Three years ago, UW-Whitewater women’s basketball coach Keri Carollo was pounding the scorers table in frustration while her young team struggled through an uncharacteristic mediocre season.
Now Carollo’s three seniors are cutting down nets and celebrating a Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship.
The Warhawks pummeled UW-Platteville 77-42 on Wednesday night at Kachel Gym to clinch the league title outright.
Senior guard Malia Smith had a game-high 15 points, while senior and Whitewater High graduate Brooke Trewyn added 14. The starting guards also spearheaded a relentless full-court press that forced 35 turnovers to help Whitewater (21-3, 11-2) secure the top seed in the WIAC tournament next week.
Whitewater will host the lowest remaining seed in the semifinals of the six-team conference tournament next Thursday. A semifinal victory would give Whitewater the chance to host the tournament championship game two days later.
“This one was really special,” said Carollo, who won her fifth conference championship as Warhawks coach. “For this senior group, from the time they were freshmen, to reach this goal that they’ve had since they were freshmen is rewarding for me as a coach.”
It’s also rewarding for Smith, Trewyn and senior Andrea Meinert, who struggled to figure things out early in their careers.
“It’s definitely a great feeling to go out like this my senior year,” Trewyn said.
“Coming in as a freshman we were pretty bad, so it’s awesome to see how much we’ve grown the last four years.”
The Warhawks’ growth was on display from the opening tip, as Smith and Trewyn immediately went to work terrorizing the Pioneers ballhandlers en route to a 14-6 lead midway through the first quarter.
The Pioneers’ disastrous evening worsened in the second quarter during a Warhawks 15-0 run that increased the advantage to 32-14.
“You just want to keep it going, and once you get on a roll you want to keep that momentum,” said Smith, whose team forced 66 turnovers in two games against Platteville this season. “You don’t’ want to give them any chance to come back, and you want to keep stepping on their throats and keep going.”
Smith and the Warhawks never let up. They stormed out of the locker room after halftime with a 13-1 run to lead 52-26.
The margin ballooned to as much as 37 late in the fourth quarter while the Warhawks seniors spent a large portion of the second half leading the cheers from the bench and enjoying their moment of redemption.
“It takes everyone buying in. believing in each other,” Carollo said. “It’s something we always try to teach and some groups of players figure it out and run with it, while others struggle with it. And this group realized this probably by their junior year.”
UW-WHITEWATER 77, UW-PLATTEVILLE 42
UW-Platteville (42)—Prestegaard 5-4-14, Macomber 3-4-10, Tipton 2-2-6, Clemons 2-0-4, Williams 1-2-4, Buchholz 0-2-2, Kownlton 0-1-1, Domask 0-1-1. Totals: 13-16-42.
UW-Whitewater (77)—M. Smith 4-6-15, Trewyn 5-4-14, Freckmann 3-1-7, Taylor 3-0-6, S. Schumacher 3-0-6, Rosencrants 2-0-5, Raeder 2-0-4, Martinelli 1-2-4, Conley 1-2-4, Meinert 2-0-4, S. Smith 1-0-3, Foster 1-0-2, E. Schumacher 1-0-2, Vainisi 0-1-1. Totals: 29-16-77.
UW-Platteville 14 11 7 10—42
UW-Whitewater 18 21 24 14—77
3-point goals—P 0, W 3 (Rosencrants, S. Smith, M. Smith). Free throws missed—P 10, W 5. Total fouls—P 16, W 25.