|4/3/2020 10:46:00 AM|
Former Highland athlete discusses National Title
After helping Western Wisconsin Technical College earn a national NJCAA D3 title March 13 former Highland athlete Maddie Drury was asked a series of questions about the magical run.
Following are her answers on what the national title means to her and her teammates.
1-What made you decide to go to WW TECH? Did they recruit you or did you make the first contact?
Madison College first came to watch me play a few games and that initially got me thinking about playing basketball in college. I started looking at other tech schools in the area that had a basketball team and also a good nursing program, when I found out about Western. Last year's coach, Chad Dull, came to watch a few games and he told me he was interested in recruiting me for the team. I scheduled to go on a tour to view their campus and that's when I knew I wanted to go there. The campus was really beautiful, they have a very good and updated nursing program, and I would have the opportunity to play college basketball.
2-I see they had a new coach. What can you tell me about his style of coaching and how you adapted to it?
Coach Thill's style of coaching was pretty laid back and relaxed, especially in the beginning when we were all getting to know each other. Throughout the season as he got more comfortable with the team he starting giving more verbal feedback. Coach Thill is a very skill-based coach so we would do a lot of repetition skill work in practice, like ball handling, shooting drills, and rebounding. He also liked things to be pretty fast paced so we worked on transition drills up and down the floor to prepare us for games. He was a very defense heavy and guard focused coach. We ran a lot of man but also were able to throw in zone offenses when we needed to. We ran a pretty freelance motion offense with 4 out 1 in or 5 out. It took me a while to get use to his coaching style just because he was new and someone I hadn't met before, but over time we all adapted to him and got used to working with each other.
3-Was the National Title in the team's sight all season or was it an unexpected run that ended very well?
I would say the trip to Nationals was our vision since the very first day of practice. Our goal was to at least make it there and see what happened once we achieved that goal. Little did we know we would come out National Champions.
4-How many girls were on the team and did you know any of them before you went to WW Tech?
We had a total of 12 girls on the team 6 sophomore and 6 freshmen, all who played a pretty important role. Macy Mau from Riverdale was a sophomore on the team this year. I knew her throughout high school because we played a few games against each other over the years. We got to know each other pretty well throughout the season and we are actually going to be roommates next year.
5-What were practices like for the season and the playoffs? Did anything change in the post season?
In the beginning of the season we did a lot of skill work and coach kind of evaluated us just so he could see what kind of players we were. Every day at practice we would start with some free shooting. Next we did some ball handling, a layup drill, and stretching to get warmed up. After that we would usually move into a weave type shooting and layup drill. We had a few different shooting drills that we would also do. Our team also did a lot of half court sets where we would focus on offense and defense. In between each of these drills we would shoot a few free throws with a partner and then move on to the next drill. We usually ended practice with about 15-25 minutes of scrimmaging and more free throws. Practice stayed the same for the most part in the post season. In the week leading up to nationals we had a tough practice in the beginning of the week but the next two days were more relaxed and focused to get us ready to play.
6-What position did you play on the team and what was your role?
I was a guard on the team this year and was usually the first or second sub off the bench. When I got in the game I focused on playing tough defense and moving the ball through our offense to get a good look.
7-Describe the regular season. What was your record at the end of the regular season and what place did you have in the conference. And what conference was it?
Our record at the end of the regular season was 20-6 and we placed 2nd. in the Southern Division of the Minnesota College Athletic Conference (MCAC) with a conference record of 9-2. We lost those two conference games to Anoka Ramsey, the conference leader, by 2 points, and to St. Cloud by 1.
8-Describe the post season up to the National Title
Only the top 4 teams of the conference make it to the playoffs, and we were one of them. We started our playoff run by playing against Minnesota West who we had beat 2 times in the regular reason. We knew that this was going to be a tough game because they are a very aggressive team and it is difficult to beat a team 3 times. They definitely gave us a tough game and it came down to the last minute where we secured the 54-49 win with a couple of free throws. The next day, we faced Anoka Ramsey. In the regular season we lost to them by 2 when we played them on their court and beat them by 20 on our court, but at that time they were missing a few of their players. For this game we knew we needed to play tough defense and keep their guards from scoring. This was another very tough game for us and really came down to the last few seconds, again with free throws to put us ahead 78-75 and we secured our trip to Nationals.
