Cudahy girls basketball coach Bob Maronde sat down at the table for his team’s postgame press conference and opened by saying 10 words: “I guess you could say it was midnight for Cinderella.”
Heading into Saturday’s WIAA Division 2 state championship game, Cudahy had already knocked off four higher-seeded teams in the postseason. The Packers’ biggest challenge of the playoffs and the entire season came against unbeaten and No. 1-ranked Beaver Dam in the last game of the year.
Cudahy came out strong by scoring the game’s first 10 points, but Beaver Dam used a 22-3 run to start to pull away en route to a 52-33 victory Saturday night at the Resch Center.
“I thought we came out extremely well,” Maronde said. “Our defense was right there. We gave them a lot of problems defensively. Our help-side (defense) kept the ball out of the post. Offensively, we attacked well with a lot of confidence. Up (12-3) at one point, then we got a little nervous and turnovers happened, and once you do that against Beaver Dam, you’re in a lot of trouble, because they’re just going to keep getting after you. They just come in waves, and for those minutes, we didn’t handle it well.
“I thought in the second half, we came out much better. Unfortunately, the score stayed 8 points, 32-24, for the longest time. We had opportunities, I thought we did things to score. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the finishes and then the floodgates opened toward the end.”
Beaver Dam (28-0) used its stifling, relentless defense to cause 23 Cudahy turnovers and limit the Packers to 21.1 field-goal shooting in the second half.
“That’s kind of who we are,” Beaver Dam coach Tim Chase said. “We try to switch of defenses and try to cause havoc.”
Those different styles of defenses gave Cudahy fits at times.
“What they do is they throw a variety of different traps and defenses at you and they gamble a lot,” Maronde said. “You hesitate, you’re in trouble. And if you rush, you’re in trouble. It wasn’t anything specifically they did, that’s their game. That’s what they do, and we needed to protect the ball a little bit better. We needed to play at our pace.”
Cudahy (20-8) came out gunning in the opening minutes, going up 10-0 as Nicole Ferch tallied the first 5 points. The Packers, winners of nine games in a row heading into the championship, led 17-9 before Beaver Dam roared back.
“I just think we went too fast,” said Ferch, a senior. “Once we got the 10-point lead, everyone was just super hyped up. We were like, ‘OK, this is happening. We got it. We’re in it.’ And then we went too fast; we lost control.”
Bailey Eichner picked up her third foul with 6:23 remaining in the first half and had to take a seat on the bench. Beaver Dam took advantage with Cudahy’s main offensive weapon out of the game, going on a 12-3 spurt.
“We need Bailey on the floor,” Maronde said. “And Bailey’s had two fouls early before. ... The third foul was because Bailey’s an amazing competitor. And we needed a basket, so Bailey was going to get it at any cost. Unfortunately, the cost was her third foul.”
The Golden Beavers turned an 8-point deficit into a 10-point lead as Cudahy had six straight turnovers – 16 for the entire half -- while trying to solve Beaver Dam’s full-court press. Cudahy hit one field goal in the final 7 minutes, 34 seconds of the half and trailed 30-22 at the break.
Ferch nailed a 3-pointer early in the second half to pull her team within seven, 34-27. But then Beaver Dam closed out the game on an 18-6 run.
Cudahy could only muster 11 second-half points and was 4-for-19 from the field.
Ferch scored a game-high 14 points for Cudahy. Aly Van Loo and Tara Stauffacher each had 12 points for Beaver Dam.
After winning two state titles in Grafton in 2007 and 2009, Maronde stepped into the Cudahy job in the fall and orchestrated the best season in program history. It was a storybook run for the coach and his players.
“I’ve been coaching for a lot of years, and I’ve had a lot of really good teams over the years and a lot of really good players, I’ve never had a group like this,” Maronde said. “I went home after the first practice and spent many wee hours trying to figure out what we going on. But this group of girls bought into what we were asking them to do, and they improved, their basketball IQ improved, and when that happened, great things started.”
The Cudahy players couldn’t believe how successful of a season they pieced together, especially after a 2-4 start to the year.
“We weren’t even picked to make it past the second round of regionals,” Eichner said. “We came together as a team, I think. We pushed together and we listened to our coaches and got this far. I’m truly grateful for everything that happened.”