Algoma's Taylor Schmidt, right, screams as she raises the trophy with her teammates after defeating Colfax to win the WIAA Division 4 state girls basketball title Saturday at the Resch Center. / Dan Powers/Gannett Wisconsin Media
Kewaunee players celebrate after scoring at the buzzer to defeat East Troy and win the WIAA Division 3 state girls basketball title Saturday at the Resch Center. / Lukas Keapproth/Press-Gazette Media
Green Bay Notre Dame freshman Olivia Campbell (1) leaps into the air in the final seconds of the WIAA Division 2 state girls basketball championship game Saturday at the Resch Center in Ashwaubenon, Wis., on Saturday, March 16, 2013. Lukas Keapproth/Press Gazette Media / Lukas Keapproth/Press-Gazette Media
ASHWAUBENON — The chants from the Green Bay Notre Dame girls basketball cheering section Saturday night at the Resch Center were loud and clear.
“This is our house,” the fans shouted in unison as Notre Dame captured the Division 2 state championship with a 42-33 victory over New Berlin Eisenhower.
That sentiment was shared by fellow state champions Kewaunee and Algoma after a glorious weekend when Northeastern Wisconsin became the center of the girls high school basketball universe.
It was a gold ball bonanza for area teams and was accomplished inside the cozy confines of the Resch Center, which served as host for the first time in the 37-year history of the girls state tournament.
“We felt like we made this our home court,” said Kewaunee senior Kelsey Stangel, who scored 27 points Saturday afternoon and ignited a furious Storm comeback that culminated in a 60-58 victory over East Troy in the Division 3 championship game. “This is our area. This is our turf. We wanted to own it, and we came out and did that.”
The same could be said for Algoma, which downed Colfax 46-30 to claim the Division 4 state crown.
It was the perfect trifecta, with the three area state tournament qualifiers posting a combined 6-0 record. And if you ask any player or coach from those teams, they staunchly favor keeping the tournament at the Resch Center for good.
“We kind of had the home-court advantage, where we could just sleep in our own beds and then get up and go play a game like a normal day,” said Kewaunee senior Jill Kleiman.
The local teams also had large and often boisterous fan support, which boosted the tournament attendance well beyond last year’s total at the Kohl Center in Madison.
The teams and fans from Kewaunee and Algoma, located 10 miles apart along the Lake Michigan shoreline, acted like one big happy family and showed support for one another during the afternoon session.
Algoma coach Mark Zastrow stuck around after his team’s victory to watch Kewaunee, a Packerland conference rival, claim its title in the next game.
“We’re fortunate to have a great battle with Kewaunee, and they earned everything they got,” Zastrow said. “They deserve it, and I respect everything they do.”
The feelings are mutual in Kewaunee. Storm coach Lynn Geier said Algoma’s championship served as motivation for her team.
“When they won that gold ball, it’s like, you know what, we want to really go get it, we want to share that moment with them, and it was just awesome,” Geier said.
Kewaunee and Algoma tied for the conference title and split their games this season, with the Wolves handing the Storm its only defeat.
No one on either side wanted to offer an opinion on which team was better. “No comment,” said Geier with a smile, content to bask in the glow of a second straight state title.
Each area team claimed a championship in its unique way.
Kewaunee was like a heavyweight prizefighter getting knocked to the canvas in the first round. The Storm trailed by 13 points just 7 minutes into the game and was still down by 11 points early in the third quarter.
But Kewaunee displayed the grit and determination of a reigning champion that refused to give up the throne.
“I was just hoping things would turn,” Geier said. “I know these kids play with a lot of heart.”
Algoma used a tenacious, suffocating defense that limited Colfax to just 10 second-half points.
“I’m going to enjoy it for the rest of my life, I really am,” said Zastrow. “It’s a joy. Not many people get this opportunity.”
Notre Dame took a roller coaster ride to its title. The Tritons jumped to an early lead, fell behind in the third quarter by as many as five points, only to finish on a 14-5 spurt over the final 6 minutes to win going away.
Tritons coach Sara Rohde said she will savor the experience for a long time. Considering that Notre Dame is located less than 2 miles from the Resch Center, Rohde is a huge proponent of keeping the tournament here.
“It’s way more convenient for me as a coach,” Rohde said. “I can go home and sit in my bed and watch film. I don’t have to pack a bag. I would love to see it here (permanently). I thought it was a great atmosphere. … I thought the Resch was a perfect place.”
Perfect in every way. There’s no place like home for all three area state champions.