The quote Bob Maronde chose to present to his Cudahy girls basketball team prior to a sectional semifinal with New Berlin Eisenhower came from James Ramsey Ullman.
"Challenge is the core and the mainspring of all human activity. If there's an ocean, we cross it. If there's a disease, we cure it. If there's a wrong, we right it. If there's a record, we break it and, if there's a mountain, we climb it."
Cudahy is almost to the peak. The Packers moved one step closer to its first-ever state tournament appearance with a 47-45 upset over New Berlin Eisenhower in a WIAA Division 2 sectional semifinal. Lions sophomore Julia Hintz hit the front of the rim with a 3-point attempt at the buzzer.
"This group doesn't quit," Maronde said. "They've amazed me. They really have, especially tonight. Eisenhower is so well-coached. They've been here before. Our kids have no idea. They just get after it and compete. ... It just a lot of fun being around them. It is fun watching them compete. Hopefully, they don't wake up here."
A trip to Green Bay will be on the line when Cudahy (18-7) meets Wauwatosa East (19-6) in a sectional final at 1 p.m. Saturday, March 4 at Brown Deer High School. The defending state champion Lions, which entered ranked No. 7 in the Division 2 coaches poll, saw their season end at 19-6.
"We played our hearts out," Eisenhower coach Gary Schmidt said. "I'm not happy with the end result, but I'm awfully proud of my team. We weren't even picked to go this far. With Pewaukee and New Berlin West in the bracket, we were forgotten. We're happy to get this far. Cudahy wasn't picked to get here, either. I give them credit. They are playing at their pinnacle right now.
"These kids had high expectations, and rightfully so. I really think some teams overlooked us. We were playing really well. It didn't surprise me this was a white knuckler, and it turned out to be that."
Eisenhower went up, 43-42, on a basket by Katie Ludwig with 4:20 remaining. The Lions had a chance to increase their lead on the ensuing possession, but Hintz's layup attempt went around and out.
The score remained the same until Cudahy's Hannah Kulas scored inside to put the Packers in front at 45-44 with 2:20 remaining. Ludwig then knocked down two free throws to give the Lions a 46-45 lead with 1:49 remaining. Cudahy went back in front, 46-45, with 1:21 left on a difficult runner in the lane by Nicole Ferch.
Eisenhower turned the ball over on its next possession, forcing the Lions to foul multiple times to get into the bonus before sending Ferch to the free-throw line with 32.8 seconds remaining. She hit the first attempt but missed the second, giving Eisenhower a chance to tie or take the lead.
Olivia Canady, who hit a late 3-pointer to lift the Lions over Pewaukee in the regional final, got an open look at a triple but couldn't connect.
Camryn Kratt was fouled after grabbing the rebound, but she missed the front end of the bonus, keeping it at 47-45 with 20.1 seconds left. Cudahy had two fouls to give before putting the Lions in the bonus and used both, taking the clock down to 4.3 seconds in the process.
Out of a timeout, Hintz inbounded the ball to Canady, who got the ball back to the star sophomore in the corner. Hintz took one dribble to her left before launching a long 3-point try over two Packers defenders. The ball hit the front rim, and Kulas soared for the rebound as time expired.
"We talked about (using the fouls) in the huddle," Maronde said. "We made sure they knew we had to get them on the dribble. I thought they did that extremely well. We thought Hintz was going to get it, or they were going to go for the two to one of the bigs. The kids played it well. They looked a little confused, and they weren't lined up right. We were organized."
The Lions went the final 4:20 without a field goal, missing four shots and scoring just 2 points over the stretch.
"We had three good looks late," Schmidt said. "Julia had that rimmer (on the layup), Canady missed one, and then Julia had the three. Any one of those go in, and we might be talking on the other end of the spectrum. But they didn't go in."
Cudahy led, 24-16, before Eisenhower used an 8-0 run to tie the game on a 3-pointer by Canady with 4:15 left in the first half.
The Packers got baskets from Ferch and Bailey Eichner before Hintz converted a 3-point play with 4.5 seconds on the clock to cut Cudahy’s lead to 28-27 at halftime. Cudahy shot 60 percent in the first half but was hurt by nine turnovers.
Maronde is in his first season at Cudahy after spending the last four years as the boys coach at Grafton. He led the Black Hawks girls for 19 seasons before taking over the boys program, winning state championships in 2007 and 2009. In 2007, Maronde defeated Eisenhower in a sectional final by the same final score as Cudahy beat the Lions by March 2, 47-45.
The Packers will need to down Wauwatosa East in order to complete their run to state. Cudahy fell behind 29-9 at halftime en route to a 56-37 loss to the Red Raiders on Dec. 28. Since then, Cudahy is 15-2, including a current seven-game winning streak.
"We played them over break," Maronde said. "They are a good team, but it wasn't exactly our best game."