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JoAnna Schultz (left) and Olivia Niemerg (right) pose for a picture with their championship rings Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021, at Laker Field House in Mattoon, Illinois. The Lake Land Lady Lakers received their national championship rings at halftime of the men’s basketball game against Mineral Area.

Hardware lasts forever and on Saturday afternoon, the 2020-2021 Lake Land women’s basketball team received a keepsake that they will cherish for the rest of their lives.

At halftime of the men’s contest against Mineral Area, the college honored the Lady Lakers by presenting them with their national championship rings. Former Teutopolis Lady Shoe Olivia Niemerg and Altamont Lady Indian JoAnna Schultz were among the individuals. Former Effingham Heart Abby Weis was also a member of the team but could not attend due to Maryville having a game on the same day.

“It just shows all of the hard work we’ve put in all season and we did this for Coach [Johnson],” said Niemerg on receiving her ring. “He does so much stuff behind the scenes that nobody knows about with all of the scouting and everything, so we just won it for us. For Lake Land. For everyone.”

Lake Land finished their championship season with a 25-2 record, winning their last 16 games. They defeated fourth-seeded Johnson County in the national championship game, 53-49, on April 24.

To Schultz, though, the ring represents more than just that year.

“I think this ring represents two great seasons. The first season, we didn’t get to go to nationals because of COVID, and, in all honesty, we could have two rings,” Schultz said. “This ring means a lot because it’s Lake Land’s first national championship in school history and being a part of that means we’re a part of history. From now on, we’ll forever have that.”

Additionally, as local products, all three understand the value of winning after accomplishing that during their respective high school careers.

Niemerg won three regionals and earned two trips to the state tournament at Teutopolis, while Weis won two regionals at Effingham and Schultz won three at Altamont.

However, neither of the three could accomplish what Lake Land did, though — winning it all.

Schultz said, “It’s something you’ll never forget and people from our small areas never forget. To this day, I still hear people say, ‘Congratulations. That’s awesome.’ It’s amazing because Lake Land is a community of smaller communities coming together, so that’s what it means to us.”

Niemerg added, “I think it’s awesome how many local girls we had on the team. It shows our tight-knit community and it’s cool that our banner will always be hanging in the gym with ‘national champions’ on it.”

Contact EDN Sports Editor Alex Wallner at 217-347-7151 ext. 124 or alex.wallner@effinghamdailynews.com.

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