The Woodbury Central Wildcats are on a roll, they’re ranked for the first time since 2014, when they last made the state tournament. Despite years of winning seasons, the Wildcats have repeatedly fallen short from a trip to Des Moines. But this year, the team is determined to make it happen.
“We talk every year about being able to have a chance to win a conference title and try to win a district title and get to state,” said head coach Matt Jenness. “And we talk a lot about playing our best basketball in February, and we’re getting into that time where we’re playing our best basketball and it’s awesome.”
A big part of this team’s success is senior Maddie Paulsen. She averages 22.5 points per game, good for second-best in 1-A, but she’s more than a scorer, she’s a leader.
“The most important thing for me personally is to be a leader,” Paulsen said. “Taking that step when somebody gets down, try and cheer them up, sometimes it might take a little bit but I’m committed to being a leader. And focusing on the next play, make sure everyone has that mentality of ‘next play’ no matter what happens.”
“Me and Maddie have been playing together since the 3rd grade. She’s grown a lot as a person. She’s really positive, she brings a lot to the team,” said fellow senior Autumn Weaver. “If someone’s feeling down, she’ll bring them up. If she’s not having a good night she’ll encourage everyone else to keep going and keep getting at it.”
But basketball is a team sport, and Paulsen relies on her teammates to score as well as she does.
“We’re playing more and more as a team,” she said. “We really focus on ‘We vs. Me’ To play as a team, not necessarily being a ball hog all the time, finding that open person, making that extra pass to get that extra lay up, or three-point, or whatever it may be.”
Woodbury Central has a tough road ahead of them, but they’re confident that this team can get back to Des Moines.