Joyful Knights girls celebrate senior night with win
Green, Cohen, Bronson and others honored
The talent of the Nicolet girls basketball team is obvious - the precision, the speed and intensity when the press is working and everyone is out running ahead looking for that pass they know is coming.
The joy is also evident. Claps and cheers and gleeful whistles abound when anyone scores a basket, especially the bench players.
And there is compassion, decency and genuine friendliness.
All were seen in great abundance March 3 in the Knights' 78-49 win over Cedarburg. A victory that put an exclamation point on their second consecutive 14-0 North Shore Conference championship run.
The talent and joy were both evident and celebrated in abundance as it was senior night. A remarkable gasp-inducing 21-0 run in the third quarter put the game away against the tenacious Bulldogs (15-7 for the season).
This night was important for reserve seniors Brianna Achs, Rachel Travia and Amber Thomas; absolutely vital for four-year letterwinners and team leaders Ashley Green, Alex Cohen and Gabby Bronson for whom their first days on varsity seemed like just yesterday and now their looking to plan their exits with class, dignity and possibly a state championship.
"It cuts both ways," said veteran coach Corey Wolf. "Some days it seems like it was so long ago when they started. I mean started with some of these kids when they were third or fifth graders. And then sometimes, it seems like it's been all so fast."
"We remember those frustrating days when they were freshmen. It's amazing to watch their highlight tape from back then. Their body language, coordination and personalities were so much different.
"I mean Ashley (Green) didn't even talk for almost two years."
Looking at the loquacious, smiling all-state sniper of a guard right now, that is indeed hard to believe.
The group also wanted their compassion and decency to show through, so they continued their fundraising efforts for breast cancer research by wearing their "Get the pink out" white jerseys with fundraising gift card sales still going on out front.
All told, the team raised about $2,000 for this very worthy cause.
The compassion and decency also came about in an unexpected way too and really revealed what a heart of a champion looks like. Mid-way through the first quarter, Green stole the ball from Bulldog center Carly Lythjohan. Lythjohan made a failed attempt to swipe the ball back as Green went in for the layup.
At that moment, Lythjohan crumbled in great pain, grasping her shoulder. She sat down wincing badly as Green signaled to Nicolet trainer John Larson for help pointing to the shoulder.
As Larson worked on Lythjohan, a process that took more than 20 minutes, Green sat down to talk to her. Then other Knights came by including Cohen and Brittney Fair trying to keep Lythjohan calm while the stretcher was brought in. It clearly helped, as Lyhjohan remained lucid and aware and was able to help herself to her feet to a nice round of applause that rose from the largely pro-Nicolet crowd.
A similar sense of concern came up barely two minutes after the game resumed as Bulldog guard Annie Drabot went down with a knee injury trying to defend a Fair layup.
"It was one of those rare, horrible nights," said Wolf.
But after the drama subsided, the game was completed. There was little drama left after the Knights' put on their run.
However, that didn't mean the fun was ending. In fact, it was just beginning. There were individual poster boards out in the hall for each of the seniors, along with team photos, group photos and just photos of them being their silly, talented selves.
There were grace notes everywhere, from the hand-painted signs that hung in the gym for each of them to the poem written by junior Becca Olin that the underclassmen serenaded the seniors with. They all took turns with individual lines and then joined together for a unified shout at the end to say: "So let's finish off this season's song, 'cause it's all about to go down!"
They then all gathered in front of a screen to watch a video put together by assistant coach Rick DeKeyser featuring pictures all the way from infancy to now and all kinds of interesting details in between.
"We wanted people to come and support them," said Wolf. "Just for where they've taken the team these past four years and we wanted people to stay and support them and they did."
And now they have some more work to do. They earned the top seed in the WIAA sectional and will host the winner of Waukesha North and Germantown in a 2 p.m. regional final on Saturday.
The road to state is now just beginning.
"I think one part of our season is over and another is just beginning," said Wolf. "We just have so much confidence now."
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