Second-ranked Brodhead gears up for top-ranked Neillsville

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John Barry
Thursday, March 20, 2014

BRODHEAD--Brad Pickett's message to his team before the start of the season was a simple one.

The Brodhead High girls basketball coach told his players, “Don't be afraid to be great.”

Message received.

Brodhead breezed to its third straight Rock Valley South title and earned the school's first trip to the state tournament. The second-ranked Cardinals are a perfect 26-0 heading into Friday's WIAA Division 3 state semifinal game against top-ranked Neillsville (26-0) at 10:45 a.m.

“We talk about that every night, and that there's nothing wrong with going undefeated and winning every game,” Pickett said. “It's exciting. Is there pressure to it? Yes. But there's nothing wrong with that. Don't be afraid of it.

“And so far, they've answered every challenge put in front of them.”

The Cardinals' biggest challenge is yet to come. Neillsville has been the top-ranked team in the state the entire season and is making its third straight state-tournament appearance. The Warriors won the Division 4 state title in 2012.

UW-Milwaukee recruit Jenny Lindner leads Neillsville with a 16.6 points-per-game average. Standing 6 feet tall, Lindner is the biggest guard Brodhead has seen all season.

“I've played against her in AAU,” Brodhead senior Carly Mohns said of Lindner. “She's a really good player, but they have a couple of other ones, too.

“We have to just keep doing what we've been doing all season. We're playing with a lot of confidence right now, and we've played a really tough schedule, too. That has made us a better team.”

Brodhead has wins this season over Division 1 school Madison La Follette and Division 2 school and Badger South Conference runner-up Oregon. It also handed Division 4 state entrant Cuba City its only loss of the season.

The Cardinals are led by Mohns, a University of Iowa recruit, and her 17.7 scoring average, but they have plenty of other options on offense. Sophomore Kylie Moe and senior Rachel Heller are both averaging more than 10 points per game for a team that scores more than 60.

When Heller, Mohns and senior Meg Duffield were in eighth grade, they were managers on Pickett's first team in 2010. The trio has been playing together on the same team since second grade and would like nothing better than to go out with a gold ball.

“We talk about almost every single day how we want to get to that state championship,” Heller said. “That has been our No. 1 goal, and we're headed in the right direction.

“There's been so much pressure this season and the expectations were so high, we didn't want to let anyone down. The only way to do that was to bring home a gold ball, and that is what has pushed us each and every day.”

The Cardinals have been on cruise control all season. Only four of their 26 wins have been by 10 points or less, including a 27-point win against a solid Oregon team and a 16-point win against La Follette.

Pickett's preseason message has carried over into what has been an unforgettable season.

The Cardinals aren't afraid to be great. They've only been afraid of losing. They've got two games left to make sure that doesn't happen.

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