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Family, fans support Cheesemakers on state run
Monroe students Anthany Hernandez and Ethan Kleckler cheer on the Cheesemakers.
GREEN BAY - March Madness took on a new meaning in Monroe on Friday, as local sports fans, and anyone with ties to athletes on the Cheesemaker girls basketball team, went to watch it play in the WIAA Div. 2 state semifinals.

Some people drove much further than the 184-mile, one-way trip from Monroe to the Resch Center at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.

The Cheesemakers ran into Beaver Dam (27-0), the top-ranked team in their division, in the semifinals. The Beavers won, 62-47.

The loss didn't stop parents, grandparents, classmates, community boosters and a host of Monroe supporters from making their day in Green Bay as positive about Cheesemaker basketball as possible.

Go-go grandparents

Traveling with the team takes on new meaning for Nick and Lenore Katzenberger, the grandparents of Monroe junior Madison Katzenberger.

Nick and Lenore, from Pearl City, Illinois, drove to Peoria to check into a hotel room Thursday to attend the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) boys basketball state tournament. After watching that game, Nick and Lenore made the six-hour drive to Green Bay to see their granddaughter and the Monroe girls basketball team play Friday afternoon.

The trip was time and money well spent for the Katzenbergers.

"It's hectic, but it's worth it," Nick said.

The Illinois couple has attended the IHSA boys state tournament in Peoria for 30 years. The Katzenbergers' son, Aaron, played on a Pearl City team that advanced to the IHSA state tournament in Champaign in 1987, which started the Katzenbergers' string of March Madness journeys.

To walk in the gym at Peoria and watch state games has become a family tradition.

This year the focus became a dual trip with a second-leg in Green Bay.

The second half of the trip was most important so they could watch their granddaughter.

"I always laugh when people say they sat through two games and have 'bleacher butt,'" Lenore said. "We do it because basketball is a family thing."

Banding together

Monroe freshman Logan Leuzinger, who is still on crutches and is overcoming a dislocated kneecap, was excited to be with the Monroe band and at the state tournament in Green Bay.

Monroe had four buses make the trip including three coach fan buses and a bus for the band.

In addition to the Monroe band, the Monroe dance team and cheer team made the trip to Green Bay for the state tournament.

"It's neat that we can come to the state tournament and support them," said Leuzinger, who played on the Monroe freshmen boys basketball team. "It's not every day that they get to go to state."

Trio of grand-"hoopsters"

Darrell and Bev Hilliard of Monroe have three granddaughters on the Cheesemaker team, including senior Lexi Hilliard, junior Sydney Hilliard, and junior Kaylynn Conway.

There's no way Bev was going to miss the game, which drew hundreds of Monroe fans outside of those who traveled on fan buses from the school.

In the week leading up to the state semi-final game, Friday, Monroe was constantly abuzz with positivity toward the community, school and the team.

"It's a great accomplishment," Bev said. "I don't think anyone expected them to make it this far."

Proud of the girls

Matt Davis, the Monroe girls track coach, wasn't too upset he didn't have four of his returning track standouts the first week of practice March 6-10, because the basketball team was still competing due to its 20-plus win season and state tournament berth.

"It's amazing," Davis said. "With Monroe being such a big sports town, and especially coming off the heels of the football team in the playoffs, it's been a great season."

The Monroe football team won the Badger South Conference championship and advanced to the Division 3 state quarterfinals for the first time since 2000.

Davis will welcome seniors Jordan Hirsbrunner and Alicia Kuester and juniors Sydney Mathiason and Rachel Meier to track practice now that their state basketball run is complete.

"They are really good athletes," Davis said. "This is the dream of being a multi-sport athlete. I think this will give them great momentum going into the track season."