Amherst Falcons Girls Basketball Team Places 2nd at 2018 WIAA Tourney

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Photos by Tim Koll of TKoll Photography.

The Amherst Falcons girls basketball team placed second at the 2018 WIAA Girls Basketball Division III Championship, which took place Saturday, March 10 at the Resch Center in Ashwaubenon, Wisconsin.

The Amherst Falcons had their first appearance at state back in 2009 and although the team did not snap up the gold trophy this year, [that honor went to the Marshall Cardinals with a 63-55 victory] they did snag silver, which the team said is still a laudable achievement.

“At the moment, I was speechless and I was sad too at the same time because I knew I was done with high school and I was done playing with these girls and these girls I’ve been with for a long time, so it was sad at the moment but I was happy with it,” Amherst Falcons senior post player, Heather Pearson said. “We got [coach] Jensen his first win at state and that’s one of the biggest things I wanted to do.”

Gregg Jensen, coach of the Amherst Falcons girls basketball team said making it to state and placing second was quite an accomplishment given the scope of the number of teams competing and the hard work and discipline that is required to prepare for the championship March Madness game.

“There’s a lot of great players and a lot of great coaches that never made it that far and it’s something special,” Jensen said. “They’re always going to have something in the trophy case with their name on it, which is kind of real cool beside their conference championships.”

And like all success stories, their journey to state really was no walk in the park. Players said they had to remain positive, persevere and be determined to get to the state championship despite people’s doubts, even after moving up a division.

“There’s lots of people over the season that told me they didn’t think we were going to make it very far in playoffs and it really showed,” Pearson said. “And I’ve been told through the years too that we weren’t a very good team and I’ve told them, ‘we have some really special girls on this team and we have some talent and it’s going to come through sooner or later’ and I’m happy it finally came through with my senior year.”

The Amherst Falcons also strengthened their talons this year, when they clawed their way back to victory after defeating their rival, the Wrightstown Tigers, a team that had beaten them the previous year.

“It was a great feeling just having everybody there cheering us on,” junior post player Lauren Boelte said. “I just remember walking out of the locker room after we’re done and so many people came up to us and said ‘Oh, good job, you guys really did well’ and also, I’d have to say going to state because we juniors have been dreaming about this since we started basketball in the third grade. And just ‘wow, we actually made it.’ We’re actually a good team and just the memories and friendships that we built.”

Employees of Blenker Companies, a building solutions provider, were a few of the people in the crowd from the Amherst, Wisconsin area that were there to cheer the team on at the 2018 WIAA Girls Basketball Division III Championship.

“Congratulations to the Amherst girls basketball team,” Mark Robinson, residential team leader at Blenker Building Systems said. “The commitment, fortitude and sacrifices made by the coaches, players and families who foster a culture needed to rise to the top are very commendable. Team sports enhance character building: traits that are learned and can be re-purposed for future use in life. These girls now fully understand that hard work pays off. They know how important each and every role on a team can be impactful, no matter what that role is. They value achievement through contribution and accountability. They are prepared to succeed.”

The Amherst Falcons said their success can be traced to successful team core values that they implemented. These include discipline, staying focused on the task at hand, remaining driven, having good chemistry between each other and “owning it” on the court.

“Like coach Jensen says, ‘players are made in the off season’ and we all definitely put time in the off season,” junior shooting guard Lindsay Dose said. “We worked hard during season two. We all came in, whenever we could, to shoot around: just work on our game and discipline: knowing [that] ‘you need to get better to be able to play with these girls’ because your weakest link is what you really are: you’re never the strongest, if you have one weak person.”

If it was hard work and discipline that strengthened the links between the Amherst Falcons, it was team camaraderie that held the team together.

“I think one thing that is important is their ability to get along,” Jensen said. “And I think this team showed that they got along well on the floor. They don’t have to be all hugs off the floor but on the floor, you’ve got to love one another and enjoy being with one another.”

These words of wisdom come from coach Jensen’s own experience as a player and helping others out, a favor, he said he wanted to return, when he filled the shoes as coach of the team.

And when he filled those shoes as the coach, he said what leadership traits he took with him were having confidence in his team members and being cognizant of how they could work together to achieve success.

And when he filled those shoes as the coach, he said what leadership traits he took with him were having confidence in his team members and being cognizant of how they could work together to achieve success.

“Have the ball in the right people’s hands at the right time and then believing in those people,” Jensen said. “I think that is the key and that’s one of the reasons why we do the things we do on offense is that come late in the game are certain people that can handle it and some that certainly can’t and the ones that can: we definitely want in at those stages, depending on what they do to us…”

Coach Jensen’s skills to get his team members to listen to each other and his foresight to guide them, either through demonstration or vocals were also instrumental in his success this season.

One of those vocalizations that could be heard on the court this past season were “own your head,” code words that meant to not let things get the best of you.

“He who angers you, owns you,” Jensen said. “I don’t want them to get irritated by what someone else does. Like I said, they ‘own this’ and as long as they keep cool and let things go and [do] what they’re supposed to do. So I told her [Boelte] a lot. I always told her, you own this. But that’s [with] a lot of things we do. Those are fundamental coaching terms. I repeated it quite a bit.”

And another thing they hope to repeat again next year is a visit back to the state tournament, but this time, fulfill their goal of getting gold.

Boelte said she hopes that the Amherst Falcons are conference champs next year so they could get four trophies in their shelf, for all years of high school. She said that all of her team members want to go back to state again and in order to make that dream a reality, they’ll be putting in the time and hard work.

Pearson, who will be leaving the Amherst Falcons to play for the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh Titans next fall, said she also sees a lot of promise for her team in the future.

“I definitely see them going far next year,” Pearson said. “They all work hard, they all have a big heart to play for the game. They all love it. Even though some girls I know love the sport, but they put their heart on that court so they’ll definitely go far next year because they all work hard.”