BEAVER DAM — Prior to Tuesday night’s Badger North Conference meeting with DeForest, Beaver Dam girls basketball coach Tim Chase talked to his team about maintaining the program’s outstanding tradition.
Critical areas Chase pinpointed included playing tenacious defense and working to improve each day and every game.
Beaver Dam, top-ranked in The Associated Press’ Division 2 poll and the three-time defending D2 state champion, relied on its stifling defense and patience, precise cuts and sharp passing on offense in pulling away for a 62-40 victory over fourth-ranked DeForest in a battle between league leaders.
“Coach Chase talked to us before the game about the Beaver Dam legacy and just being part of that, and the culture we have built, and how big the game was,” Beaver Dam junior guard Maty Wilke said. “DeForest is a great team, they are well-coached and they just play very hard. He just told us to come out and compete and have fun.”
Junior guard Natalie Jens scored a game-high 21 points, senior forward Carley Burchardt had 13 points and 6-foot freshman forward Kylie Wittnebel had 10 points off the bench for the Golden Beavers (10-2, 6-0 Badger North), who seized sole possession of first place.
“We knew our defense was most important, and talking and just playing as a team,” Jens said. “And I think we really showed that.”
Beaver Dam has won 34 consecutive regular-season conference games since joining the Badger North during the 2017-18 season and 78 straight conference games overall. The Beavers were undefeated in their final three seasons in Little Ten Conference regular-season games and had won 44 consecutive Little Ten games since losing to Wisconsin Lutheran on Feb. 21, 2014.
The heavily recruited Wilke, who’s been the Beavers’ top scorer this season, was limited to six points. But Wilke had seven assists, five rebounds and three steals, while 6-3 junior forward Paige Hodgson grabbed eight rebounds.
“(Wilke) seems to find a way to fill a stat sheet, no matter how — whether she is scoring or assists or defensively,” DeForest coach Jerry Schwenn said.
Senior forward Megan Mickelson led the Norskies (9-2, 5-1) with 11 points. Wilke and UW-Milwaukee commit Jada Donaldson led a defensive effort that held DeForest’s top scorers, senior guard Maggie Trautsch (four points) and junior forward Grace Roth (two points), to six points — 23.2 below their combined average per game.
“I thought it was a strong defensive performance for us tonight,” Chase said. “Offensively, I think we can play much better.”
Burchardt, Donaldson and Jens made 3-pointers in the first 2 minutes, 56 seconds as Beaver Dam opened the game with nine unanswered points against DeForest’s 2-3 zone.
The Norskies responded with six consecutive points, but the Beavers countered with a 9-0 run and took an 18-6 lead.
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DeForest later cut a 14-point deficit to nine at halftime. After falling behind by 15, the Norskies rallied within 36-27 with 9:52 to play. Beaver Dam then went on a 15-0 run — beginning with Donaldson’s 3-pointer and Jens’ three-point play — and opened a 51-27 lead.
“That was a critical part of the game,” Schwenn said. “Obviously, a lot of credit to them for their on-the-ball defense and their defense in general, but I thought that was an opportunity for us to maybe close the gap in the game. Unfortunately, things didn’t go our way right there.”
Said the 5-7 Jens about the 15-0 run: “It was our defense. We turned it into offense. That’s our game.”
The Beavers, whose two losses this season were to out-of-state teams, now have won 82 consecutive games against teams from Wisconsin.
“We have a shorter bench (this season), but I think we work just as hard,” Jens said. “We just want to get better and I think we are doing that. We are working hard in practice every day.”
Said Chase: “The bar is set high. This group just has to keep working and getting better every day. That’s really all that they can control and that’s what they have to do.”
DeForest 19 21 — 40
Beaver Dam 28 34 — 62
DEFOREST — Hahn 0 2-2 2, Laufenberg 1 0-0 3, Compe 3 0-0 7, Roth 1 0-0 2, Trautsch 1 2-2 4, Hardiman 1 0-0 2, Derlein 2 2-3 7, Tschumper 1 0-0 2, Mickelson 4 2-5 11. Totals 14 8-12 40.
BEAVER DAM — Jens 7 5-5 21, Burchardt 6 0-0 13, Wittnebel 5 0-0 10, Wilke 2 2-2 6, Donaldson 2 0-0 6, Hodgson 1 0-0 3, Stonewall 1 1-2 3. Totals 24 8-9 62.
3-point goals — D 4 (Laufenberg 1, Compe 1, Derlein 1, Mickelson 1); BD 6 (Jens 2, Donaldson 2, Burchardt 1, Hodgson 1). Total fouls — D 11; BD 9.
Photos: Beaver Dam 62, DeForest 40