Traditionally, when a Divine Savior Holy Angels team brings home a state championship, the triumphant student-athletes are treated to a special lunch the next week.
But when the girls of the varsity basketball team returned to school on Monday after clinching the title of Division1 state champions against D.C. Everest High School on Saturday at the Resch Center in Green Bay, they had to wait for their celebratory lunch – the athletes of the ice hockey team were already being taken out that day to commemorate their own win at state on March 7.
These days, it’s too many wins, too little time for DSHA. The March victories are just the latest in a string of athletic achievements for the school’s teams, starting last spring with the varsity girls soccer team being named state champions for the first time since 2009. The streak continued into the fall when the school’s A-side rugby team beat Catholic Memorial to win state on Oct. 26, followed by the volleyball team’s win in November – the first state championship in that sport since 2001.
And the DSHA Dashers have done it all without the use of their regular gym, which has been demolished to makeway for a 32,000-square foot gymnasium and wellness center. Since last May, the school has been relying on the goodwill of athletic programs at Milwaukee Lutheran, Marquette University High School, St. Dominic in Brookfield and St. Joseph in Wauwatosa.
The new gym will be ready in mid-May, estimates athletic director Peggy Seegers-Braun, who admitted that the year of rented space has not been easy on the athletes or the staff.
“The basketball teams were practicing 7 to 9 at night, which is not ideal – but I never heard a complaint from anybody,” she said. “Our kids know that we gotta take what we can get.”
The basketball team’s journey to the state championship included a record-setting game in semi-final action by senior, Arike Ogunbowale. She finished with a state record 55 points against Middleton on Friday night to lead the 26-2 Dashers to an 86-76 overtime victory. The following day, Ogunbowale, who will play for the University of Notre Dame next year, totaled 27 points in DSHA’s 64-29 championship win over previously undefeated D.C. Everest.
Prior to Saturday’s final game, Ogunbowale was named Ms. Basketball as the state’s top senior by the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association.
DSHA was also recently named as the state recipient of the Wisconsin Association of Student Council’s Spirit of Excellence Award, which recognizes, among several other attributes, quality of sportsmanship in the student athletes. DSHA is the first Catholic or parochial high school in the state to win the honor, said David Lynch, director of student services.
Seegers-Braun said that it was DSHA students themselves who worked to compile the 93-page application for the award, which is given out in six regions of the state (DSHA won for Region 4, as well as the overall statewide recognition).
DSHA will be given a banner and trophy at a special awards ceremony at halftime during the April 12 Milwaukee Bucks game.
“The athletics are certainly a big part of it, but it’s also every other component of the school – the school spirit and their service, the leadership opportunities that we provide here, all those things coming together,” said Seegers-Braun.
The school’s application for the award was bolstered by a letter of recommendation from a coach at a rival school – Catholic Memorial High School’s rugby coach John Waliszewski.
Waliszewski wrote that the DSHA rugby program is “far more than a perennial top three team in the United States. It isclear from their interactions with the community around them that their entire team, coaches, parents, and players, are family and exemplify sportsmanship…. They play like a true European team and like the game is meant to be played.
“As a coach of a friendly rival at Catholic Memorial High School, I also remember one moment that has stuck with me,” continued Waliszewski’s letter. “While competing against each other at the Midwest Championships in April of 2014, Memorial’s team captain left the field injured. As she left, DSHA’s players came over to our girls to ask if she’s OK. They continued to check up on her after the match as well.”
Veteran WIAA basketball official Kathy Seitz also penned a letter in support of DSHA’s application.
“In my experience, coaches and game officials seldom agree during a sporting event and it’s practically normal to end a game feeling disgruntled and even disgusted with the coaching staff,” she wrote. “I have never had a DSHA coach undermine my authority on the floor, lose self-control or attempt to make a mockery of the game. DSHA coaches have a track record of superior sportsmanship and respect directed at the officials, their opponents and the spirit of the game. It is indeed rare but reassuring for me to know that even before stepping foot into the DSHA Fieldhouse that I will be afforded the respect of my integrity and judgment in my role in the game.”
In the midst of the athletic program’s banner year, Seegers-Braun is just trying to savor the moment.
“I’ve been here 27 years, and this is not something that happens everyday, although maybe some of these freshmen think it’s something that happens all the time. It doesn’t!” she said. “I’ve said this all along: if we all pull in the same direction, great things will happen. And they certainly have been.”