For the National Tournament we were given the 6th seed, so our first game was against the 3 seed and 2x back to back National Champion, Hostos Community College from NY. This is the team that the girls lost to last year in the National Semifinals. We knew that they had 3 girls who were big and over 6 feet tall. This was going to be a challenge for us because our tallest girl is 5 ft. 11 in. They also had some very quick guards that were a challenge for us. Before the game we were told that due to COVID-19 we weren't allowed to have any fans in the gym. It was very sad news for us that our families couldn't watch us during one of our biggest accomplishments. Even though they couldn't be there, they were able to livestream the game at a local bar. They also cancelled the consolation bracket games so teams were eliminated after their first loss. This gave us even more motivation to succeed and go for the title. We started off a little slow against Hostos and got down by 3 points in the first quarter. After we figured a few things out we took the lead for the remainder of the game and finished with a final score of 77-67. Our Semifinal game was against the home team and the 2 seed, Rock Valley. Coach showed us a little bit of film the next morning to prepare us for the game but we didn't have a lot of time. We came out and played tough, and proceeded to give out another upset with the final score being 83-74. For the championship game we played against Northland. We played this team very early in the year and lost. We wanted to get some revenge. We watched lots of film and talked about their players extensively. We knew they were going to be tired because they only had 7 girls and 2 of their starters played very close to the full 40 minutes of their other 2 games. We needed to push the ball, play tough defense, and value each possession. The thing was, that we also played 2 other games, so our girls were tired too. We were down by 9 or so at halftime. We had a talk in the locker room, got motivated, and came out in the second half with a little bit of fire. We ended up defeating Northland 69-60 to claim the National Championship title.
9-Describe the National Title game as to the emotions going in and after winning the championship
Going into the National Title game I know I was a little bit nervous. This was the biggest game that I have every played in and might ever play in. I knew there was a lot riding on this game, but at the same time we were pretty confident in our ability and we knew we had the skill to beat these guys. After we won, the emotions were definitely very high. It was super exciting to win that game and it was also very emotional. Realizing that we were finally National Champs seemed so surreal and crazy. It was a huge rush of adrenaline. We gathered for pictures, cut down the net, received our medals, and even after all that my hands were still shaking. It was such an amazing experience.
10-What did it feel like the moment the title was cinched?
I just felt so grateful for the opportunity to have such a successful basketball season with so many amazing girls by my side. I loved just about every second of our journey to the Championship. After we claimed the title we drove back to the hotel where we received lots of hugs and cheers from lots of our family members. I was glad that we still found a way to see them after the game, even though they weren't allowed in the gym to watch us play.
11-What are your plans for basketball next season and how will you prepare?
I plan to return to Western and play basketball for another season. I hope we can be successful again next year and I'm excited to meet and work with some new people next season. I know I will need to put in a lot of work over the summer doing different drills to make sure of that goal.
12-What are your plans after WW Tech? Are you looking at keeping on playing?
After I complete my years at Western Tech I plan to get my Bachelor's degree in Nursing. I haven't really thought much about where I will go or if I will continue to play basketball but I am definitely keeping that idea in the back of my mind.
13-What is your field of study?
I am studying Nursing. This year I just took my generals and I am hoping to get into the core program in the fall.
14-Describe how playing at Highland compares to college basketball
Playing at Highland taught me so much more than just how to play basketball. It taught me how to be a good teammate, show good sportsmanship, be a leader, and also some skill. I wouldn't have had the opportunity to play in college if it wasn't for the support from my amazing community, family, and especially my high school coaches and teammates. I've had great experiences at both Highland and Western. At Highland I played with some of my best friends and I loved that. The Highschool girls team came to watch me play a game and I thought that was super cool and thoughtful of them. Many other friends and family have been so supportive of me and I'm so grateful. Playing for Western gave me the opportunity to meet many new people and friends that I will have for the rest of my life.
If I had to compare high school basketball to college basketball I would say that college tends to be a little more physical and aggressive and I guess you could say some of the girls on other teams like to "trash talk." It's not really like high school where we knew lots of the girls and were even friends with some of the other girls in our conference. Games were very competitive and fast paced.
15-Add anything else you would like
I just want to send out a huge thank you to everyone who had any part in helping me get to where I am today. I am so thankful for everything I've been given and the opportunities presented to me. It really is a dream come true.
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