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A hard fight to the end
Monroe junior Rachel Meier tries to score during the last minute of the game. (Times photo: Marissa Weiher)

Look for girls to return

The lightning bolt didn't strike.

The Monroe girls basketball team didn't shock the basketball world on Friday.

There was no upset of top-ranked Beaver Dam in the WIAA Division 2 state semifinal at the Resch Center in Green Bay.

Although so many Cheesemaker fans and members of the Monroe squad themselves wanted to pull off what would have been one of the biggest upsets in recent state history, the Golden Beavers topped the Cheesemakers, 62-47.

The loss hurt. Only one team can end the season by winning its final game - the state champion.

The fact that Monroe gave Beaver Dam its second-closest game of the season, when the Cheesemakers were not at full strength, should be a motivating sign for the next two years.

The Cheesemakers were defeated by 15 points, but they played the bulk of the game without second-leading scorer Emily Benzschawel. The Golden Beavers were able to get Benzschawel into foul trouble, limiting her to just 22 minutes on the court before she fouled out in the second half.

Beaver Dam entered the state tournament beating teams by an average of 33.5 points per game. The closest game for the Beavers this season was a 49-36 win over Pius XI Catholic.

Monroe (20-4) didn't "lose" the state semifinal game against Beaver Dam (27-0): The Golden Beavers won it.

Beaver Dam played an incredible game. They drained six three-pointers, grabbed 10 offensive rebounds in the first half, and scored seven second-chance points off those rebounds.

Each one of Monroe's players and coaches should be applauded for their unprecedented run to the state tournament.

There was little thought before the season that the Cheesemakers would make it to the front door of the Resch Center, warm-ups in hand. Monroe had huge obstacles, including last year's Div. 2 state runner-up Stoughton and Div. 3 state-qualifier Madison Edgewood in its own conference.

Monroe got better and better all year long.

The Cheesemakers beat Edgewood, the state's No. 1-ranked Div. 3 team, in its first conference game. Monroe beat Stoughton, which was ranked third in Div. 2 at the time. Winning two-straight conference games against the preseason Badger South favorites made basketball fans throughout the area take notice.

The Cheesemakers earned a Badger South co-championship with Edgewood and Stoughton this season. The games against the Crusaders and Vikings are two of the most memorable of the entire campaign.

In the sectional final, Monroe defeated a talented Milton squad for the third time this season.

For many people, the sectional title game will be the most memorable contest of the season. The community was swimming with pride for the smart, talented, athletically-gifted and tenacious girls who wore "Monroe" on their jerseys.

It also felt good because Monroe had suffered a loss in the sectional finals in 2016 to Green Bay Notre Dame.

The Cheesemakers didn't fall short of the championship game due to a lack of heart or effort. Monroe has plenty of that.

But Beaver Dam's combination of experience, talent and cohesive team play was the difference. It was their turn. The Golden Beavers played outstanding basketball.

Looking ahead to the future, Monroe's players, coaches and program are planning to work hard for further success.

Monroe junior Sydney Mathiason, sophomore Sydney Hilliard, Benzschawel along with at least three younger players are planning to play on AAU traveling basketball teams this summer. Monroe's tradition of outstanding girls basketball teams is growing.

Earning a berth to state, exactly what this year's team accomplished, only adds to the hunger the players have for more success. The coaches work together and have proven their success.

Working on the fundamentals from top to bottom for every player in the Monroe program is the way it can stay competitive as a state contender well into the future.

"I think seeing people having success makes younger players want to put in extra time shooting shots in the gym as much as you can," Mathiason said.

Every year is different. The Golden Beavers are joining the Badger North Conference next year. The path to a gold ball and winning a state championship could go through Beaver Dam again next year.

Don't count Monroe out for making a return trip to state in 2018.

"You really don't get these opportunities very often," Monroe coach Sam Mathiason said. "I'm just proud that we were able to take advantage of this opportunity."

