Next year, when she's routinely clicking off 250 to 300-yard drives for the University of Denver womens' golf team, Nicolet's two-time state golf champion Tory Bauman will likely take a moment and remember the previous winter, specifically Feb. 19, when she and the Knights youthful girls basketball team claimed a share of the North Shore Conference title.
"Everything just paid off," she said after host Nicolet routed Whitefish Bay 49-24, to earn the tie with Grafton. "I really couldn't ask for anything more. I'm kind of speechless."
Especially afterward, when as the team's only senior, she was feted with balloons, plaques, flowers and corny speeches from her mostly freshmen and sophomore teammates.
With the win, the Knights, who also defeated Germantown 41-31, on Feb. 17, finished the North Shore season at 12-2 in league and 14-6 overall. They went into the WIAA state playoffs with a six-game winning streak. Grafton finished up at 12-2 and 18-2, respectively. Bay, which saw its four-game winning streak snapped, concluded the regular season at 4-10 and 9-11, respectively.
The night also had special meaning for sophomore guard Gaby Bronson, as she became the second-generation of her athetically-minded clan to lay claim to conference hoops honors. Her aunts Lindsay and Corey Bronson helped author five North Shore titles between 1994-1999.
That's the same Corey Bronson Wolf who is currently the coach at Nicolet.
"We worked hard as a team for a common goal," Gaby said, "and we really earned this. I really love playing for this team and everyone on it. We just have so much fun together and yes, I do love playing for her too (Wolf)."
For Wolf, the title all came down to how well the young Knights handled the brutally difficult non-conference schedule she laid at their feet to begin the season. Losses to state powers like Brookfield Central, DSHA, Muskego and defending state champion Milwaukee Vincent toughened Nicolet and honed its edge for a run at the North Shore title.
"Those non-conference games really showed us who we were as a team," she said. "Sure we lost all of them, but in each case we battled back and fought and fought and fought. That showed me a lot. That showed me that these kids don't quit."
And on a night where both the Bay and Nicolet teams were donning pink warm-up t-shirts and there was a box by the ticket takers desk asking for donations for breast cancer awareness, the Knights came out of the gate against the Blue Dukes with a survivors' mentality.
With five different players scoring, they forced turnovers, grabbed rebounds and never let Bay get into sync, grabbing a 16-4 first quarter lead. The advantage dropped below double digits only once in the third quarter and then Nicolet ended any drama with a 7-0 run.
Blue Duke coach Greg Capper, who was without second-leading scorer Jessica Switzer because of a sprained ankle, was impressed by the Knights' effort.
"The night certainly belonged to Nicolet and Coach Wolf," he said. "They were well-prepared and completely outplayed us. ..Our girls were passionate and emotional in the lockerroom (afterwards) and we'll try to channel that emotion into some future development."
Alex Cohen had 12 points and Gaby Bronson and Ashley Green 10 apiece for the Knights while Olivia Hoff dominated scoring for the Blue Dukes with 15.
Wolf was gratified for Bauman, who made sacrifices to be with the team this winter and was also heartily pleased for the team itself.
"A lot of kids may not have chosen to do what Tory did (come back to the sport after taking time away from it)," Wolf said. "She and the rest of the kids worked so hard for this. They worked hard on their games afterschool and in the summer. Those are things people don't see and they (the players) don't know if that kind of effort will pay off in the end."
"This time it did."
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