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All aboard! Saint Mary Central Zephyrs look to take the 'next step' this March

After back-to-back losses in the sectional semifinal round, SMC feels the time is right for an even deeper run in the WIAA Tournament.
Posted at 7:56 PM, Mar 01, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-01 20:56:29-05

FOX CROSSING, Wis. (NBC 26) — When Paul Bradshaw took over at Saint Mary Central three years ago, the Zephyrs were coming off back-to-back losing seasons.

The coach knew it was time for something new.

"The first thing we did really was try to build the culture around playing fast and being aggressive," Bradshaw said. "We wanted to get used to playing fast and being much more aggressive both in scoring and defensively and what's what we've tried to build."

It worked. This season, SMC is averaging 84 points per game, good for second-best in the state according to

The offense has been on the upswing since Bradshaw took over. But this year, the Zephyrs have become a more complete team.

"Last year, we weren't the greatest defensive team," senior guard Danny Griffith said. "We've always been a pretty good offensive team but this year we worked on defense because that really would put everything together."

That great offense has helped SMC win back-to-back regional championships. This year, the enter the tournament as a No. 1 seed and believe they can take the next step.

"It's about going further in the WIAA Tournament and getting to state," Bradshaw said. "(The sectional semifinal) has been the game we haven't been able to get through so we'd like to get past that and continue on."

Led by a 6'6" sharp-shooter, they have the talent to get it done.

St. Norbert recruit Cole Uhlenbrauck is one of the top three-point shooters in the state, hitting 45 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc in the regular season.

"He's a great shooter," Griffith said of his longtime teammate. "Unbelievable shooter."

"I definitely like to shoot the ball," Uhlenbrauck said. "I would say I've worked on that a lot through the years I've played but I would say I like to play inside too. I'm not just a permitter shooter. I like to be a threat on all parts of the floor."

Uhlenbrauck could qualify the WIAA three-point challenge, held each year on Championship Saturday at the state tournament.

A run to state as a team? That would be even sweeter.

"It's something we've all been wanting to accomplish for a really long time," Uhlenbrauck said. "I would say that's definitely the biggest goal that we all have."

He and Griffith, the two senior leaders, have played together for more than a decade. Their youth careers could soon come full circle.

"In second grade when Cole and I played together our team was not very good, we didn't win a single game all year," Griffith said. "But I think that going through that to our senior year - this last year playing together - winning a state championship would be awesome."

The Zephyrs open their tournament run Friday night, hosting Manawa in a WIAA Division 4 regional semifinal.