APPLETON — The high school basketball regular season is two weeks away from being over.
Over in the Bay conference, the (18-2, 9-2) Xavier Hawks boys basketball team is in first place.
“That’s part of the enjoyment for me as a coach is to see these guys work hard for these goals and know that there is no promise at the end, but there is just that chance, the opportunity and that drives our team forward,” said head coach Matt Klarner.
For Xavier, it’s all about making goals. The first goal they set this season, win the Bay Conference. They’re two weeks away from winning it for the third straight year. After that, they can see where their season goes from there.
“You have to really look at, ‘what can I do the next game out?” said Klarner. “How can we move ourselves up the Bay standings and be competitive and if we do that and we give ourselves a chance to compete in our conference, then obviously we’ll feel like we’re in a good position heading into March.”
This year, In two games against second place West De Pere and one game against third place Shawano, the Hawks have won by a total of 53 points. Averaging 75 points per game, they're ranked 13th in the state for total points.
“We’re fast-paced,” said Senior forward Alex Sherwood, who averages a double-double (19 points and 11 rebounds per game). “We’re exciting. We like to score the ball, but it’s just a lot of fun. Fun to watch, fun to be on this team and we like to win.”
“Get the ball up the floor, attacking right away,” is how Hawks senior guard Ean Mares described their offense. “We don’t like to sit around and wait for the defense to get ready. We like to catch them when they're still getting back on defense.”
It’s the fast pace, the opposing teams have trouble with.
“Our guys are used to it,” Klarner said. “They’re used to playing at that speed and I think we definitely have the ability to wear teams down, where teams are not used to playing at that speed for that length of time and when you get to the end of the game you can see that playing into our favor.”
The Hawks got to the state tournament two years ago, but battled some injuries last year and were knocked out in the Regional Final. Those injuries forced a lot of different players to get valuable playing time.
“And now you see that pay off the next year, you see just that mental toughness, that maturity,” the Xavier head coach said. “The growing up process happens a little quicker when (you have) some floor time and I think that has been to our benefit this year.”
The team is focused on securing a Bay Conference title, but due to COVID when they went to state two years ago they weren’t able to play in Madison and sure would like a chance to play at the Kohl Center.
“Win a gold ball, that’s the ultimate goal, but we know winning the Bay is a stepping stone to get there,” Sherwood said.
“We just got a taste and I think it would be really cool to get another crack at it because I think we have that potential and we’d really like a chance to show it off,” Mares said.