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More than a Challenge
Monroes Rachel Meier drives the lane during last years state WIAA Division 2 semifinal against Beaver Dam. (Times photos: Marissa Weiher)
MONROE - The Badger Challenge game between Monroe and Beaver Dam Saturday is a clash between the state's No. 1 and No. 2 ranked teams in Division 2 and a rematch of last year's state semifinal game in Green Bay.

Beaver Dam (10-2), ranked No. 1 in both Division 2 Associated Press and Coaches Poll, will play against Monroe (13-1, No. 2 WisSports, No. 3 AP) at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in a Badger Challenge game at Stoughton High School.

"They have five kids who have committed or have college scholarships," Monroe coach Sam Mathiason said. "I don't remember a team at the high school girls level from Wisconsin having that many scholarship players on the same team. Clearly, they are playing at a high level. It will be a great gauge against one of the better teams in the state to see how we measure up. It will be a great challenge for us."

Beaver Dam 5-foot-10 freshman Matyson Wilke, who is averaging 11.8 points per game, has scholarship offers from the University of Wisconsin and Marquette.

For Monroe, junior Sydney Hilliard, who is averaging 20.2 points per game, this will be her first matchup against Wilke in high school. Hilliard has scholarship offers from Wisconsin, UW-Green Bay, Marquette, UW-Milwaukee and others.

"Since we are the underdog, I'm really excited to get after it and compete with a high-level team," Hilliard said. I'm really excited because we haven't been able to see their team play since state. I'm excited to see how it goes."

The Wisconsin Academy AAU team Hilliard and junior Emily Benzschawel play on faced Wilke and a couple other Beaver Dam players in three tournaments last summer.

Hilliard sees Wilke as a multi-dimensional player and she's not surprised by Wilke's success this year.

"She's able to shoot and drive," Hilliard said of Wilke. "She basically has all the skills. We have to stop her from driving and frustrate her so she passes to someone else."

The Beavers are far from a one player show. Beaver Dam may be the most balanced team with the most scoring weapons the Cheesemakers face this year. The Beavers average 71.7 points per game and feature seven players averaging 7 points per game or more this season. The other top scorers for Beaver Dam this season include senior Tara Stauffacher (10.2 ppg), Maryn Ferron (9.6 ppg) and Jada Donaldson (8.3 ppg).

The Beavers also have great size with Stauffacher (5-11), Afton Bartol (6-2) and junior Aly Van Loo (6-3).

"They can play so many different styles," Mathiason said. "They can full-court press or pressure in the half-court with traps. If you help too much they have so many people who can shoot the 3-pointer. They have a lot of different players who can score from various points on the floor. You can't just take one player away."

The Cheesemakers have lost three games to the Beavers the past two years, including 62-47 in the WIAA Division 2 state semifinal game last year in Green Bay. Each of Monroe's three losses have been by double digits. Former Beaver Dam standout Cassidy Trotter, who is now playing basketball at Michigan Tech, scored a game-high 23 points against the Cheesemakers in the state semifinal.

"They made it difficult for us to get good looks and shots," Mathiason said of the Beavers' defense in the state game. "They have a lot of athletes to get after you and they keep coming at you."

Mathiason doesn't plan on using last year's semifinal as any extra motivation for Saturday.

"They have new players and we have new players," he said of the makeup of this year's teams. "We will not talk about last year. We are working every day to get better."

Hilliard said the Cheesemakers will have to be ready to play at Beaver Dam's pace Saturday.

"I know they like to push it up the floor," she said. "On defense, we have to stop her (Wilke) and fight for every rebound and possession."

The Cheesemakers have won two games against Verona and Muskego without Hilliard playing due to an ankle injury. She came back and scored a game-high 31 points to help Monroe beat Milton 70-48 last week to keep a stranglehold at the top of the Badger South Conference. Mathiason likes the way the Cheesemakers have dealt with adversity.

"You don't want to wish injury on anyone, but we know some players have been in stressful situations and performed," Mathiason said. "We have played some close games and overtime games and hopefully those help us if we are in those situations again."

If the Cheesemakers can upset top-ranked Beaver Dam, it would be a huge win if both teams make it back to the state tournament. For the first time this year, coaches will seed the state tournament. If Monroe makes a state tournament run and is able to get a No. 1 or 2 seed they likely wouldn't face the Beavers until the state championship game. There are a lot of games before then and Mathiason doesn't want to look too far ahead.

"Hopefully, come Saturday we are good enough to compete and win that night," he said. "For the state tournament you don't know what four teams will be there and how that will all work out. I don't worry about that because you can only control what you control. I don't spend too much time thinking about that."