- Mark Nesbitt covers sports for The Monroe Times. He can be reached at

GREEN BAY - The Monroe girls basketball team's magical run to state came to an end with a 62-47 loss to Beaver Dam in a WIAA Division 2 state semifinal Friday at the Resch Center.

Beaver Dam senior Cassidy Trotter scored a game-high 23 points, grabbed seven rebounds and had four steals to lead the Beavers to their second win this season over the Cheesemakers. With the win, Beaver Dam (27-0), ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press Division 2 state poll, advances to today's state championship game where they will play Cudahy.

"I had a pretty good matchup today," Trotter said. "I knew I could get to the rim pretty easily, so my teammates saw that and were giving me the ball. This is our ultimate goal to get to the (state championship) game Saturday. It feels really good to finally do that."

Monroe sophomore Sydney Hilliard scored a team-high 16 points, grabbed seven rebounds and had three steals.

"I was happy with how we played from start to finish, considering they controlled the game the first time we played," Hilliard said. "This game, we fought hard start to finish. I'm happy with not only how we played this game but this season."

Beaver Dam defeated Monroe 70-49 in their first meeting Dec. 10. With the loss, Monroe ends the season 21-4, the eighth-ranked Division 2 team, with a state berth and a Badger South Conference championship for the first time since 2010.

Monroe Junior teammate Sydney Mathiason added 10 points and had nine rebounds and senior Jordan Hirsbrunner chipped in 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting. Sophomore teammate Emily Benzschawel, who entered the game as the Cheesemakers' second-leading scorer at 13 points per game, battled foul trouble. She finished scoring five points before fouling out in the second half. Mathiason also fouled out in the second half.

"Emily is one of our key scorers and has the ability to get to the basket and that is something we needed," Monroe coach Sam Mathiason said.

Hirsbrunner will be running track at the University of Wisconsin next year, but she isn't in a hurry to walk away from the court.

"I think it was really great to get this opportunity we had to end my senior season playing here (Green Bay)," Hirsbrunner said.

The Cheesemakers shot 39.2 percent (20-of-51). The Beavers used a 1-3-1 press in the first half and a steady diet of half-court traps in the second half to take the ball out of Hilliard's hands. The Beavers took the driving lanes away and the Cheesemakers shot just 1-of-13 on 3-pointers in the game.

"If we shoot the ball a little better, I think we are right there," Sam Mathiason said. "I like how we competed. But congratulations to Beaver Dam on their victory."

Early on, it appeared as if the Cheesemakers may have had the opportunity to upset the state's No. 1-ranked Division 2 team. The Cheesemakers stayed within six points of the Beavers for most of the first half.

Monroe junior Rachel Meier hit a jumper with 10 minutes left in the first half to give the Cheesemakers a 10-9 lead. Hirsbrunner followed knocking down a jumper to extend the Cheesemakers a short-lived lead to 12-9.

"It was very exciting," Hirsbrunner said. "We came out really strong."

The Beavers had 10 offensive rebounds in the first half and broke the game open with a 7-0 run to end the first half to take a 34-24 lead at the break.

"It was definitely a game-changer," Hirsbrunner said.

Trotter excelled at driving to the basket. She scored 13 of her points in the first half and was adept at drawing fouls. Trotter shot 12-of-19 at the free-throw line.

"She's a great player," Hilliard said of Trotter, who will move on and play college basketball with her cousin, Hannah Hobson, at Michigan Tech. "She's a really great dribbler and great at getting to the basket."

Sydney Mathiason hit a jumper to cut the Beavers' lead to 39-32 with 15 minutes left in the second half. The Beavers answered with an 8-2 surge and took a 47-34 lead on Tara Stauffacher's lay-up with 10 minutes to go. The Cheesemakers trailed by as many as 15 points in the second half.

"In the second half, the fouls had an effect," Mathiason said. "We just had to keep playing hard. We had Rachel (Meier) and Alicia (Kuester) step up. We tried to overcome it and we did somewhat."