Cyclone men lose in semifinals
By Jesse Gennigen
photo by Dave Hager
Travis Puyleart goes for the basket during
a home game against UW-Marathon Feb. 1.
The Cyclones men basketball team ended their season in the semifinals of the Wisconsin Collegiate Conference (WCC) State Tournament, after a 70-76 loss to the UW-Richland Road Runners Feb. 26.
The two teams went back and forth with 24 lead changes and 11 ties.
“We played very hard…from an execution standpoint, there were things we didn’t do that normally we did do during the year and that was frustrating at times. I don’t think any of us felt like we played hard and we battled, we competed, but in the end we just couldn’t come up with the play we needed to get the win,” Cyclones head coach Lee Rabes said.
Sophomore guard Travis Puyleart led the way for the men with 21 points, while freshman forward Aaron Gosse chipped in 10 of his own.
“It was pretty crazy. I’ve never played in a game like that before,” Puyleart said.
“To have that heartbreak of us going up by one and then for them to get the last basket, it just really sucked.”
Expectations were high for the Cyclones after winning the state championship the previous season.
“Obviously every time we play now, because we’ve had a pretty nice run for the last three years, we get everyone’s best show,” Rabas said.
The Cyclones noticed that opponents were motivated for games against them.
“When we watch teams on film, or when we scout teams, we see how they play against one another and the difference in their approach shows that they definitely play a little harder and get up to play us a little more because of what we’ve done,” Rabas said.
This was the final game for some of the team’s players, including sophomore guard Chris Searl.
“It’s been a pleasure to watch Chris grow up from three years ago to where he’s at today and what he’s had to go through this year, dealing with injuries and trying to battle back,” Rabas said.
“It meant a great deal to me that playing [at UW-Fox] and being part of our team meant so much to him. Chris would’ve given anything to have two good knees to play on this year.”
First Team All-Conference players Puyleart and sophomore Korey Jagiello also leave this year.
“[Puyleart] is not just a really good basketball player, but he’s a really good student. There were days he’d work from 6 in the morning until 3 in the afternoon on Sunday, then boogey down here to get to practice on Sunday night…if can we keep getting good kids like that, we can continue to be successful,” Rabas said.
“Last year was fun we won the state championship and everything. In high school, I wasn’t on a very good team or anything, so I guess by winning that state championship, I had a lot more fun [playing] than I have in the past,” Puyleart said.
Jagiello admired Rabas’ coaching abilities.
“I loved having Rabas as a coach. He never takes a day off and he is always trying to get the best out of every player…he always has a great game plan on game days and everyone loves playing for him,” Jagiello said.
The team’s loss to UW-Richland overshadows what was another successful year for the Cyclones.
The Cyclones finished the year with a 22-3 record and another Wisconsin Collegiate Conference East Division win.
“We had a great year, it didn’t finish the way we would have liked, but we won back-to-back conference championships for the first time,” Jagiello said.
“We completed and played at a high level pretty much the whole year…we’ll continue to build on moving forward,” Rabas said.