EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- It’s a tale of two tapes: McDonell is making their 4th straight WIAA state appearance while Osseo-Fairchild is making their 1st since 1992. It’s the 1st time in Western Cloverbelt history two boys teams are making the trip to Madison. The teams are our Osseo Automotive Athletes of the Week. SportScene 13’s Neil Hebert starts our coverage with the Thunder.
“It’s been a long time coming. It’s been a while since we put any numbers up on the wall here,” Tim Popple, head coach of the Thunder, said.
Twenty-seven years to be exact. The school will be making their 1st appearance as the Thunder and the team is roaring and ready.
“It’s going to be pretty awesome but we’re not content just getting there,” Logan Mulhern, a senior guard for Osseo-Fairchild said. “We want to bring a ball back for our school.”
“They’re not going down there to sit in a hotel room and enjoy the moment; we’re really focused on getting to that next game and doing what we can,” Popple said.
Osseo-Fairchild is senior-heavy: the Thunder’s 7 seniors account for 78% of the team’s offense.
“It’s great because our senior class has been playing together since like 3rd grade. And we’ve always said that our senior year is going to be our year to go to state and it just came true,” Cory Myhers, a senior forward for the Thunder, said.
The community has come out in droves to support the squad and their postseason run.
“It means a lot to see a lot of people you haven’t seen in a long time or maybe don’t even know come up and say congratulations,” Myhers said of the community support. “It’s just a great feeling.”
Mulhern, two-time Cloverbelt Player of the Year, says this is what he’s been striving for since he started playing basketball.
“It’s an unexplainable feeling. Having worked so hard for something your whole life and finally getting there is something that I’ll cherish for my life,” Mulhern said.
The Thunder received the 3-seed at the tournament and will face the 2-seed Oshkosh Lourdes on Thursday following the other Division 4 semifinal starting at 6:35pm.
For seniors Charlie Bleskacheck and Cory Hoglund Friday will mark their fourth and final state basketball appearance for McDonell. SportScene 13’s Mike Cianciolo talked to the Macks as they prepare for another trip to Madison.
Four straight state appearances is remarkable for any school in any sport. For this season’s McDonell boys basketball team it’s another chance to showcase their continued success on the court.
“It’s rewarding,” said first-year Macks head coach Adam Schilling. “The kids kind of came into the year with a chip on their shoulder. You know, they lost some players from last year and I think they wanted to be the one team to keep the streak going and not let it come to an end.“ AS
The Macks will have their hands full Friday morning when they face Sheboygan Lutheran in the Division 5 Semifinals. The top-seed has only lost two games this season and average (82.7) nearly 25 points per game more than McDonell (58.1).
“We just can’t let them get out in transition,” said McDonell senior Cory Hoglund. “We take our defense with pride, so that’ll be the key in the game. Playing our game and working the ball around and holding them to a reasonable amount of points.”
“We know they have a big sized guy, a couple of good guards, so we want to be able to just matchup with them and take over the tempo really,” said Macks senior Charlie Bleskachek. “We like to push the ball, get a lot of possessions and quick baskets. So, that’ll be key for us I think.”
“I think we’ll have some matchups that we’re going to like in the game and it’s just a matter of making them guard us and then getting back on defense in transition,” added Coach Schilling.
While McDonell might be the underdog in this fight, anything can happen in March. The Macks hope to prove that at the Kohl Center this weekend.