Gary Schmidt said when he took the head girls basketball job at New Berlin Eisenhower, his goal was to win a regional final. It's hard to imagine the Lions ever setting that as a final goal again.
Though the Lions were left on the doorstep of a state championship for a second consecutive year, New Berlin Eisenhower reached its third title game in four years, falling Saturday at the Resch Center in Green Bay to Green Bay Notre Dame Academy, 42-33, in the final Division 2 battle of 2012-13.
The Lions, which won the 2010 title and fell to New London in last year's title game, closed the year 25-3.
"Every one of these kids make me look good; they make the school look good," Schmidt said. "I can't tell you how good I feel. I'm so proud."
After Katie Lang hit a turnaround jumper with 6:12 to go in the fourth quarter, tying the score at 28-28, the Lions went cold and only delivered two more baskets the remainder of the game - including one bucket as the horn sounded.
Ike shot just 27.7 percent in the game, including 2 of 10 from 3-point range.
"In the first half, I thought we got good looks," Schmidt said. "I thought the ball was down a couple times and rattled out or rolled on the rim and came out. They didn't give up second shots. Maybe they were just one step quicker than us tonight. I always like to give opponents credit; they played well.
"Shots looked a little flat tonight, but that was a very tiring game yesterday. When you're playing a quality team with a lot of athleticism (like Notre Dame), you need to have a jump in your step."
One night earlier, the Lions had snapped New London's two-year winning streak in the state semifinal in a 48-47 thriller that avenged the loss to New London in last year's state title game.
"It took everything out of us," Ike senior Jenny Weiland said. "New London is a great team ... it's hard to play back to back, but you've got to do it."
Notre Dame sealed the outcome at the free-throw line, hitting 8 of 11 free throws in the final period to account for much of the final margin.
Weiland scored 12 points for the Lions, and Jessa Hahn added 10 points. Sammy Kozlowski finished with 5 points and 10 rebounds.
"Obviously, it's really hard to get here," Weiland said. "Everyone wants to get to state, and only two teams make it to the final game. We just put everything into our final game.
"It was really frustrating not seeing any of our shots fall. None of our shots were going in; we just kept working it around. It's hard to play when nothing's falling."
The Tritons took an 11-5 lead in the first quarter, but for a Lions team that was down 15 to New London one night earlier in the semifinal before rallying back, the deficit was no issue.
By halftime, the Lions were within a basket thanks to nine first-half offensive rebounds to offset some of the shooting woes. When Weiland hit a triple with 5:44 left in the period to cap a 7-0 run, the Lions held a 24-19 lead.
"I thought when we went on that 7-0 run, we had them where we wanted," Schmidt said. "We knew it was going to be an up and down game. ... Every time we'd go on a run or do something, they'd come back and make a nice play."
The Tritons came right back with 6 quick points of their own to re-take the lead, then another basket by Brianna Byrne to close the quarter gave the Tritons a 28-26 lead entering the final frame.
Anika Johnson scored 11 points and grabbed 8 rebounds for the balanced Tritons, and Byrne closed with 10 points.
Notre Dame's school building sat right up the road from the Resch Center, a newfound advantage in the first state tournament held in Green Bay - part of a two-year WIAA experiment.
"I'm sure Green Bay wanted to put their best foot forward, and I was delighted with the way we were treated," Schmidt said.
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