When Shemera Williams started her freshman season at Milwaukee Academy of Science, she already had built a reputation on the club circuit. The word was that she was going to be something special.
Williams, however, had little idea of buzz she was creating.
“My expectation was to just go in and win,” she said, “Play it out, have fun.”
Consider that mission accomplished and then some.
The 5-foot-8 point guard took the Novas to new heights. A fledgling program when she arrived, Williams led the school to two state tournament appearances and an 83-19 record.
Along the way she set eight WIAA state tournament records, led the nation in scoring as a junior with an average of 39.9 points per game and become the No. 2 scorer in state history. The exclamation point on her prep career came this week when a panel of reporters from around the state recognized her as the state’s best player, naming her The Associated Press girls basketball state player of the year
Monona Grove senior McKenna Warnock and La Crosse Aquinas junior Lexi Donarski were also nominated for the honor.
Williams led the state in scoring for the third straight season, averaging 32.5 points to go along with 10.3 rebounds, 8.5 assists and 4.5 steals per game. She also played the role of big sister on a team with no seniors and a large freshmen class.
With a better supporting cast this season, Williams played more efficiently than past years. She hit 49.3 percent of her shots (270 of 546), including 36.4 percent (78 of 214) of her three-point attempts.
In the postseason, she averaged 29.6 points, 8.8 rebounds, 7.8 assists and four steal per game, leading the Novas to victories over higher-seeded opponents in the regional final and sectional games. That stretch included 32 points, nine rebounds and eight assists in an 87-74 victory over No. 1 seed Racine Lutheran in the regional final.
She finished her career with 3,120 points and a career scoring average of 32.8 points per game.
“She’s just been kind of putting us on her back.” Milwaukee Academy of Science coach Giovanni Riley said before the team’s state tournament appearance earlier this month. “The freshmen may get emotional at times and break down and she’s like I’m going to show you how it’s done. I’m going to figure out a way to get this win.”
Beaver Dam’s Tim Chase was named coach of the year. The program has come a long way since it won nine games total in his first three seasons.
That included an 0-21 record his second season.
But those days are a distant memory for Chase, who just completed his 14th season and led Beaver Dam to a third straight Division 2 state championship this season.
For his efforts, Chase was a unanimous selection as the AP’s girls basketball coach of the year in Wisconsin.
Also nominated for the honor were Bay Port’s Kati Coleman, Marshall’s Alex Koeller, La Crosse Aquinas’ Dave Donarski and Black Hawk’s Michael Flanagan.
“We’ve come a long ways, obviously, from 12 years ago when we didn’t win a game,” Chase said. “It means a lot that we’ve been able to go on the run we have.
“But with all the kids we’ve had over these years that have put in the time and effort and all the great coaches I’ve gotten to work with both in our program and other programs and just our community, there are so many people who have helped us get where we are at now.”
Beaver Dam, which hasn’t lost to an in-state team in three years, is just the fifth girls’ basketball program is Wisconsin history to accomplish a three-peat and the first in Division 2.
Milwaukee Vincent (2007-09) in Division 1 was the last to do it joining Milwaukee Washington (1994-96) in Division 1, Cuba City (2005-07) in Division 3 and Flambeau (2006-08) in Division 4.
The Golden Beavers also ended the season ranked 10th in the USA Today Super 25 and MaxPreps polls. Their only loss was to top-ranked Miami (Florida) Country Day in a holiday tournament in Naples, Florida.
“This team just did everything right,” said Chase of the Golden Beavers, who are 80-3 spanning the last three years. “They did exactly everything they needed to do. They came in day one ready to do whatever it took to be successful this year.
″They tried to meet every challenge we had. The trip to Chicago, the trip to Florida were definitely great opportunities for us. We definitely wanted to finish this season as strong as we could, and I thought we did that.”