Basketball season may be over for the Chippewa Valley’s girls teams, but Chippewa Falls junior Aaliyah McMillan was still locked in on Thursday afternoon. As many of her classmates exited Chi-Hi, she was tossing up deep shots in the school’s back gym.
“We’ve been practicing a few times this week,” McMillan said.
An invitation to the WIAA’s 3-Point Challenge has spurred McMillan, and two other local competitors, into these late-season shooting-focused practices. The junior Cardinal, along with McDonell’s Maggie Craker and Elk Mound’s Sophie Cedarblade, is heading to Green Bay this weekend to duel the rest of the state’s top sharpshooters at the Resch Center.
“It’s amazing knowing that hard work pays off,” Craker said.
The three players were among the ten selected for the state tournament’s lone skills competition based on their performance this season. The WIAA sent out invites to the top four shooters based on percentage in each division. The top two respondents in each division were chosen to compete. Those whose teams are participating in the state tournament were not eligible.
Craker led the local trio with a 47.8 success rate, while McMillan shot 43.3 percent and Cedarblade 42.1 percent.
Each contestant will get a minute to shoot 25 shots, five at each rack. The round begins at the right corner, with each rack inching the shooter closer to the same position on the left side.
The top four shooters in the quarterfinal round will advance to the semifinals, while the top two from that group will compete head-to-head in the final round.
A 3-point contest brings certain parameters even Wisconsin’s top shooters need to adjust to. With the racks fixed in certain locations, players have to find success away from their favorite spots. Craker prefers the left wing, while Cedarblade and McMillan excel in the corners.
Dealing with the racks themselves can mess with muscle memory, too.
“It’s different just grabbing the ball and shooting instead of having someone pass it to you,” Cedarblade said. “It’s way easier (having someone pass).”
Then there’s the clock to deal with, and the issue of keeping up your energy when shooting over two dozen times in a short span.
“I’m more focused on the form,” Craker said. “The longer I take on my shot the more likely they are to go in, so I don’t want to rush it, but I need to get them all off.”
It’s a big stage, so there are some nerves. But at the end of the day, the event is just for fun.
“That’s what my mom has been telling me a lot,” McMillan said. “Just have fun. Of course, you’re trying to win, but it’s not the end of the world.”
The three local representatives will be going up against DePere’s Natalie Cerrato, Pewaukee’s Sarah Newcomer, Kewaskum’s Maxine Paulowske, Waupun’s Abbie Aalsma, Mineral Point’s Mallory Lindsey, Lancaster’s Devin Wagner and Loyal’s Remi Geiger. The competition commences at 9:30 a.m.