WAUKESHA - As the UWM-Waukesha women's basketball team slowly walked off the court for the final time to conclude the challenging 2018-19 campaign, the long, emotional season of ups and downs came to an end.
Despite battling the adversity stemming from injuries and severe depth issues created from a lack of players for the majority of the season, UWM-Waukesha continued to embrace the situation and ultimately showcased its heart, grit and determination while earning respect from its peers.
The Cougars advanced to the WCC Final Four at JustAgame Fieldhouse in Wisconsin Dells for the second straight time and third time in the last four years - falling to WCC regular-season champion UW-Fond du Lac 63-47 in the state semifinals Feb. 23.
It was a warrior-type effort by UWM-Waukesha, which was forced to play with a shorthanded, five-player roster but trailed 45-40 at the end of three quarters in the semis - falling short of the state finals by one quarter.
"From beginning to end, we asked this group to leave it all out on the floor and that's exactly what they did," said UWM-Waukesha third-year head coach David Beebe, praising his team's resilience. "Throughout the season, our goal was to come together as a team, play hard and make a run for a potential state championship. We not only accomplished that but showed an enormous amount of character, grit and determination along the way. Even though we came up short and the season ended in the semifinals, we earned respect and proved that we belonged.
"Looking back, I'm so proud of how we stepped up, battled through all of the adversity and handled the situation. Being able to grind through all of the trials and tribulations of a long, demanding season only makes a team stronger so we are looking to build on that foundation heading into next year. We have nothing to be ashmed of and should hold our heads high."
UWM-Waukesha, which finished 3-3 in the WCC standings and 5-14 overall, earned confidence-building regular-season victories over UWM-Washington (72-41 and 74-40), UW-Barron (99-9) and UW-Marshfield (78-30).
A stinging, emotionally draining 59-58 road loss to high-powered, defending state champion UWSP-Marathon on Jan. 5 proved to be a turning point as the Cougars continued to improve and set their sights on the postseason.
UWM-Waukesha, which clinched the No. 4 seed in the playoffs, defeated UWM-Washington 64-29 in the WCC quarterfinals - its final home game of the season - to punch the ticket to state.
Freshman point guard Aleah Herron from Milwaukee Rufus King was a first-team all-conference selection, averaging 16.8 points per game, 5.3 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 4.0 steals to lead the Cougars.
Sophomore wing Ariel Gonzales from Milwaukee Lutheran, who averaged 7.3 ppg., 9.8 rpg., 2.3 steals and 1.3 assists, earned all-conference honorable mention honors.
COUGAR FAST FACTS
What: The UWM-Waukesha women's basketball team
Head Coach: David Beebe, third season
Assistant Coach: Jose Gonzales
Final Records: Finished 3-3 in Wisconsin Collegiate Conference (fourth place) and 5-14 overall
Accomplishment: The Cougars advanced to the WCC Final Four at JustAgame Fieldhouse in Wisconsin Dells for the second straight time and third time in the last four years - falling to WCC regular-season champion UW-Fond du Lac 63-47 in the state semifinals Feb. 23.
Team Members: Sophomore wing Ariel Gonzales from Milwaukee Lutheran, sophomore guard Bri Jashinsky from Sussex Hamilton, sophomore wing Taylor Peterson from Mukwonago, freshman point guard Aleah Herron from Milwaukee Rufus King, freshman forward Rataeshia Hartfield from Milwaukee Rufus King and freshman forward/center Kylah Schmidt from Slinger