The girls basketball state tournament opens Thursday and when the first game tips off it will mark the first time the state tournament is being played in the Green Bay area.
The Resch Center is hosting the tournament for at least the next two seasons because of a scheduling conflict with the Kohl Center in Madison, where the tournament is normally held.
It's quite a change for the teams, who enjoy playing in the spacious Kohl Center, but for area teams, the state tournament has now become a "home game."
Notre Dame, New London, Kewaunee and Algoma have qualified for the tournament and with the easy commute for these teams to the Resch Center compared to Madison, these teams should have a real good fan following.
The coaches are looking forward to this.
"I think it's going to be great," said New London first-year coach Andrea Flease, who estimated the drive to the Resch Center is 45 minutes compared to 90 minutes to two houRs to Madison. "For our community, it's great to see everyone together. We'll see how many turn up on Friday; should be quite a few."
Same for Algoma, which is making its second state appearance in three seasons.
"I sure hope it is (an advantage)," coach Mark Zastrow said. "I know our community is going to support us."
Notre Dame is the closest school to the Resch Center, and coach Sara Boyer-Rohde said her team could get there without a bus.
"We're excited about it being in Green Bay," Boyer-Rohde said. "It's about a 1-mile walk from our school. We probably could walk to the Resch Center if we wanted to."
What a first year for Flease
Flease replaced her coach at New London before the season and has picked up where Troy Krause left the program after winning back-to-back state titles. The Bulldogs are riding a 68-game winning streak, but face quite a test in Friday's semifinal.
Last year, New London beat New Berlin Eisenhower, 43-39, in the state title game and the Lionsare New London's semifinal foe this time.
"The girls are excited to play," said Flease, who attended last year's title game as a fan. "It was a great battle. I'm sure they'll want their revenge Friday."
Flease has led New London to a 26-0 record and said she is pleased the way her team has handled being the hunted.
"It's made us a stronger team, having that target on our back," she said.
FRCC helps prepare Tritons
Notre Dame plays in the Fox River Classic Conference, which is primarily a Division 1 league. Playing against bigger schools, like De Pere and Bay Port have prepared the Tritons for the postseason.
"I think it's a great advantage," Boyer-Rohde said. "We're playing against De Pere, Bay Port, Pulaski, (Green Bay) Southwest, Manitowoc, Sheboygan North. Nonconference (schedule), had some tough teams as well. That's a huge part of our success when it comes to tournament time."
Adversity helps out Kewaunee
Kewaunee's lone loss of the season, a setback to Algoma after leading by double figures in the fourth quarter, aided the Storm in sectionals.
First, Kewaunee trailed Wrightstown, a team it beat by 26 points during the regular season, late and forced overtime where it eventually prevailed. Then , Kewaunee trailed, 22-19, at halftime and defeated Xavier, 54-40, in the sectional final.
"We needed that adversity," coach Lynn Geier said. "The shots were falling for them (Wrightstown) and not falling for us. That was a situation where we never gave up."
Algoma returns to state minus points
Zastrow said last year's team graduated 3,600 career points, but the Wolves are back at state anyway. A big reason is the return of Taylor Schmidt, who tore her ACL last year.
She was named the Packerland Conference player of the year for the second time in three seasons, running the point guard position.
"She dictates the way our team goes," Zastrow said. "She shows when things are down you don't have to quit. She's one of the toughest kids I know."
Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay
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