January 18, 2012 | 07:39 AMBack in November, Badger girls basketball coach David Jooss knew he could rely on the senior leadership of Lana Wieseman and Emma Kopp, both returning all-conference performers.
He also knew the two stars would be targeted by opposing defenses all season.
Lucky for Badger, the rest of the team is pretty good. Overall balance is one of the biggest reasons the Lady Badgers are 5-1 and sitting alone at the top of the Southern Lakes Conference.
Last Thursday was just another example of the team's luxury of having different girls step up on any given night.
Wieseman led the way with 22 points and 17 rebounds, and several other Badgers played big roles as the local girls coasted to a 64-39 home victory over Burlington.
Badger improved to 7-4 overall and 5-1 in the SLC, while Burlington dropped to 2-11 and 0-6.
Jooss said his squad established itself defensively and on the glass in the first quarter.
With Kopp held to eight points on 2-of-12 shooting from three-point land, Tristan Sproul stepped up with 11 points in her return from a three-game absence for an ankle injury. Also, Stephanie Espinosa notched six assists, and Taylar Keenan totaled eight rebounds. Also, Annie Gaugert added eight points.
Badger had 43 rebounds for the game.
"We had really good balance," Jooss said. "Kopp and Wieseman always have tough matchups, so it was nice to see everyone step up. We had more depth and were able to rotate more girls than Burlington could."
No matter who defended her, Wieseman found a way to score. She took big defenders to the hoop and was able to post up quicker Demon defenders.
"Lana was pretty impressive against Burlington," Jooss said. "She was hitting perimeter shots and scoring points in transition. She finds a lot of different ways to score. She is having a great year."
The girls held the Demons to single digits in two quarters and held them to less than 40 points for the game. Jooss said these are two of the team's season-long goals.
So why have the Badgers been able to maintain their first-place standing for the last month?
"Everyone's more comfortable than in the beginning of the year," Jooss said. "Girls have more confidence. Our man pressure is tiring teams down by the fourth quarter."
This Friday, the girls return home for a rematch with Union Grove (6-5, 4-1), the defending SLC champion. Back on Dec. 9, Badger went into Union Grove and knocked off the Broncos, 48-47, in overtime, although Wieseman fouled out in the fourth quarter.
Jooss knows his girls must protect the home court.
"It will be a battle for first place," he said. "We need to defend the whole game and get more offensive rebounds. The goal is to get better every day. This will be a great test."
Since losing to Badger, the Grove has won four straight SLC contests including a victory over Waterford, the only SLC team to Badger this season.