UWGB women want another trophy for ‘Titletown’

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GREEN BAY, WIS. (AP) - It was a sign of just how far Wisconsin-Green Bay has risen in women’s college basketball: On Monday, ESPN came to town to show the team’s reaction when its NCAA tournament seed was announced.

Of course, they had to share the spotlight with their more-famous neighbors. After the network showed a brief live shot of the Phoenix and their cheering fans, it quickly cut away to footage of quarterback Aaron Rodgers celebrating the Packers’ Super Bowl victory.

That’s life as the “other” contending team in Titletown and senior guard Celeste Hoewisch doesn’t mind a bit.

“It’s a winning tradition here in Green Bay, with the Packers and with our team as well,” she said. “So I think it’s kind of cool.”

The Packers aren’t the only show in town. Despite giving away plenty in terms of size, status and budget _ its undergraduate enrollment is approximately 6,350 _ Green Bay is out to prove it belongs in the conversation with big-time programs in the women’s game.

Green Bay went 32-1 this season, its only loss coming by three points at in-state rival Marquette in December.

They won the Horizon League tournament by beating Butler on Sunday. They’re a No. 5 seed in the NCAA tournament and will begin play Sunday against Arkansas-Little Rock in Wichita, Kan.

“I feel like in the last couple of years, we’ve been gaining more and more respect from the committee and teams around the nation,” senior forward Kayla Tetschlag said. “How cool is this? Just a bunch of local kids coming together and showing that Wisconsin has great girls’ basketball. What a thrill for all of us to go out and play against some of the best players in the nation.”

Green Bay didn’t quite come out of nowhere. This is its 12th NCAA tournament, with its first appearance coming in 1994 and their first victory in 2003.

Still, they’re something of a secret outside their home state. While their recruiting base is expanding, all five of their expected starters on Sunday are from Wisconsin.

“I would go to battle with these girls against anybody in the country,” Hoewisch said.

Fourth-year Phoenix coach Matt Bollant is taking what was a respectable program to the next level.

“It’s pretty special,” Bollant said. “But Green Bay is a very special place, and this program’s had a strong tradition. And we’ve just continued to build on that and try to take it a step farther every year.”

Last year, Bollant talked to his players about representing mid-major teams and they beat Virginia in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

“Now I don’t think people look at us as a mid-major,” Bollant said. “They look at us as a great basketball program.”

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