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Kayla Kubiak and some of her Greendale girls basketball teammates had to be pleased when they looked over to the Panthers' bench last week and saw five players sitting there.

That situation certainly beat some of the games back in December, when those on the court were able to see only one lonely reserve.

The girls team has indeed endured an especially trying season that severely tested the players' endurance and mental toughness.

Greendale began the 2015-16 campaign with nine players on the varsity roster, but that included senior Ellen Davis, who was out with a knee injury and would not return until January.

Soon after that, juniors Ashley Boston and Robyn Mikorski went out with knee injuries as well, and simple math indicates the Panthers were left with just six varsity players.

To make matters worse for Greendale, the WIAA changed the game format for this season to two halves of 18 minutes each, rather than four quarters of eight minutes, lengthening the game by four minutes.

Talk about bad timing for the Panthers.

Survive overtimes

On top of that, as luck would have it, Greendale played back-to-back overtime games in mid-December, losing to Greenfield, 54-48, and beating Wauwatosa West, 57-54.

'That was a really proud moment for us,' Kubiak said of the Tosa West triumph. 'It was a big game for us because we lost to that team last year, and it was cool to beat them this year only having six players.

'It was difficult, and that just shows that we can accomplish anything together.'

Overall, though, this season has been a grind for Kubiak, along with Sara Redlin, Gina Sommerfeld, Annie Pulizos, Cassidy Sanchez and Carley Wilson, the veterans of December's trials.

'We just battled through it,' Kubiak said. 'We worked hard through practices. With six people, we had guys come in from our grade to scrimmage us. We took those practices really seriously. For games, we just toughed it out. That was part of our workout. Instead of doing sprints every day in practices, we just played our whole game, which helped us get more in shape.'

Wilson added, 'It was a lot of mental toughness, and being there for each other. We were confident that we had each other's backs, and if you made a mistake, we wouldn't be mad at you, we would pick you up right away.

'There are no other people that I would rather spend my last year (at Greendale) with, working our butts off for each other.'

Redlin said teamwork was particularly important.

'I think it was just working as a team, determination, motivation, not giving up,' she said, 'using all the players we had left and doing the best we could with what we had. It was tough, but we gave it all we had and we are working our hardest.'

Stayed positive

Coach Christine Keller is proud of her players and what they accomplished in difficult circumstances.

'The girls have remained positive throughout this whole season,' Keller said. 'They have been working hard on improving their fundamentals. They've been really digging deep to overcome their fatigue, because they were pretty much playing the entire game.

'The girls worked really hard on fundamental stuff. We couldn't run five-on-five drills because we didn't have that many. They just came out and played. It was nice for them because they knew they weren't going to come out (of games), so that pushed them a little bit more because they knew there was no one else (on the bench) to help them out.'

Gradually, Greendale's situation has improved as the season progressed. The freshman team was dropped, with most of those players coming up to the junior varsity squad.

Keller brought up three JV players to varsity, providing her 'stouthearted six' some much-needed backup in the games.

Also, Davis returned a few weeks ago and has played in the last three contests. She earned second-team all-Woodland West Division honors last season.

Roster growing

When the Panthers played Brookfield Academy on Jan. 13, the varsity roster had 13 players, although that included Boston and Mikorski, who are still out.

Keller is currently using a rotation of about eight or nine players.

The worst appears to be over for the Panthers, and now the team can concentrate on continuing to improve.

Greendale is currently 2-12 overall, but has been competitive in a number of games, especially considering the unique circumstances of this season.

'The girls have worked hard, they come to practice and they put everything they have on the floor,' Keller said.

LAST WEEK

The Greendale girls lost two games, falling to Brookfield Academy, 56-47, on Jan. 13 and New Berlin West, 54-18, on Jan. 15.

ACADEMY: Greendale led by as many as 7 points in the first half and was still up 27-22 at the half, but the Academy went on an 11-0 run midway through the second half that turned Greendale's 36-31 lead into a 42-36 deficit.

Cassidy Sanchez tallied 17 points and Carley Wilson 16 for the Panthers. Theresa Wichser put in 27 points, including five 3-point field goals, for Academy.

WEST: Gina Sommerfeld and Sara Redlin each scored 5 points against one of the top teams in the Woodland Conference.