Wrenshall girls basketball team wins two in a rowBoth Maria Burcar and Natalie Peaney have gone through some tough times playing girls basketball at Wrenshall. Over the past couple seasons, they’ve been shutout at least once and had lost 45 straight games. But last Friday the pair of juniors forgot about it all. That night, the Wrens beat Silver Bay 51-34 on the road for their first win in nearly two calendar years. It was, according to the pair, “Awesome.”
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
WRENSHALL – Both Maria Burcar and Natalie Peaney have gone through some tough times playing girls basketball at Wrenshall. Over the past couple seasons, they’ve been shutout at least once and had lost 45 straight games.
But last Friday the pair of juniors forgot about it all. That night, the Wrens beat Silver Bay 51-34 on the road for their first win in nearly two calendar years. It was, according to the pair, “Awesome.”
“We were crying in the locker room after,” Peaney said. “We were so excited.”
“I called all of my friends and family members on the bus,” added Burcar. “I facebooked, I tweeted, I let everyone know that we won. It was a great feeling.”
To add to the hoopla, Wrenshall hung another win on the board in their following contest Monday when they upended Fond du Lac Ojibwe 58-25 in a non-conference engagement before a sparse crowd at Wrenshall High School.
“I’m very proud of them,” said Wrenshall coach Michelle Blanchard. “I’m glad these girls got these wins because they have worked so hard for them. They feel pretty good about it. They should, because they deserve it.”
Although very few schools ever go through a losing stretch like the Wrens have, it has been their togetherness that has kept the small-town girls going through the struggles.
“Our team has such a great bond together,” said the 6-foot-2 center Burcar. “We don’t worry about much, because it’s like we got each other’s backs. Wrenshall’s a small school. We know everyone. And on this team, we’re all friends and get along great.”
“We’re so close as a team,” added Peaney, a 5-foot-6 guard. “We’ve continued to give it our all every day at practice and now, after winning, our confidence level is so high. We’re getting a lot better in games.”
Friday at Silver Bay, the Wrens started slowly, and led just 22-18 by halftime. It was in the second half where they turned on the press and earned the memorable 17-point victory over their Polar League foes.
“We were a little flat-footed to start,” said Blanchard, “but we had a little talk at halftime and the second half was much better.”
The Wrens applied their full-court pressure again Monday against the Ogichidaa, jumping to an early 44-12 halftime advantage, never to look back. With a majority of their subs playing the second frame, Wrenshall (2-10) rolled to the 33-point rout.
Their 58 points against FDL was the most they’ve scored in 41 games. Speaking of numbers, the overall program has grown in Wrenshall as well. According to Blanchard, in grades 7-12, roughly 25 girls are out to play, and none have called it quits.
“No one has even mentioned quitting, that word isn’t in our vocabulary,” Blanchard said. “Everyone sticks around and they even ask for extra help. We have Saturday open gyms and open things up in the summer, too. Things are very positive, and that’s exciting.”
Burcar, who played a limited role in Wrenshall’s state tournament team back in 2008 as an eighth-grader, could even play college basketball in her future. The Wrens’ centerpiece has been contacted by a handful of colleges already, and still has her senior year ahead of her.
“I want to play college basketball so bad,” said Burcar, who is averaging roughly 20 points per game. “I practice almost every day in the summer, but nobody’s perfect. A lot of work has to be done.”
However, work ethic has never been an issue for Burcar – or for that matter, the Wrens.
“Not winning last year was really hard, it was a confidence downer,” Burcar continued. “But we’ve come a long a way and knew we could do it. Things are fun. And I think we could even get a couple of more wins down the road.”
Burcar scored 20 points against the Mariners last week, and a season-high 30 against the Ogichidaa, avenging a loss at their place last year. Peaney scored 12 against FDL, as the young Ogichidaa struggled.
“We were missing our top starting seniors,” said first-year FDL coach Stacie Marsolek about the absence of Jenny Abramowski and Star Webster. “With them gone, that killed us. The girls went into a sort of panic mode and didn’t have their normal confidence. We couldn’t do much.”
Freshman Amber Fox paced FDL with 14 points, 10 which came in the first half. Sophomore Francene LaDeaux scored seven, while eighth-grader Kasey Shabaiash had four.
The Ogichidaa (4-13) have beaten a quartet of squads this winter, including Nay Ah Shing twice (including a forfeit), as well as the Academy for Sciences and Agriculture and Lac Courte Oreilles. They scored a season-high 59 points at Nay Ah Shing last Thursday, while holding their opponent to 12.
“We have a lot of inexperienced players on this team; a lot of seventh-, eighth- and ninth-graders,” said Marsolek. “Even though we’ve had some tough games, it’s not all about wins and losses. In fact, that doesn’t matter to me. I want to teach sportsmanship and fundamentals to these girls.
“I love basketball,” Marsolek continued. “And these girls do too. They care for the game and aren’t giving up. We had one win last year. We already have four now. Though we’ve been beaten pretty well at times, you would never be able to tell, because these girls are having fun.”