Courtney Becker knew exactly what she was getting into, and she has enjoyed every minute of the challenge she accepted when joining the Aquinas High School girls basketball team.
Becker was a freshman at Cochrane-Fountain City when the Blugolds lost a late lead and had to settle for a runner-up finish in Division 4 at last season’s WIAA state tournament at the Resch Center in Green Bay.
She knew how important it would be for the players on that team to get a second chance at the championship, and she knew she could help them after making the decision to change schools.
“I knew the team could get back there,” the 6-foot Becker said after Tuesday’s practice at UW-La Crosse. “I haven’t really felt pressure to do it.
“It’s just been fun to me.”
It’s been fun showing her ability to run the floor in an up-tempo offense that averages 76 points per game. It’s been fun showing the ability to rebound and start the transition game. It’s been fun winning 26 games without a loss and getting the chance to play Crandon (22-2) in a state semifinal at 6:35 p.m. Thursday at the Resch Center in Green Bay.
It’s been fun playing such a significant role.
Becker’s mere presence provides much more than points, rebounds and blocked shots. It allows Kyah Steiner to be Kyah Steiner and Madessa Collins to be Madessa Collins.
Both Steiner and Collins joined the varsity roster as freshmen and played where the team needed them instead of where they brought the most to the table.
Steiner, in particular, spent a couple of seasons doing things she doesn’t have to do as a senior. The arrival of Lexi Donarski last season relieved Steiner of some ball-handling duties, and the addition of Becker has cut down on her duties in the post.
That has allowed Steiner more chances to be assertive offensively and roam a little more to make big plays defensively.
“We have an actual, true post,” Steiner said of Becker. “We (Steiner and Collins) get to play our true positions a lot more with her on the court. She takes care of some of the things we had to do before.”
Becker, who has an offer to play basketball for Division I North Dakota State after she graduates in two years, leads the team in rebounding (7.6 per game) and ranks second to Lexi Donarski in scoring (11.0 ppg).
She entered the sectional making 52.6 percent of her shots and 66.7 percent of her free throws. Becker is even shooting a good percentage from the perimeter and has made 6 of 11 attempts from the 3-point line.
One of those 3-pointers came during a key point at the end of an MVC victory over Onalaska and was launched from the corner with defenders all around her. Becker has been working a little more on the perimeter game and shots like the one she made against the Hilltoppers certainly help with confidence.
“I love to take the ball to the hoop, and I’m a bigger threat if I can also shoot from the outside,” Becker said. “I haven’t had that much confidence in my shot, so I’ve been working at it for the last year. My percentage is pretty good, but I still have to get it in my mind that I can make shots like that.”
Coach Dave Donarski was confident that Becker was going to give the Blugolds a solid post in terms of rebounding and defense. He also knew she could score effectively, but he was eager to see how Becker fit into the team’s up-tempo attack.
“She runs the floor as fast as any kid we have,” Donarski said. “I had seen her play here and there before, but I didn’t know how that would go, and she’s given herself a lot of opportunities by being able to do that.”
Becker will continue to run the floor on Thursday when the Blugolds meet the Cardinals — another team that likes to push tempo.
Crandon’s tallest player is 5-10 Sarah Kalkofen, and she entered the Cardinals’ 50-44 win over Marathon in the sectional finals with 30 3-pointers. Lindsay Littleton, a 5-9 sophomore, leads the team with her rebounding average of 5.8 per game.
Becker will likely have to contend with both in trying to generate post offense.
Lexi Donarski is confident that Becker will find a way to do get it done.
“She can do so many things well that we can find a way,” the point guard said.