The South Shore (Wisc.) High girls basketball team won the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association Division 5 Ashland Regional championship on Saturday, but it didn't get to advance to the sectional championships. Amazingly, there was no competitive reason why the Cardinals' quest for a state title was thwarted. Rather, the team just ran out of players.
As covered in a touching story of a dilemma caused by the cross pollination of extracurricular activities in a small school by the Journal Sentinel's Meg Jones, the Cardinals regional champion girls basketball team was decimated by a previously scheduled band trip to Seattle. South Shore, which is located in tiny Port Wing, Wisc., has just 42 total students, 20 of them girls. Of those 20 girls, 11 play on the basketball team, and nine of those 11 are also members of the school's 14-member band.
"It was really hard to find out that we didn't have the opportunity to play at sectionals after all our hard work," South Shore player Andrea Tuura told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "It was just really hard and upsetting, but we're glad we made it that far because that was a big deal for us. We were kind of the underdogs throughout the whole thing. We proved them wrong."
You can read much more about the strange conditions that led to South Shore's withdrawal from the state tournament in detail right here in the Journal-Sentinel.
As one might imagine, there was never any anticipated conflict with the band trip, but the South Shore team kept winning games it was expected to lose. As reported in the Ashland Journal, Spooner Advocate and the Journal Sentinel, South Shore entered the Ashland regional tournament seeded fourth with little prospect of winning the regional event. Then the Cardinals pulled off three straight upsets to win the title, the final a victory which left it with only four non-band members left to take the floor in the sectional semifinals against Siren (Wisc.) High.
Wisconsin rules forbid a team from starting a game with only four players, leaving South Shore with little choice but to hand the Ashland region's berth in the tournament back to the team it had just defeated: the Mellen (Wisc.) High Granite Diggers.
According to the Ashland Daily Press, Mellen plans to make the most of that sectional championship shot, a berth it earned without ever holding a regional championship plaque, a feat which might be a first in Wisconsin state history.
Whether the Granite Diggers make good on that promise or not, they can't take anything away from an amazing South Shore team which found a way to win with only six players, only to learn that its 2010-11 team would never get a chance to win again.