Whitewater stays on predicted course
The Whippets can share the Rock Valley North championship, their first league title since 1984, with a victory tonight over the Evansville Blue Devils.
Whitewater (19-2, 14-2) has lost twice overall, once to the other Rock North leader East Troy (19-2, 14-1) and to nonconference Lake Mills in the second game of the season.
A 6-foot-3 senior, Shelbourn signed a letter of intent to Nevada-Reno a week before the season started, and she and eight other seniors were poised to enjoy the season of their dreams.
But the dreams went up in smoke in the season opener against Delavan-Darien, or so the Whippets thought.
“It was the first minute of the first game,” Whitewater coach Judy Harms said. “A player knocked (Shelbourn) on the side (of her leg), and boom, she was done.’’
With a simple twist of fate, a torn anterior cruciate ligament robbed Shelbourn of her senior season, and doubt was cast on a promising team.
“We never had a player like Julia,” Harms said. “She was a phenomenon. We had high, high expectations.’’
As Whitewater went on to defeat Delavan-Darien, Shelbourn sat watching in the depths of despair when a ray of inspiration walked past.
“After the injury, I was still on the bench watching the game and there was nothing I could do,” Shelbourn said. “Mr. (Mike) Kilar walked by, and his son (Treyton) had been killed a year-and-a-half ago by a drunk driver.”
Shelbourn stopped thinking about herself and the impact her loss would have on the Whippets.
“At that moment, it all fell into place,” Shelbourn said. “I thought, ‘It’s just a knee.’ We all will get through this.
“It kind of put life into perspective, and I really have my whole life ahead of me.’’
Before Whitewater played Lake Mills, Shelbourn delivered a speech to the Whippets that blew the room away.
“She gave a speech to our team that was unbelievable,” Harms said. “For a high school girl, Julia is very mature and articulate, and everybody was crying before it was done.’’
Schelbourn spoke from the heart, reminding the team she had simply injured her knee and that basketball was just a game.
“I told them about Mr. Kilar walking by and there is more to life than just basketball,” Schelbourn said. “There is so much more to remember, and moping about (the injury) is not going to make a difference.”
Schelbourn challenged the Whippets to stand up tall.
“I wanted them to believe in themselves,” Schelbourn said. “I didn’t want them to have a look on their face that the season is over. I didn’t want them to look at it that way.’’
Inspired, the Whippets wore shooting shirts in practice with Schelbourn’s No. 24. The team moved on.
Sophomore 5-10 point guard Brooke Trewyn and senior 5-10 forward Molly Griep are the one-two punch. Trewyn is averaging a team-leading 16.4 points, and Griep is second with 10.6 points per game.
Whitewater won 13 straight after losing to Lake Mills and has won four straight since losing 78-73 to East Troy in a rematch Feb. 9.
As for Schelbourn, she gives the team pep talks and is front and center at every game. She has gained perspective, but it still hurts to be a spectator.
“It’s been really hard for her,” Harms said. “She’s stayed away from practice and comes to the games, but it is hard for her not to be on the court.’’
“It kills me to watch my team play. …” said Schelbourn, who is expected to be fully recovered by June and ready to practice with Nevada-Reno in July. “I can’t get in there and be with everyone.’’
Even from the sidelines, though, Schelbourn’s speech rings in the Whippets’ ears.