Regis' Bowe top player
Although it ultimately didn't lead to another state title, Eau Claire Regis' Heather Bowe had one of the biggest moments of last week's state tournament.
The senior forward hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer in a Division 4 semifinal game against Oshkosh Lourdes, sending the game into overtime. It might have been the biggest shot of her life, but she was so pumped up with adrenalin that she barely remembers anything beyond turning to her teammates and thinking, "Did that just happen?"
Despite Bowe's 32 points, Regis lost the game in overtime, missing out on a chance to repeat last year's title. But Bowe still had a standout season, earning recognition as the 2012 Associated Press Wisconsin girls' basketball player of the year from a statewide panel of media members.
And as she prepares to make the jump to college basketball—at Vanderbilt, after being turned away by Wisconsin—she walks away from her high school career with great memories.
"Even after we lost, we said we had a lot to be thankful for," Bowe said.
Also nominated for the award were New Berlin Eisenhower's Nicole Bauman and Sydney Tepley of Racine St. Catherine's.
Kelly McNiff claimed coach of the year honors after leading De Pere to the Division 1 championship.
Also nominated for coach of the year were John Gaier of Neillsville, New London's Troy Krause, Alison Fett of Oshkosh Lourdes and Terry Bennett of Heritage Christian.
McNiff was elated that her team's defense-oriented approach proved to be a winning formula.
"Very rewarding," McNiff said. "Just to look at where we started—and how we came together."
De Pere started the season with high expectations but got off to a 4-4 start.
"The season, it kind of started out a little rocky," McNiff said. "We put together a tough schedule—for a reason."
The disappointing start prompted De Pere's captains to gather the team for a players-only meeting, exactly what McNiff was looking for.
"Absolutely," she said. "It felt like we as a staff were saying the same things over and over."
Things took off from there and De Pere made a charge to the state tournament, where they beat Milwaukee King in the Division 1 final.
"I think everyone got on the same page and realized it was going to take a lot of hard work," McNiff said.
Perhaps the most impressive part of their championship season was that they really didn't have any star players.
"We don't need to rely on one or two players," McNiff said.
It was McNiff's third season at De Pere. Given the fact that she also works as a middle school teacher, McNiff said working with her team at practice can be a respite from her occasionally restless students.
"It is a nice change of pace," she said.
Meanwhile, Bowe's senior season didn't end with a championship. After last season's title, Bowe said Regis players felt more pressure going into this season.
"We definitely had a target on our back most of the year," Bowe said.
Now she's preparing to play at Vanderbilt, even if that wasn't the original plan.
Bowe initially committed to Wisconsin. But after Badgers coach Lisa Stone was fired last year, new coach Bobbie Kelsey rescinded the scholarship offer.
"I guess that everything happens for a reason," Bowe said. "That was my whole dream, to play in Madison."
In hindsight, Bowe acknowledges that being turned away by Wisconsin was tough to take.
"My confidence definitely sunk that night," Bowe said.
But it didn't take long for other major programs to show interest—first Wisconsin-Green Bay and Marquette, then other schools from around the country. The interest from Vanderbilt was especially enticing.
"I'm like, 'Wow, that's big time,'" Bowe said.
After getting to know Vanderbilt's coaches and players, Bowe knew it was the right place for her.
For now, Bowe is working on skills she'll need at the next level. She hopes to improve her lateral quickness to help her perimeter defense, and will continue to work on her shooting.
And while she enjoyed her high school days, Bowe already is looking forward to taking summer classes and training at Vanderbilt this summer.
"I'm definitely ready to move on," Bowe said.
AP ALL-STATE GIRLS TEAM
Heather Bowe, 6-0, sr., Eau Claire Regis
Nicole Bauman, 5-10, sr., New Berlin Eisenhower
Sydney Tepley, 6-2, sr., Racine St. Catherine's
Morgan Blumer, 5-11, jr., Milton
Gabbi Ortiz, 5-7, so., The Prairie School, Racine
Brittney Fair, 5-8, sr., Nicolet
Arike Ogunbowale, 5-9, fr., Divine Savior Holy Angels
Alexis Eckles, 5-10, sr., Milwaukee King
Terri Bender, 5-7 sr., Milwaukee Pius XI
Tara Knapstein, 5-10, sr., New London
Taylor Varsho, 5-6, sr., Marshfield
Jenny Smith, 6-2, sr., Hartland Arrowhead
Jazmine Harris, 6-0, jr., Milwaukee Heritage Christian
Dilonna Johnson, 5-7, sr., Whitefish Bay Dominican
Alexis Lindstrom, 5-7, sr., Howards Grove
Jordyn Swan, 6-0, sr., Pewaukee
Asia Mosley, 6-0, sr., Racine Case
Makailah Dyer, 6-0, sr., Madison East
Breanna Gaspervich, 5-6, jr., East Troy
Taylor Gradinjan, 5-10, sr., Cudahy
Nafeshia Holifield, sr., Milwaukee Vincent; Avyanna Young, sr., Milwaukee King; Taylor Gradinjan, sr.,Cudahy; Deysha Smith-Jenkins, sr., Whitefish Bay Dominican; Mehryn Kraker, sr., West Allis Central; Jessica Mlachnik, sr., Muskego; Stephanie Rank, sr., Waterford; Lana Wieseman, sr., Lake Geneva Badger; Eileen VanHorn, sr., Waukesha South; Allie Hocking, sr., Burlington Catholic Central
Jen Wellnitz, so., Black Hawk; Breland Prochaska, sr., Fennimore; Katelynn Hoppman, sr., Southwestern; Kim Albrecht, sr., Deerfield; Kelsey Collins, sr., Richland Center; Ellen Kiser, Sr., Juda; Ashley Bartow, sr., Verona; Sam Murray, jr., Waunakee; Taylor Nelson, so., Monona Grove; Madeline Staples, sr., Middleton; Samantha Terry, jr., Baraboo
Morgan Banasik, sr., Prairie du Chien; Kalli Boland, sr., Seneca; Jenny Gallagher, sr., Aquinas; Abby Midtlien, jr., Westby; Caitlyn Russell, jr., Holmen; Abbie Hein, jr., Eau Claire Immanuel Lutheran; Jenny Lindner, so., Neillsville; Caitlin Maki, sr., Hurley; Katie Stone, sr., Eau Claire Regis; Sarah Connolly, sr., Newman Catholic; Renee Sladek, so., Merrill
Nicole Slovensky, sr., Wisconsin Rapids; Taylor Kuhn, sr., Medford; Heather Woyak, jr., SPASH; Kylie Moxley, sr., Brillion; Allison LeClaire, so., Green Bay Notre Dame; Kenzie Perttu, sr., Green Bay Preble; Alayna Cotter, sr., De Pere; Marissa Michalkiewicz, sr., Appleton East; Lexy Petermann, sr., Oshkosh Lourdes; Taylor Vander Plas, sr., Ripon; Krista Kadow, sr., Mishicot; Emily Neitzel, sr., Lomira; Katie Hansen, sr., Waupun
Player of the Year—Heather Bowe, Eau Claire Regis
Coach of the Year—Kelly McNiff, DePere