New Berlin Eisenhower senior forward Chelsea Brackmann had her eye on the Lions winning a gold ball for a long time — four years to be exact.

After Brackmann and the Lions finished second in state her freshman year and brought home a silver ball, winning a state championship was right on the top of her agenda.

'Ever since the start of my freshman, the seniors were harping on getting that gold ball,' Brackmann said while looking back on her career. 'We fell short, so I knew what I had to do: show this year's team how important that was to everyone, but especially the seniors. We did everything we needed to do. It's something I was striving for since my freshman, and it feels great to end it with a gold and silver ball.'

Earned several honors

Brackmann earned first-team Division 2 All-State honors for key her role this season, and this week it was announced she was the Now All-Suburban Player of the Year.

Brackmann was first-team all-Woodland Conference for the third straight season and will be attending Bradley University in the fall. She was one of the best rebounders I have seen in almost 14 years of covering prep sports, averaging 9.1 rebounds per game.

She was a complete player, averaging 14.6 points per game, two assists and two block shots per game. She was also outstanding around the basket; unlike most high school players, she realized what the backboard was for. She shot 56 percent from the field and 74 percent from the free-throw line and played a key role down the stretch in several big wins.

'She is one of the best to ever play at Ike,' coach Gary Schmidt said. 'Her personality was great. Her academics were great. She was so coachable. As a player, she went beyond the call of duty. I'm glad to have had a change to coach her. Whatever she touches in the future, she will be successful.'

Good players come through in the clutch, and she was outstanding down the stretch, completing the Lions' state run with five double-doubles highlighted by a 21 points/20 rebound performance against Pewaukee in the sectional semifinal.

When the lights were the brightest, she was at her best, as she had 31 points and 28 rebounds in the two state tournament games. She scored 1,000-plus points in her four-year career. A team captain, she was truly the backbone of Eisenhower and a difference maker.

New Berlin's other Now All-Suburban player was West sophomore Alyssa (Chubby) Nelson, who also had good things to say about her crosstown rival.

'I think Chelsea was great,' she said. 'At the end of the season when they needed her, she stepped up. A lot of the credit for their success should go to her.'

Mentally tough

Brackmann talked about her attitude and play during the stretch drive, playing like a woman possessed.

'Every game, we (the seniors) knew it could be our last game,' she said. 'I didn't want to end my season. I told the team, 'Let's not let it be our last game.''

Brackmann had missed some time early in the year with a concussion, but she came back strong. Schmidt talked about her play down the stretch, as the Lions started to take advantage of their height.

'We tried to isolate her more,' he said. 'She turned it on. She said, 'It's time.' She had the heart and drive to go do it. She was amazing the final weeks of the year without a doubt.

'She was more vocal at the end of the year, more engaged. She's a solid leader. She told us (the team) what we're going to have to do to be successful at the next level.'

But getting back to that coveted gold ball.

'It's an unbelievable feeling. Only a few people ever have the opportunity, and I'm glad I could share it with the freshmen, juniors and seniors,' Brackmann said. 'It is something that I will never forget, that my high school team won the gold ball.'

It was something Brackmann told the whole school, Schmidt said.

'At the pep rally before state, she pointed at the last state banner and said, 'We're not coming back without another banner,'' Schmidt recalled. 'She felt that in her heart. She played really, really well. It was quite a way to go out. She really wanted that, and she was the catalyst.'