By Greg Bates
GREEN BAY – A late-season push last February and March had the Green Bay women’s basketball team in the position where it always wants to be — in contention for a Horizon League tournament title.
However, after winning 12 of their final 13 regular-season games, the Phoenix fell in the conference semifinals, ending their goal of making it to the NCAA Tournament.
After a 19-8 campaign and 14-4 finish in the Horizon League standings, Green Bay is back this season with an experienced roster.
The Phoenix graduated just one player who earned valuable minutes in guard Meghan Pingel; she averaged 4.8 points per game and a team-leading 3.7 assists.
The team returns its top seven scorers and a slew of underclassmen.
“I think we have really great potential to be really good this year,” sophomore guard Cassie Schiltz said. “We had 11 freshmen last year and we all got another year of experience under our belt and another summer of really hard work, so I think we could play really well together this year.”
Hailey Oskey enters her final season in a Phoenix uniform. The Seymour product started all 27 games as a junior and led the team in scoring (12.5 points) and minutes (29.9). Oskey, a preseason first-team all-league selection, also added 3.1 rebounds per game and 1.9 assists.
“Hailey’s really our leader,” Green Bay coach Kevin Borseth said. “I said at the beginning, we’re going to kind of go how Hailey goes, in my opinion, because she has the confidence level. She’s a great leader defensively, does a lot of things. She turned herself into a complete player, and we’re going to need her to play extremely well if we’re going to do well. We’re excited she’s got her fifth year. She’s actually got a COVID year, got an extra year out of the deal, so we’re pretty happy about that.”
As a freshman, Schiltz started every game and put in 8.2 points per game and 3.9 rebounds. Sydney Levy, the team’s lone true senior this season, is coming off a productive year at 7.9 points and 3.7 rebounds.
She hit a team-leading 48 3-pointers.
Kimberly’s Maddy Schreiber capped off a solid freshman season in which she started 18 games and scored 7.0 points and a team-high 4.2 rebounds per game.
Bailey Butler is coming off a great freshman campaign in which she was named Horizon League Freshman of the Year with 5.7 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists. She was named preseason second-team all-league. Brooklyn Blackburn is back after putting in 5.2 points and pulling down 3.5 rebounds per game.
Borseth, who is in his 19th season as Green Bay coach, got a lot of experience out of his young players last season. He’s hoping they can take another step forward this year.
“I’ve always said, “A thorn of experience is worth more than a wilderness of warning,’” Borseth said. “We’ve got a lot of experience. Athletically, are we going to be able to compete? We lost Pingel, who was a great athlete. That’s going to be kind of the big thing for us to see, but I feel good about the players that we have. There’s familiarity, there’s consistency. Hopefully get in game situations and we’re able to do some things that we don’t have to think about. A lot of times our mind gets in the way, but our players shouldn’t have that this year.”
Green Bay had its roster get older in the offseason as it welcomed in three transfers, all guards.
West De Pere alumnus Brehna Evans had a solid career playing at St. Cloud State University. As a senior at the Division II program, Evans was a stat stuffer with 12.8 points, 5.9 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 2.4 steals per game.
Evans came to Green Bay as a graduate transfer.
“Someone on the outside had told me that Brehna was thinking about coming here and taking her master’s degree and being done with basketball,” Borseth said. “Of course, I contacted her right away. It’s good, obviously — from West De Pere. I think was actually a dream for her to actually be able to play here. So, so far she’s done really well. She’s smart, she’s aggressive. She did really well where she was at, so we look for good things for her here.”
Tatum Koenig, a graduate student, from Bradley University is coming off a solid season. She put in 12.0 points, 3.6 assists and 3.3 rebounds per game.
The final transfer is Natalie McNeal from Saint Louis University. The junior from Germantown had a well-rounded season at 9.4 points and 5.3 rebounds.
Green Bay’s roster is stacked with guards — 10 of the 15 girls are listed at that position.
“Cassie Schiltz was a point guard, but we don’t use her in a point guard capacity, so if you can’t handle the ball, it’s hard to play,” Borseth said. “We’ve got a lot of players that have the ability to handle it. I think just bringing those three point guards in when we were looking for one, kind of added three of those players to that position. But you’ve got to be able to handle it; we’ve got some kids that can handle the ball.”
Having versatile players is key for the Green Bay program.
“You’ve got to be able to do anything,” Schiltz said. “I came out of high school more a shooter than I was a driver, but they can take that away easily. So, yeah, you have to be able to handle the ball, shoot and be able to attack the hoop, too.”
Schiltz is looking forward to games getting underway after a strong preseason camp.
“I think we have a group of 15 girls that work really hard and want to be here and we all kind of have the same goals in mind,” Schiltz said. “I’m just really excited to get the season started.”
In the Horizon League preseason poll released last week, Youngstown State received eight first-place votes and is picked to win the title. Green Bay, with two first-place votes, ended up in second.
The last time Green Bay won the Horizon League and advanced to the NCAA Tournament was in 2017-18 season. The Phoenix players are focused to get back to the national tournament and raise a banner into the rafters at the Kress Center.
“This is Hailey’s last year here and she’s going to be our leader this year,” Schiltz said. “I think that it would be awesome to end her last year here hanging up another banner up there since we haven’t yet.”
By Greg Bates