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Battle of the unbeatens
Brodhead's girls coach Brad Pickett cracks a smile as time runs out in their victory over Adams-Friendship in the sectional final game Saturday evening at Middleton High School, March 15. With the win, Brodhead secured their first trip in school history to the WIAA State Tournament. (Times photo: Anthony Wahl)
BRODHEAD - Carly Mohns has taken jump shooting instruction and ball-handling advice from her father Jim Mohns since she was in second grade.

It's only fitting that Carly would still have her father in her corner when she leads Brodhead into the WIAA Division 3 state basketball tournament on Friday, March 21. Brodhead (26-0), ranked No. 2, will face No. 1 ranked Neillsville (26-0) in a state semifinal at 10:45 a.m. Friday at the Resch Center in Ashwaubenon, and Jim Mohns will be on the bench as an assistant coach for the Cardinals. It's the school's first state appearance in the history of the program.

"He's always been there my whole career," said 6-foot-1 senior Carly Mohns, a University of Iowa recruit. "I feel so honored. To have him by my side, I just love it. It's something we can say we did and we will always remember."

Whether those memories, decades from now, will include a shiny gold ball remain to be seen. Brodhead senior Rachel Heller isn't satisfied with the team making a state run to the Resch Center for the second time in the same school year. The Brodhead volleyball team also made an improbable run to state in the fall.

"It's such a hard feeling to explain," Heller said. "It's something special to be a part of. It's a dream come true. I know our community is so proud of how we have done this season. I know our team has bigger goals. We want to win the gold ball."

The perfect season for the Cardinals has had some close calls with a 56-50 win over Dodgeville, a 60-54 win over Cuba City, a Division 4 state qualifier, and a 62-59 win over Whitewater in overtime. The Cardinals have won two straight games in the tournament, coming back to knock off Whitewater in the sectional semifinals and defeating Adams-Friendship in the sectional title game.

"They don't have to be friends off the court," Brodhead coach Brad Pickett said. "They know when they get on the court they have to have each other's backs. On our warmups we have a saying that "we' is greater than "me.' I think this group embraces that."

Neillsville is led by 6-foot senior Jenny Lindner, a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee recruit, who averages 16.2 points per game.

"She kind of runs the show for them," Pickett said. "They have enough other girls around her."

However, Linder is the No. 1 option for the Warriors. The Cardinals are expected to use Mohns to guard Linder. Pickett isn't concerned about Mohns getting in foul trouble trying to guard Lindner.

"Defensively, we have to do what we have done all year," he said. "I think Carly is good enough and smart enough."

Mohns understands the challenge ahead. Neillsville has been to state three straight years and the Warriors were the state champions in Division 4 in 2012. The Warriors were bumped up to Division 3 last year. Neillsville knocked off Hayward 31-30 in a sectional final to get to state.

"I think the key is we have to play lockdown defense," Mohns said. "We have to know where No. 20 (Lindner) is always at."

The Warriors play a 1-3-1 zone and will look to pack it in on Mohns who is averaging 17.7 ppg and 10.1 rebounds per game.

"I think you will have to hit some shots against any zone," Pickett said. "We have confidence in every one of our shooters to step up and knock them down. For her (Mohns) to have teammates around her that can step up and shoot it has been big for her."

The Cardinals have made 100 3-pointers as a team and are shooting 30 percent from behind the arc. Brodhead sophomore Kylie Moe has made 34 3-pointers followed by Duffield who has made 33. Moe (10.7 ppg), Heller (10.3 ppg) and Duffield (8.1 ppg) give the Cardinals a balanced scoring offense.

"There is no better way to end the senior year than getting to the state tournament," Duffield said. "We are not done yet."

The bond Mohns, Duffield and Heller made playing Tri-County basketball in fifth grade left a lasting impression on their first coach.

"I'm just a dad who was willing to step in and take her to the gym," Jim Mohns said. "She is the one who put in the work. We wanted to put them in a position where they would fail and they would learn from their failures. That's (Tri-County basketball) what started to propel them. They were playing bigger schools in the Badger Conference and hanging with them."

Now the Cardinals have just one more week of work before they could bring home a gold ball.

"It's huge for the community," Pickett said. "You can tell by the attendance we have had for games. The kids deserve it."