ASHWAUBENON (WLUK) -- Before the season started De Pere girls basketball coach Jeremy Boileau talked with seniors Lizzie Miller and Olivia DeCleene and asked them what they wanted to accomplish this season.
The seniors' ultimate goal was win a state title and now the the Redbirds are one more win away from doing just that.
De Pere edged Middleton in a thrilling 49-47 overtime game and will face undefeated Appleton North in Saturday's championship game.
"It's something we've been dreaming since we were little kids," Miller said of playing for a state title. "We watched the (De Pere) team win the gold ball in 2012 and even 2005. It's been a goal of ours."
De Pere (25-2) was fortunate to win as after leading much of the game MIddleton (23-4) had a chance to win the game in regulation but missed two shots in the final 10 seconds. Then, Middleton led 45-41 in overtime before De Pere rallied with eight free throws (four by Liz Nies) and then withstood another last-second shot to survive.
De Pere won with its defense as Middleton shot 30 percent (16 for 53) and scored just 13 points in the first half.
"We've been a team all year long that takes a ton of pride in our defense," Boileau said. "Being down by four points in overtime is tough to overcome. Liz Nies nailed down four free throws and kind of gave momentum back to us. Definitely shows the fight and desire for these girls that never stop competing."
"We haven't been in a lot of close games this year," DeCleene said. "It all came down to our defense and our heart to win the game."
Annie Schneider led De Pere with 13 points and DeCleene added 11 and was a defensive maven. Now, the Redbirds have one more game to achieve their goal and Miller and DeCleene are ready, even though they played 40 minutes Friday.
"We'll find a way to get through it," Miller said. "I think a lot of it will be the excitement that pulls us through."
A sidebar to winning the state title is this is Boileau's first season. What a way to finish a first season by playing in a state title game.
"His first year, we are doing it for him and doing it for everybody," DeCleene said. "When the buzzer rang and we won by those two points it's a feeling I haven't been through before and being through it , it's an awesome feeling and I can't wait for (Saturday)."
Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay