Beth VerHaagh, Jenny Weiland become leaders on, off court
New Berlin West, Eisenhower seniors helped teams have successful campaigns
Beth VerHaagh and Jenny Weiland both play with a passion on the basketball court. Now, combine that with their excellent athletic ability and it's no surprise they surfaced as members of the 2012-13 NOW Newspapers All-Suburban Girls Basketball Team.
Both seniors - Weiland at Eisenhower and VerHaagh at New Berlin West - were selected from players from 30 schools that are covered by NOW Newspapers.
Both played forward and both were keys to their team's success. Weiland sparked the Lions to a 25-3 record and a share of first-place (16-1) in the rugged Woodland Conference West Division and VerHaagh led the Vikings to a 13-10 record and an 11-6 mark in the division.
Here's a closer look at each player.
For the second straight year, VerHaagh was a unanimous first-team all-conference selection. Last year she was also high honorable mention on the NOW All-Suburban squad.
VerHaagh topped the Vikings in scoring and rebounding, averaging 13.3 points and 5.0 rebounds per game from her power forward spot.
She scored a career-high 24 points twice this season and she scored in double figures while being the leading scorer in 15 of West's 23 games this season. She had two double-doubles on the season and led the team in the plus/minus stat - meaning the Vikings were a much better team when she was on the floor.
"Beth led us in scoring the past two seasons," coach Corey Scheel said, "and has developed a well-rounded game. She was a player that every team had to plan for when they played us."
Despite being double teamed, she shot 40 percent from the field and 32 percent from the 3-point line. An excellent driver, she took the ball to the basket and was successful when fouled, hitting a team-leading 74 percent from the free throw line.
"It was tough to have that pressure on me," VerHaagh said. "When I went to the gym I would work on my shooting. I would try and do my best to help the team; do whatever I could. It was hard."
VerHaagh usually drew the attention of more than one defender, but that's when her unselfish play came through.
"Definitely when I was double teamed, it was not important for me to score," she said. "What was important was to get everyone involved."
VerHaagh also had some hardship to deal with this year.
"She is a tough kid that played through some adversity this year," Scheel said, "with the sudden death of her grandmother as well as playing through many different nagging injuries (foot, knee) that would limit her practice time."
VerHaagh remembered it well.
"It was our first February game," VerHaagh said. "She (her grandmother) didn't show up that night. She never misses a game. We found out later she fell down the stairs. I got support from the whole team that got me through it."
VerHaagh also had a leadership role with the Vikings.
"She served as a team captain for the past two years," Scheel said, "and blossomed into an outstanding leader on and off the court."
VerHaagh enjoyed being a leader.
"It's kind of like an honor for me and the other seniors. We try and get the new people acclimated to what is expected," she said. "I didn't yell or anything. At practice, coach has his own thing. I make sure their focus is good and we're ready to go. Off the court, we make sure the homework is done and stuff like that."
VerHaagh will continue to play AAU ball with the Wisconsin Impact and she will continue her career at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
One of five seniors on this year's team, Weiland knew it would be a challenge to replace Nicole Bauman, Wisconsin's Miss Basketball and the Gatorade Player of the Year, who is now playing for the Wisconsin Badgers.
"We knew we had to pick it up that much more as a team," Weiland said. "We talked a lot about it. She was an all-star."
Weiland certainly helped fill the void left by Bauman. Besides being named to the NOW Newspapers All-Suburban team, she was the Woodland Conference West Division Player of the Year and a first-team all-conference selection.
"I feel being strong in more than one aspect is important," the well-rounded Weiland said. "Nicole was a well-rounded player, who worked on her game every day."
Weiland more than did her part, averaging 15 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 2.0 steals per game.
She helped the Lions make three trips to state in four years.
As a freshman, she experienced a state championship after being pulled up from the JV team. The next year the Lions lost to Whitefish Bay in the sectional final. Then last year the Lions lost to two-time defending champion New London in the state championship game.
This season the Lions got some revenge, beating New London and snapping a 68-game winning streak before losing to Green Bay Notre Dame in the finals.
"We all worked hard to get to state," Weiland said. "The five seniors all knew this is the last time and we gave 100 percent for every game."
Known for her scoring, Weiland had much more to her game.
"What impressed me the most was her unselfishness," coach Gary Schmidt said. "She shared the ball well and also had the ability to take over a game if she had to."
Against Pius XI Feb. 15, the Lions needed a win to tie for the conference crown. Trailing in the fourth quarter after a rally by the Lady Popes, Weiland took over the game, scoring eight straight points and was not going to be denied. Ike ended up winning the game when freshman Chelsea Brackmann scored on a putback in the final seconds.
Weiland's passion and competitiveness is something she has always had.
"It started at a young age and built up over time," she said. "I put everything into the game. Once your heart is there, your mind is there."
That passion for the game came through when it came to being a captain and team leader.
"There's a lot of pressure being a leader, but I don't find it as a bad thing," she said. "It's a positive thing. Players look up to you. I want to lead by example. If they see the passion, I hope it rubs on them."
Weiland will continue her playing career at Winona State University (Minn.) in the fall.
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