This weekend’s WIAA 3-Point Challenge at the state girls basketball tournament will have a significant Chippewa Falls feel to it.
Two of the 10 competitors that will take part in Saturday morning’s contest at the Resch Center in Green Bay are from city schools as Chi-Hi’s Aaliyah McMillan and McDonell’s Maggie Craker test their long-range shooting prowess in the competition.
McMillan and Craker qualified for the shootout by finishing in the top two of their respective divisions in regular season shooting percentage with a minimum of 75 attempts. McMillan and Craker were the best in their divisions with the Chi-Hi junior making 45 of 104 attempts for a 43.3 percent rate in Division 1 and the sophomore Craker topping Division 5 by making 55 of 115 attempts for a 47.8 percentage.
Saturday morning’s contest is simple — all 10 competitors have one minute apiece to shoot up to 25 shots from five racks of balls around the 3-point line on the court. The top-four shooters advance to the semifinals with the top two from there moving on to the finals to vie for the championship. The winner of the challenge receives a plaque while all 10 competitors receive a medal.
McMillan wasn’t aware of the contest until Chi-Hi coach Becca Bestul pulled her aside after practice during the season to let her know she was at the top of the standings in Division 1.
“It’s definitely something I always work on when I practice outside of school,” McMillan said of her 3-point shooting. “When I’m at the YMCA I’m usually working on my 3-pointers.”
McMillan averaged 14.9 points per game and was an All-Big Rivers Conference second team selection this season for the Cardinals as Chi-Hi won its eighth straight Big Rivers Conference championship. The junior more than doubled her 3-pointers made from a season ago (22) and said her primary focus this week was working on establishing a rhythm and getting all 25 of her shots away in the minute.
“The rhythm is mainly what I’m focusing on because when I was practicing the timing, it wasn’t that hard,” McMillan said. “Just being able to pull it off the rack and shoot it and get the momentum (is important).”
Craker had the second-best shooting percentage among the 10 competitors and set a new McDonell school record for 3-pointers made during her sophomore season as she earned All-Western Cloverbelt Conference first team accolades.
Craker is also a standout on the volleyball court and softball diamond for the Macks and like McMillan said she’s trying to balance staying fundamentally right with making sure she maximizes her attempts.
“I’m focusing on getting 25 good, solid shots off in that minute (and) always following through straight, keeping my form,” Craker said.
Craker named Golden State Warriors guard Steph Curry as a distance shooting role model, as well as former teammates Grace Mrozinski, Payton Swoboda and Megan Baier.
“It’s an honor being out there (in the competition) with the great shooters but it’s amazing knowing that hard work pays off,” Craker said.
Not surprisingly Craker and McMillan were first and second, respectively, in made 3-pointers in Chippewa County for the season. But it’s their accuracy to go along with the ability that will have them in action this weekend before Saturday’s state championship games.
McMillan and Craker will join Stanley-Boyd’s Arianna Mason as the only Chippewa County players to compete in the contest now entering its fifth season. Mason tied for eighth place in 2017.