Wauzeka-Steuben has season to remember

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Gavin Ralph goes up for two during the second half versus Hustisford in a Division 5 semifinal at the State Basketball Tournament in the La Crosse Center Thursday morning, March 4. “I couldn’t be any more proud of the way my guys came out and played with confidence and represented Wauzeka-Steuben in such a positive way,” said Head Coach Isaiah Okey. (Photos by Ted Pennekamp)

Nate Martin defends at the point of attack during second-half action at the state tournament.

Garett Kapinus (10) and Caydon Lomas (3) play defense against Hustisford.

Garett Kapinus shoots as Coach Isaiah Okey looks on.

Gavin Ralph displays defensive intensity at the state tournament Thursday.

Caydon Lomas maneuvers against Hustisford.

The Hornets’ Ethan Klema drives for a shot during the state tournament.

Gavin Ralph scores in the first half versus Hustisford in a Division 5 semifinal at the State Basketball Tournament in the La Crosse Center Thursday morning, March 4.

By Ted Pennekamp

 

The Wauzeka-Steuben boys basketball team just completed an outstanding season with a Division 5 State Tournament game March 4 at the La Crosse Center.

Wauzeka-Steuben lost to a tall and tremendous top-seeded Hustisford team, 65-53, to finish the season with a 16-3 overall record.

Hustisford blew out McDonell Catholic 69-35 in the Division 5 State Championship game.

“Hustisford was an absolutely phenomenal team this winter, losing only three games all season, and two of those losses were to Lourdes Academy, who just won the Division 4 State Title on Friday,” pointed out Wauzeka-Steuben Athletic Director Mitchell Cernek. “Hustisford blew out Monticello in the sectional title game (Monticello was the #2 ranked team in Division 5) by a score of 70-43, and were the unanimous #1 seed at state. Still, our boys were not intimidated. The Hornets took a 31-30 lead into halftime over Hustisford (one of only three teams to do so all year), before coming up just short of upsetting the incredibly talented Falcons.”

Cernek also noted, “My favorite comment after the game came from Declan Levy, WXOW Sports Anchor/Reporter, who tweeted, ‘What a ride for Wauzeka-Steuben. They played one seed Hustisford hard and proved that they deserved to be in their first state tournament in a decade. As they walk off the court, they should feel nothing but pride.’”  

“Not only did our boys walk off the court feeling this way, but 500-plus fans wearing green and white walked out of the La Crosse Center feeling nothing but pride on Thursday as well,” said Cernek.

The Hornets were led in scoring by Ridge and Valley Conference Player of the Year, Gavin Ralph, who netted 17 points. Jonah Reichmann added 9. Nate Martin scored 8. Garett Kapinus had 8, and Zach Martin tickled the twine for 8. Caydon Lomas scored 2, and Ethan Klema contributed 1.

“From day one of this season, the certainty of playing the next day was always questionable,” said Wauzeka-Steuben Head Coach Isaiah Okey. “Considering the way our season ended last year, the boys kept that in mind and made sure to give it their all each practice and game, because it could always be their last.  Luckily, for our team, we stayed clear of any COVID contact up until the last two weeks entering the playoffs.”

It truly was a season to remember for the Hornets and their fans.

“The boys had an exceptional year going 10-0 in conference to keep their conference streak of 41 straight wins alive and 16-3 overall,” said Okey. “Entering the postseason, without having a game in almost three weeks, made me a little nervous, especially going up against a very competitive Potosi team. However, the boys worked together and didn’t give up on themselves as they came from behind in their first two games to win the regional championship. In sectionals, the boys seemed to get their rhythm going again defeating two exceptional teams in Port Edwards and Royall to punch their ticket to the state tournament.”

The team was, of course, very excited and highly motivated to be heading to the state tournament.

“The emotions were at an all time high for the team, school, and community,” said Okey. “However, it was right back to work on Monday.  It didn’t take much to motivate the boys though, they all knew what was at stake and what a privilege it was to have the opportunity to play at state, and be one of four teams left in D5 still practicing for another week. 

“Come game day, the team was focused, well prepared, and ready to take on a highly powered Hustisford offense. The boys got out to what I would call a ‘stunning’ lead during the first half and were very fired up!  They knew we would have to make shots from the outside in order to win this game, as Hustisford had quite a height advantage, and they did just that shooting 45% from beyond the arc.  Unfortunately, Hustisford managed to switch things up and break down our defense more than we’d hoped and their height got the best of us.  I couldn’t be any more proud of the way my guys came out and played with confidence and represented Wauzeka-Steuben in such a positive way. It’s a great day to be a Hornet!”

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