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Badger seniors look to finish strong in postseason

Staff file photo / Brian Yauger. Badger's Katie Grexa (12) brings the ball up the floor, while being defended by two Girard players during a game earlier this season.

VERNON — This is it.

Year after year, the Badger girls program has been steadily improving with its core group. As seniors Katie Grexa, Hannah Betts, Molly O’Brien, Brianna Huscroft, Lexi Brown, and Anja Suhar gear up for the do-or-die portion of their swan song season, the Braves know that this is their moment.

Closing the regular season on an eight-game win streak, while taking down the likes of Warren JFK, Pymatuning Valley and Hubbard doesn’t hurt either.

“It just means so much to be a senior and getting to play with the girls I grew up (playing) with since seventh grade,” Huscroft said. “It just means so much to be able to end my year like this.”

Grexa, who is averaging 17.2 points per game, leads the team across all statistical categories, including 11.8 rebounds per game, 2.8 assists per game, four steals per game and 2.1 blocks per game.

While anyone will tell you, including Grexa herself, that the Braves are far more than a one-man team, the senior is the engine that makes everyone go.

Even when her shot isn’t falling like normal, the Lake Erie College commit — and Badger’s first college signee in 12 years — finds ways to make her impact.

Whether it’s the dirty work on the boards or acting as a player-coach, no matter what, Grexa is insistent on being a game changer.

“You can’t get down on yourself when you’re not scoring,” Badger’s all-time leader in career blocks and rebounds said. “If you’re not doing what you want to do, you have so many other ways that you can affect the game. You’ve just gotta keep your chin up and keep trying to make a positive impact during the game.”

And it’s worked.

Badger’s free-flowing play style fits the team perfectly. If Grexa is off, there’s a long list of names that can take primary scoring duties that night. The Braves have excelled at both finding and rewarding the hot hand.

The way they play is a near-perfect reflection of the players’ connections on and off the court.

“Honestly, it’s all about just connection,” Huscroft said. “When we’re happy, everybody’s happy. You’ve got to have a good attitude and that just brings everybody together and makes us all play as one.”

From game one to now, that’s been the prevailing attitude.

Pair that with a determination to prove themselves and you’ve found Badger’s recipe this season.

“We like showing everybody it’s going to be hard to beat us,” Grexa said. “You can get up on us, but we’re going to fight back. I love our determination. We all want to win. We don’t care how it happens as long as we get the W and playing as a team is key. I just love this group of girls because we all like to get everybody involved.”

Badger’s end-of-season stretch was nothing to sneeze at. Three teams in higher divisions, two of which were two divisions higher, and the lone Division IV team, Kennedy, beat them earlier in the season.

Despite that, the Braves closed out the season with an unblemished record at home, a streak that dates back to last season.

Currently, Badger’s home win streak sits at 22, dating back to a December 2022 loss to Ursuline.

“The schedule worked out the way it did where we had Division II, Division III schools and Warren JFK all at the end of the year. Four really quality opponents,” Braves head coach Pat Carney said. “Fortunately, we were able to get them on our home floor, and fortunately, we were able to come out with four in a row in that stretch, so I’m really proud of my team for that.

“Once tournament play gets here, it’s a whole new season for everybody. We’ve got to enjoy these 20 wins, but at the same time, it’s a clean slate starting (Saturday), and we’ve got to come with a prepared central focus for the tournament run.”

No. 2 seed Badger opens its postseason today at 1 p.m. against Jackson-Milton.

Have an interesting story? Contact Brian Yauger by email at byauger@tribtoday.com. Follow him on X, formerly Twitter, @_brianyauger.

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