 win.
"It's our calling card, we're going to thrive off our defense," De Pere coach Kelly McNiff said. "I think we were a little rusty too, not playing for two weeks. Our kids know when it's not happening on the offensive side they have to pick it up on the defensive end.
"We're ahead of the game on the defense. We had scorers last year, but it took long to pick it up on defense."
After one quarter it was tied at 9-all and then the Redbirds took over, outscoring Southwest (5-3, 2-2), 12-0, in the second quarter. The lead never dipped below double figures again as De Pere outscored Southwest, 31-14, after the first quarter.
"Definitely, I think our defense pulled us along," De Pere senior Kayla Dawson said. "Our offense was a little shaky but it got better as it went along."
De Pere (9-0, 5-0) ranked No. 1 in the FOX 11 Top 11 poll, is led by Dawson and Morgan Anderson, who each average at least 12 points per game and have signed scholarships to play college basketball at the Division II level. However, there's more to the Redbirds than these two seniors and that was evident Friday.
While Dawson led De Pere with 14 points, Anderson couldn't get going, scoring just two points. It didn't matter.
De Pere's depth showed with Heidi Bohrer scoring six points and Bailey Ryan coming off the bench and scoring eight points. Bohrer and Ryan weren't key players on last year's team, but this is what De Pere does – year in and year out it finds new contributors.
"I think it's a credit to our youth program and getting the kids ready by the time they get to high school," McNiff said. "There are individual players that put in that extra time that want to be that Adrian Ritchie or Emma Konopasek, so we've been able to recycle those players, which is nice to have."
The way De Pere is playing this season it's easy to forecast the Redbirds for another trip to the state tournament. Notwithstanding, there are 13 more regular season games before the postseason starts.
Still, McNiff knows it's possible for the Redbirds to make another run at a state title.
"They have the experience," McNiff said "They were part of everything last year. Morgan, Kayla and Jess (Splittgerber), they were part of the runner-up (team in 2010). They know what it takes. It's a possibility but it's so far away."
- 3-pointers: Southwest's Natisha Hiedeman, the conference's leading scorer (17.7 points per game), scored 12 points before leaving with an arm injury late in the game. … De Pere next plays at Notre Dame (3-1 FRCC) on Monday. … Bay Port and De Pere lead the FRCC with 5-0 records.
- Game ball: Dawson, who was steady throughout.
- Numbers game: 29 Straight wins for De Pere.
Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay
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