Goodhue girls basketball coach Josh Wieme hesitated to say it after Thursday's dominant 75-49 performance against Stewartville, so I'll do it for him — that was the best his team has played since he took over three years ago. It was so good, in fact, that Craig Swalboski might have reconsidered his column from earlier this week had he seen it.
That should be a scary thought for other Class A teams around the state. Consider the circumstances:
- The HVL Blue Division championship has become a secondary goal, rather than the primary objective. Goodhue finished tied for fourth — out of seven — in 2008-09, but hasn't dropped a division game since that 7-5 finish. That mark goes on the line again Friday against second-place Kenyon-Wanamingo, where Wieme's younger brother is the assistant coach.
- The Wildcats have improved each season under Wieme, despite graduating who many considered the program's leader. Erin Gadient helped guide the program to its first-ever (UPDATE: second ever — I forgot the Sue Fiero-led 1995-96 squad) state berth in 2008-09 and Grace Majerus was the team's vocal leader in 2009-10 when it lost 43-31 in the state title game. Seniors Courtney Hinsch, Anne Lodermeier and Chanel Robert are hoping to be the only Class A team to end this season with a win.
- Goodhue has gone to state each of the last two years, including a earning berth in the title game last season. They advanced last season despite Hinsch playing the entire postseason — including three games in three days at state — on a broken leg, which required surgery shortly after the season finished.
There's no a big secret to the team's success this year. In three separate conversations after Thursday's victory, three different Wildcats told me essentially the same thing — the end result is all anyone cares about. Having multiple players who can post big numbers based on match-ups helps, obviously.
Coach Josh Wieme
"The recipe for success is balance. Anne got hot, Courtney hit a couple shots, Erica (Tipcke) was scoring, Chanel put some in, Mikayla (Miller) took a few to the basket. When everybody is clicking, we're tough to stop. And no one cares who's doing it. When no one cares who does well, we all do well."
Junior Erica Tipcke, on Lodermeier's three second-half 3-pointers
"It was a spark, for sure. She kept popping and and bringing a little more excitement, popping and getting us even more excited. That was a lot of fun."
Senior Anne Lodermeier on her offensive approach
"I personally feel a killer assist feels just as good as a great shot. On offense, my job is just to make sure the ball goes through the hoop. I don't care if I'm the one shooting it or the one passing it."
For all the synergy the Wildcats displayed Thursday — particularly with a swarming defensive effort that included 20 steals — it hasn't always been a smooth ride. Various crack have appeared during the current 11-game winning streak, which prompted Wieme to admit the season has been full of "peaks and valleys," particularly as he's tried to work freshmen Mikayla Miller and Mikayla Tipcke into the rotation.
The Wildcats hope that roller-coaster ride is now over.
"It was really exciting to see us come together," Erica Tipcke said. "We definitely hit a new level tonight. We've always been a good team, but now we're meshing. You know your teammates are going to be there, have your back. I mean, they always had them covered — but now we know they're covered."
While the subsection tournament appears to be Goodhue's to win for the third straight year — Glenville-Emmons and Lyle/Pacelli, the other top two contenders, were both trounced by 25+ against Spring Grove — Thursday provided a glimpse of this team's massive potential.
Living up to it on a nightly basis remains the challenge, particularly with fourth-ranked Spring Grove potentially waiting in the section finals.
"More than anything, it reminds us what we're capable of," Wieme said.
~ By Brett Boese