Right now is an exciting time to be part of the Reedsburg girls basketball program.
The 17-1 Beavers stand two games from a WIAA Division 2 state tournament berth, heading into a Thursday sectional semifinal at home against Wilmot (12-10). They're ranked third in the state by The Associated Press. And the future looks exceedingly bright with a varsity roster made up of 10 juniors, two sophomores and one freshman.
“We’ve had one goal in mind, and that’s what we’ve been working for: To make state,” said junior forward Trenna Cherney, Reedsburg’s second-leading scorer (15.0 points per game).
This weekend — and, they hope next — have loomed large in the Reedsburg players' minds for years, as they shoot for the program's first state berth since 2012.
Head coach Mark Simon, in his 15th year, has led the program through growing pains over the years. The Beavers placed fourth in the Badger North Conference last year, after back-to-back runner-up finishes.
“We made it to the regional final last year, and we had an eight-point lead against an Oregon team that ended up making the state tournament,” Simon said. “We were competitive in our defeats. … We’ve had some tough losses, but I think we grew a lot over the years and gained some valuable experience.”
That experience is showing up during a season that saw them start 6-0 before a 63-60 loss to two-time defending Division 2 state champion Beaver Dam — a team that beat Reedsburg by 48, 41 and 38 points in recent meetings.
Since that loss, Reedsburg has won 11 straight games — by an average victory margin of 37.3 points.
During this season of COVID-19, in which only recently parents have been allowed into games, the team invented a new ritual. Each player runs up to the camera that’s streaming the game so they can wave to those at home.
A swift rise like this can't be attributed to the contribution of one or two players.
“Our whole team in general (has stepped up),” said Reedsburg’s leading scorer, Mahra Wieman (20.8 ppg). “When one of our starters (McKenzie Bestor) went down with a torn (anterior cruciate ligament in a knee) at the beginning of the season, we all stepped up. We know our roles, and we do our roles really well.”
And it doesn't hurt to be playing alongside your best friends.
“We’re not just teammates, we’re family. We do everything together,” Cherney said.
Bestor, before her injury the team’s starting point guard and still a team captain, was hurt in the fourth game of the season. She underwent surgery on a Tuesday and was back supporting the team the following Thursday.
Later in the season, the team rallied around Mahra Wieman when she scored her 1,000th career point in a victory over Baraboo. Immediately after the layup and ensuing timeout, the team mobbed her — led by her twin, Macie Wieman, who was first to jump on top of her.
“I wouldn’t have gotten there without my teammates, obviously, passing me the ball and getting me the ball in situations to score,” Wieman said. “So when they ran up to me it was almost like 'we did it,' instead of 'I did it.'”
“Mahra is a really efficient player," Simon said. "She shoots the ball extremely well. She shot (47.8 percent this year) from 3-point range, so she’s a fantastic shooter. And free throws, she’s shot close to 80 percent. She can handle the ball,” Simon detailed.
“She’s rebounded much better this year, and I think that’s provided some offense for her. She’s on a team that really looks to find her. … She has a scoring mentality, and the thing with Mahra is she’s been really consistent."
Simon pointed out that Wieman has hit the 1,000-point mark as a junior, despite missing nine games with a shoulder injury as a freshman and eight games this year due to COVID-19's effect on scheduling.
It also helps Mahra Wieman to have her twin sister, Macie, at her side on the court and through life. They've played together since third grade.
“It’s really special to me because obviously, when we go to college, we’re not going to be together,” Mahra Wieman said. “And that’s just another way we can connect. She’s probably one of the best passers on the team. So when she passes me the ball and I score, and our announcer says ‘the Wieman to Wieman Connection,’ it just makes me feel really special.”
“She’s just a phenomenal player and can do whatever she wants. Her game has grown a lot and it’s fun to watch,” said Macie Wieman, who averages 4.1 points and, according to her sister, "is probably the best defender and passer on our team."
Their one-on-one battles in practice sometimes get to the point where their coach has to remind them to settle down.
“We try to push each other,” Macie said. “I make sure to encourage her when she isn’t shooting as well. ‘Get out of your head, you’re fine,’ I’ve said in the past.”
For as much success as the team is having this season, the group of juniors will be able to run it back for one more run next season.
“We’re excited because we’ve been working for this for I don’t know how long. And just the fact that we’re all juniors, sophomores and freshmen is just crazy because we still have one more year together,” Mahra Wieman said.
“This is the time everyone kind of cranks it up and pays attention, further into the playoffs," Simon said. "You could sense it with our regional championship last night. The excitement that our players had and to share that moment together is something that I think they’ll remember for a long time.