Wauzeka-Steuben boys heading to State

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The Hornets’ Garett Kapinus scores against visiting Port Edwards Thursday night in the sectional semifinal. (Photos by Ted Pennekamp)

Wauzeka-Steuben’s Gavin Ralph drives the lane for a bucket versus Port Edwards on Feb. 25 in the sectional semifinal.

Caydon Lomas blows past the Port Edwards defender and drives hard to the hoop.

Nate Martin looks for a shot along the right baseline in second-half action against Port Edwards.

By Ted Pennekamp


The Wauzeka-Steuben boys basketball team is quite excited to be headed to the Division 5 State Tournament by virtue of its 46-41 victory over visiting Royall in the sectional final Saturday, Feb. 27. 

Second-seeded Wauzeka-Steuben improved to 16-2 on the season while fourth-seeded Royall finished at 16-10.

The teams were re-seeded for the State Tournament, and #4 Wauzeka-Steuben will take on #1 Hustisford at 9:05 a.m. on Thursday, March 4 in the La Crosse Center. The winner of that game will face the winner between #2 McDonell Catholic and #3 Green Bay N.E.W. Lutheran. The second State Semifinal will begin at 12:35 p.m. The championship game is set to begin at 7:05 p.m.

Wauzeka-Steuben reached the State Tournament by beating third-seeded and visiting Port Edwards (13-5) 55-47 in the sectional semifinal Thursday night, Feb. 25. The Hornets opened the game with a 13-2 run and never trailed en route to the victory. The Hornets then dispatched of the Royall Panthers on Saturday.

Wauzeka-Steuben has had a stellar season so far. The Hornets are the Ridge and Valley Conference champions at 10-0. They have won 41 consecutive conference games dating back to the 2017-2018 season. Wauzeka-Steuben won the regional championship, the sectional title and are now headed to state with a 16-2 overall record.

“The team has done a great job overcoming the unfortunate times we are currently dealing with,” said Wauzeka-Steuben Coach Isaiah Okey. “Having to wear a mask is obviously something no athlete wants to do, but they have done a great job with it this year and it’s basically become second nature. If it falls down during play, they pull it right back up. So, I must say I have been very impressed with how they have dealt with the circumstances, along with all the other teams in the state. 

“These boys have played in many close games this season that have come down to the very end, and thankfully, we have come out on top a majority of those games. The boys were definitely pumped to be able to host the sectional final game, as many people would recall that we made it there last season, but didn’t get to play because of COVID. 

“This year has definitely been one to remember for the team, the school, and the community. Not only dealing with COVID, but being part of such a successful program. Both the boys and girls teams have won conference three years in a row, and back to back regional championships. The girls made it to the sectional final, and we’re headed to state. I am very proud of these student-athletes for their great accomplishments, and I know the community is as well.” 

The Hornets are led by 6-4 senior Gavin Ralph who leads the team in points per game with 18.9, rebounds per game at 10.1, and assists per game at 5.1. Caydon Lomas, a 6-1 sophomore, is averaging 11.6 points per contest, and Garett Kapinus, a 5-11 junior, averages 11.1 points per game. Wauzeka-Steuben averages 50.8 points per game.

In the D5 State Semifinal, Wauzeka-Steuben will face Hustisford which is 16-3 overall and averages 69.1 points per contest. Hustisford is a tall order that features Dylan Kuehl, a 6-6 senior guard who averages 23.1 points and 7.8 rebounds per contest. The Falcons also have 6-2 junior guard Gavin Thimm (14.5 points), and 6-9 senior forward Alex Eggleston who scores 10.8 points and hauls down 9 rebounds per game.

Due to COVID, Wauzeka-Steuben found themselves in a highly unusual situation for both the girls and boys basketball teams this season. Fortunately for the Hornets, both teams were able to host their regional and sectional games. In a normal season, the sectional semifinal and sectional final contests would have been played on a neutral court.

The boys team made it to the sectional final last year as well but had their season cut short because all games were then cancelled by the WIAA due to COVID.

This year, however, the girls reached the sectional final and the boys are statebound. The students, staff and community continue to be really fired up as the season enters March Madness.

“This is the first time we have had both programs (boys and girls) play in the sectional final in the same year,” said Wauzeka-Steuben Athletic Director Mitchell Cernek. “The boys program has been to the sectional final three times now.” 

In 2011, the boys advanced to state after beating Plum City 57-46. In 2020, the sectional final versus Blair-Taylor in La Crosse was cancelled. In 2021, of course, the team defeated Royall and is super excited to be going to the State Tournament.

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