It would be difficult to find a basketball team that went through more challenges in the early portion of the season than the Brookfield Central girls.
The Lancers lost sophomore Maddy Brauer to a torn anterior cruciate ligament and junior Jenny Cape to an illness before practice started. Then returning first team All-Greater Metro forward Claire Haynes suffered two fractured transverse processes in her back, which at the time appeared to be season-ending.
A lot hit Brookfield Central, the preseason Greater Metro Conference favorites, at one time.
But under the guidance of coach Mallory Liebl, the Lancers recovered from a slow start to win 11 of their last 13 games to finish 16-9 overall and win a regional championship.
By winning its final seven conference games, Brookfield Central charged up the standings to finish 10-4 and in a tie for second place with DSHA, two games back of Sussex Hamilton.
“We have a lot to be proud of this season,” Liebl said. “We were really excited for this season, with some high expectations and big goals. After a slow start to the season, we were able to adjust and end on a really great run.
“Our girls fought through adversity that not many teams face in the course of a season. We had a lot of players step up when we needed them to, every player pushed their teammates in practice to be better and they understood the process and that success doesn’t just happen by showing up. We were happy to get some big wins and win a regional championship. This was a special season for all involved that we didn’t want to see end.”
Caroline Busch capped her prolific career with a strong senior season, setting the all-time scoring record (1,260 points) at Brookfield Central and earning honorable mention Division 1 All-State and first team All-Greater Metro.
She averaged 15.8 points, 7.6 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.3 steals per game while shooting 39.3 percent from beyond the arc.
In addition to setting the all-time scoring record, Busch finished second in school history in rebounds (637) and third in assists (253).
One of the players that stepped up in the absence of Haynes was freshman forward Anna Mortag, who was named second team All-Greater Metro after averaging 11.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game in her rookie campaign.
Seniors Ellery Nordling (4.6 points, 4.2 rebounds), Leah Swenson (7.2 points, 3.7 rebounds, 37.1 percent on 3s) and Amanda Miller (2.8 points, 3.0 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 2.2 steals) were honorable mention All-Greater Metro.
The Lancers will lose Caroline Busch, Nordling, Swenson, Miller, Haynes, Cassie Fosdick and Elizabeth Busch to graduation. Haynes returned to play in Brookfield Central’s final 13 games, providing Brookfield Central with a significant late-season boost.
Losing seven seniors, including the program’s all-time leading scorer, will be a significant hurdle to overcome. Brookfield Central returns Mortag, along with Kristin Gaulke, Reagan Lawrence, Kailey Ticcioni, Julia Manby and Nora Barker.
Liebl also hopes to have Brauer, who averaged 4.9 points as a freshman, and Cape back next season.
“We are very excited for the future of our program,” Liebl said. “We lose a lot with seven seniors on this season’s team, but our returners had the opportunity to learn from those seven the commitment level and hard work it takes to have success. We have a lot to look forward to with the players coming through our program.”