ASHWAUBENON — The biggest adjustment to playing at the state tournament for many teams is playing on a college court, which is 10 feet longer than the one used by high school teams.
Squads are usually fortunate to maybe hold one practice at a nearby college to try to acclimate to the dimensions before state.
However, the Green Bay Notre Dame girls basketball team spent its first three practices this week on a college surface before taking the court at the Resch Center.
It certainly paid off in Notre Dame’s 61-35 victory over Milton in a WIAA Division 2 state semifinal on Friday.
The Tritons practiced at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay’s Kress Event Center on Monday and Tuesday. It then held practice at the Schuldes Sports Center at St. Norbert College on Wednesday.
“You could tell even the first time we practiced at the Kress floor they were a little bit more gassed just doing the same drills we always do,” Notre Dame coach Sara Rohde said. “I think getting on the bigger court helps just because it trains your brain a little bit and your heart like what to expect because it is different.”
Despite the difference, junior guard Allie LeClaire feels her team’s up-tempo style favors a larger surface.
“I like the bigger courts,” LeClaire said. “I think we’re more spaced, and I feel like our team knows how to run. We push the ball well so I don’t think it was a disadvantage for us. If anything, it was a huge advantage for us.”
Everson, Johnson finally get to play at Resch
Although this is the first season the WIAA state girls basketball tournament has been held at the Resch Center, Alix Everson and Anika Johns have dreamed about playing there throughout their athletic careers.
The pair of seniors were standouts on the Notre Dame volleyball team, which was one step from playing at the Resch in 2010 and 2011 when it fell in the sectional finals before going down in the sectional semifinals this past fall.
Despite not making it to play, Johnson and Everson have taken part in tallying stats for the WIAA the last three years when the volleyball state tournament came to town.
On Friday, Johnson posted seven points and six rebounds, while Everson knocked down a 3-pointer in the fourth quarter and finished with four points.
“Finally being able to play here is so fulfilling,” said Johnson, who was a Fox River Classic Conference co-player of the year in volleyball. “The past three years for volleyball we’ve come so close. It’s just great to finally have something for our team and have this great experience.”
Sisters at state
The Tritons have three sets of sisters on their roster and all three have quite the family pedigree when it comes to athletic success.
After being the lead legs on Notre Dame’s D2 state championship 800-meter relay team last year, Sabrina and Melaina Rapisarda will get a chance at another state title on Saturday. Sabrina, a senior, scored 10 points, going 4-for-5 from the field, against Milton, and when she checked out in the fourth quarter her sophomore sister came in for her.
Eliza and Olivia Campbell have played crucial roles into the Tritons’ state run. Eliza, a junior, has been a starter all season and Olivia, a freshman, moved up to the varsity after Christmas break and has taken on the sixth-man spot.
The team’s bench features sophomores Kayla and Carli Borseth, the twin daughters of UWGB women’s basketball coach Kevin Borseth.
“They’re just all families that come from playing basketball, playing sports, and it just makes our team a little bit tighter with all those sibling relationships,” Rohde said.
Reaching the rafters at the Resch
You could certainly tell Notre Dame was playing in its backyard at the Resch, where its student body went from the front row of courtside in section 103 all the way up to the highest row of seats in section 203.
Overall, the Notre Dame student section bought 600 seats that the school acquired. But the total amount of students there likely was higher.
“The crowd was amazing,” LeClaire said. “When we looked up and saw everyone, we were so pumped up.”