Cyclones earn state title for the second time
By Avery Leith
photo by Avery Leith
Freshman Jon Schlaver gets blocked while
attempting a two-point shot against
UW-Washington Feb. 11.
UW-Fox’s men’s basketball team finished the season with a 23-3 record and won the state title.
The Cyclones beat the UW-Manitowoc Blue Devils 79-49 at the Wisconsin Collegiate Conference (WCC) tournament at UW-Marathon. Coach Lee Rabas was also named the WCC-East Coach of the Year.
"It felt good to win this year’s title," Rabas said.
The Cyclones men put pressure on the Blue Devils early in the championship matchup. Going into halftime, the Cyclones led 43-27 by sinking all 8 free throw opportunities, seven of 12 three-point attempts and shooting 61 percent overall.
UW-Manitowoc came out strong in the second half cutting into the lead. However, the Cyclones extended that lead back to 18 points with about 13 minutes remaining, and never let the Blue Devils get any closer from that point on.
After the final buzzer sounded, the Cyclones shot for 60 percent, forced 18 Blue Devil turnovers compared to giving up just 10, and used a strong defense to hold back UW-Manitowoc’s toughest offensive players. Sophomore DJ Rhodes led the Cyclones with 20 points.
The Cyclones’ post-season success began with an 83-53 win over UW-Marinette at the WCC-East regional game. Going into the tournament, the team felt confident they could reclaim the state title last won in 2011.
"We don’t think there’s a team out there that should be able to beat us. With the talent we have, we definitely feel like state is ours to take," forward Sam Schreiber said.
The team went into the tournament on a 15 game winning streak. They continued to excel their strong offense led by WCC-East All Conference Player of the Year and first team Jon Braeger, first team Trevor Krizenesky, and Honorable Mention Trevor Smith. Still, Rabas credits their success to playing as a team and their "One Fist" philosophy.
"It is a good symbol of teamwork and togetherness," Rabas said.
"At our level the only success that is lasting…is the team achievements we experience together."
Players agree with their coach.
"The biggest thing we have worked on is just playing team basketball," Schreiber said.
Cyclones fans also enjoy watching the team play together. Tim Kolbe and Garrett Cullen cheer on the Cyclones dressed as a hot dog and a banana, respectively.
"We just like to root for the team, it’s fun," Cullen said.
"They’re good every year, so why not come support," Kolbe said.
The team will be working hard between now and next season to carry on their success.
"Usually it starts about mid-way through the summer, we start getting in the gym," Schreiber said.
"I've already been doing some reflection and writing down a handful of things we need to be better at from the start next year," Rabas said.