ASHWAUBENON — When Sam Zastrow’s basketball career at Algoma High School came to a close four years ago, she wondered what her father and coach, Mark, would do next.
Would he continue to coach the Wolves like he’d done since her sophomore year or move onto another venture?
In the end, it wasn’t a decision. As Sam soon found out, her father’s only aspiration was to coach the Algoma girls basketball team.
Now a redshirt junior on the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay women’s basketball team, it’s not uncommon for Sam to call her father on a Saturday afternoon and find him working with Algoma’s third- or fourth-grade teams.
When Mark’s not coaching, he makes it a point to be at every one of Sam’s home games for the Phoenix.
On Thursday night, Sam returned the favor as she was among those in attendance to watch her father and the Wolves run through Cuba City 62-39 to advance to the WIAA Division 4 state championship game Saturday.
Two years ago when Algoma made state for the first time since 1986, Sam couldn’t be there because the Phoenix was playing in the NCAA tournament.
With a night off from the Horizon League tournament the Phoenix is hosting, Sam was able to be on hand to watch her father coach with the state tournament being held at the Resch Center for the first time.
“I’m so proud of him,” said Sam Zastrow, Algoma’s all-time leading scorer. “We were supposed to have practice tonight from 5 to 7 p.m., but Coach (Kevin Borseth) changed it from noon to 2 p.m., so I could come. I walked in and just got chills right away. It was just emotional because it’s something we both love. I’ve worked it since I was in fifth grade and my dad loved it since forever. Just to be able to be here and in this atmosphere is amazing.”
Mark Zastrow’s passion for basketball developed during his time growing up in Algoma. A self-proclaimed “rebel,” basketball was what kept Zastrow in school and on the straight and narrow.
With her father entrenched in coaching, Sam took to basketball at a young age and never quit en route to becoming a three-time Packerland Conference player of the year.
The father and daughter never made state together as the WIAA didn't increase its state tournament to five divisions until after Sam's prep career end.
However, the two are enjoying the ride now. For Mark, his decision to stay at Algoma and being able to watch his only daughter play at UWGB provided the best of both worlds
“With her going to GB made it a lot easier because I knew I could make it to almost all the home games,” said Mark Zastrow, who’s 154-16 at Algoma. “We put a lot of time into this program and our feeder program. Our coaches do a great job and I feel like if I walk out I’m letting these kids down.”
Schmidt overcomes ACL
The only thing that hurt worse than when Taylor Schmidt tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee midway through last season was watching her team lose without her in the D4 sectional semifinals to Oshkosh Lourdes.
As a sophomore, Schmidt helped lead the Wolves to the D4 state tournament but was powerless after sustaining the injury in a Feb. 9, 2012, game against Oconto.
Through the endless hours of rehab, Schmidt made it her goal to return this season and lead the Wolves to their first girls state championship since 1986.
Following Thursday’s win, she’s one victory away from achieving that goal.
“Last year at Seymour when we lost to Lourdes, that was the most heartbreaking thing to watch my team lose and my only goal was to get back and win state,” said Schmidt, who announced this past week her intention to play basketball at UW-Oshkosh next season.
“I couldn’t be happier to have the community I do that supports me and supported me through my whole recovery. It was one of the hardest times of my life. I’m glad I’m here and I’m so excited.”
Schmidt came back to lead the Wolves in scoring (12.5 points per game) and assists (4.0 apg) through 22 contests, but also returned as a better defender and more well-rounded talent.
“Good players are good but they don’t realize sometimes until something is taken away how much they love the game and how much they miss it,” Zastrow said. “She came back a much better than she was when she got injured. I think when you get something taken away and you get to go back and get it, it adds a little bit to your fire and your passion for the game.”
The Kewaunee girls team made a short trip to the Resch Center on Thursday night to watch Algoma in its state semifinal.
The Storm (25-1), the defending D3 state champions, watch the entire first half of its Kewaunee County rival before leaving at halftime to prepare for this morning’s D3 semifinal game against Lodi (24-2).
The two teams have split their annual “War on the Shore” rivalry game in each of the past two seasons. With standing-room only in both contests, Algoma beat Kewaunee 49-46 on Dec. 13 before losing 48-36 at Kewaunee on Feb. 1.
“Our crowd is awesome, our student section is awesome, our band is awesome,” Zastrow said. “We’ve had great crowds all year and that Kewaunee one, that War on the Shore thing, it’s for real. Our kids are prepped for this atmosphere because of those situations.”