HORTONVILLE (NBC 26) — Last year the (14-4,12-1) Hortonville girls basketball team made it to the Resch Center, but lost in the state semis to the eventual Division 1 champion Kettle Moraine. This year, they just moved to the top of the Fox Valley Association conference and have the star power to make another run in the playoffs.
- The Polar Bears have a lot of depth this season. 9 Hortonville players log at least 10 minutes per game.
- Rainey Welson leads the way averaging 21 points per game.
- Hortonville has never won a state tournament game, something they're hoping will change this season.
“It’s such a great experience,” said Polar Bears senior forward Mikayla Werner of the team's experience at the state tournament. “Obviously, only four teams in each division get to make it there and play in that experience and it was just great that we were one of those teams and hopefully we are one of those teams again.”
The biggest thing the returning players learned from getting knocked out of state last year was:
“Honestly probably that we’re not invincible,” said junior guard Rainey Welson.
Last year's team was great, but this year they have more depth — 9 Hortonville players log at least 10 minutes per game.
“I think our depth has certainly helped us,” said second-year Hortonville head coach AC Clouthier. “I think we’re able to pull away from teams towards the end because we do get to play an extra athlete or two.”
Welson leads the way for the Polar bears averaging 21 points. She's been awfully impressed with how senior forward Mikayla Werner has stepped up as a leader and in her play. The University of St. Thomas' commit is almost averaging a double-double (12 points and 9 rebounds per game).
“I've been telling her since freshman year, Mikayla, you’re a 6-footer out there, use it to your advantage and this year something clicked for her,” Welson said. “Honestly she’s insane down there (in the post), I wouldn't want to go against her.”
Then there’s the Peppler sisters. Kallie, a senior, has come back this year from a torn ACL to average 10 points. She's headed to UW-Milwaukee to play with her older sister Kamy next season. Then there’s freshman Kardyn who earned a starting role and is averaging 9 points per game..=
“I don't know what they’re feeding them because according to their folks, they eat like garbage – at the same time, they must be doing something right,” Clouthier said. “The Peppler work ethic is unmatched by people their age.”
With so many mouths to feed on offense, the team has no problem sharing the ball.
“There are days where we’re like, “Rainey it’s your turn, Kallie it’s your turn, okay we gotta feed Mikayla the basketball and they’re all okay with it because they know it’s (all their jobs) to win.”
They’re hoping their depth and talent can lead them to an FVA title. Clouthier has never won a conference crown in all of his years.
“Honestly, we want to get a conference champ for coach AC,” said Welson. “He's a wonderful guy, so that’s kind of our main goal right now.”
And in return, they’re hoping he can guide them to their first-ever state tournament win and maybe a gold ball.
“The one thing that is kind of lingering is that we haven’t brought a silver ball or gold ball home. Say what you want, that’s our job to do that and do that for everybody and do that for this group and for all those who came before. I think we use that on a daily basis to sharpen practice and fine-tune all the things we need to do,” Clouthier said.