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Small town, big dreams: Lena girls hoops preps for its 1st state tournament since 1991

Lena's population is listed at 531, but as of Tuesday the school had sold nearly 700 tickets to Friday's state semifinal, according to the team's head coach.
Posted at 8:20 PM, Mar 05, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-05 21:20:43-05

HOBART, Wis. (NBC 26) — After winning its first conference title in 21 years, the Lena High School girls basketball team is now preparing for its first state tournament appearance in more than three decades.

  • The Wildcats are 27-2 this season; they beat Pittsville 66-57 in Saturday's sectional final to punch their ticket to state.
  • It's Lena's first state tournament appearance since 1991. The program won a state championship in 1980.
  • As of Tuesday the school had sold nearly 700 tickets to Friday's state semifinal, according to the team's head coach; Lena's population is listed at 529.
  • Junior center Eva Brooks and sophomore guard Madilyn Thomson combine to average 35.1 points per game.
  • The Wildcats take on Clear Lake in the Division 5 semifinals Friday morning; tip-off is set for 10:45 a.m. at the Resch Center.

Lena is gearing up for its first state tournament game since 1991.
"It's awesome," junior center Eva Brooks said. "I never thought that we would get here, so it's cool that we can get here all together. We've worked so hard so we all deserve it."

"Everybody's excited about it," Lena coach Tim Goldschmidt added. "It's a roar... Everybody's so happy about it and so excited."

This season Lena set its sights on a conference championship and a regional title.

But they made it one round further. The Wildcats are state-bound sectional champions with an entire community rallying behind them.

"There's the common joke around Lena all the time, 'last one out of town, shut off the lights,'" Goldschmidt said. "Because everybody is going to be (at the state tournament)."

Goldschmidt said the school has sold nearly 700 tickets for Friday's state semifinal. That's more than the entire population of the Oconto County town, which is listed at 529.

"The community being there makes it easier to play there because you have people to play for," sophomore guard Madilyn Thomson said. "(You have) something that you want to prove to everyone."

The dynamic duo of Brooks and Thomson leads the way for the Wildcats. The two combine to average more than 35 points per game, with the 6'1" Brooks tallying nearly 12 rebounds per contest.

"When you watch them play it's like they have a special power where they know where the other is going to be," Goldschmidt said.

The two met relatively recently when Thomson transferred in from Oconto High School. They've made a fast connection on and off the floor.

"We just click," Brooks said. "We always know when a pass is going to come. We always know when to pass it to each other. We're each other's biggest supporters."

"On and off the court we're friends and it's really easy when you get along so well with all your teammates," Thomson added. "It's just great to have a good connection."

Brooks and Thomson are hoping to lead Lena to its second-ever state title. But no matter the result, they say it's an experience they'll make sure to cherish.

"I am so excited to play," Brooks said. "But no matter what happens, we're all still going to be happy at the end of the day."