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Defensive-minded Little Chute has big goals this season

15-1 and in first place in the North Eastern Conference, the Mustangs are within reach of their first conference title in ten years.
Posted at 3:15 PM, Feb 02, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-02 16:15:48-05

LITTLE CHUTE, Wis. (NBC 26) — Little Chute basketball is in position to do something it hasn't done since the days of Turner Botz and Kenneth Lowe: Win a conference championship.

The Mustangs last won a conference title in the 2012-13 season, when Botz and Lowe - who would go on to star at UW-Green Bay - were both seniors.

At the time, they were in the now-defunct Eastern Valley Conference. Ten years later, they're on top of the North Eastern Conference and in position to hang another banner.

"We knew we had a chance to make this year special and the kids have kind of made it that way," fifth-year head coach Jake VanRoy said.

This year's squad doesn't have the high-end talent the one ten years ago did, but they bring it every single night. Particularly on the defensive end, where they average 14 steals and three block per game and hold teams to less than 38 points.

"We know that offense can come and go," VanRoy said. "Shots go in one night, they don't go in the next. On that defensive end, you're always in control."

"We just want to create turnovers and make it difficult for the offense," senior guard Drew Joten added. "If we're having a rough night on offense we can always rely on that defense to get us through the game."

The Mustangs and their eight seniors are also bolstered by a "family-like" atmosphere created by their young head coach.

"He's like family for the whole team I think," senior forward Carter Engle said. "Throughout the season - through my four years playing here - I feel like I've just grown a friendship with him and it's just been awesome."

"I really try to make sure all my guys know that I care about them," VanRoy said. "I heard (Clemson football coach) Dabo Swinney say one time you can't coach kids until they know you love them.

"I make sure the boys know that I love them and I care about them and I think that allows me then to really hole them accountable when need be," he added.

He's even been known to make friendly wagers with the players, including a recent one with senior standout Drew Joten that led to a new look.

"That was actually a deal me and him made," Joten laughed. "He said if I made four threes in a game he would shave into a little handlebar mustache."

"He hit four threes in a game so that Friday I had to shave my facial hair into a mustache. Which my wife is oh-so-excited about," VanRoy said sarcastically.

Facial stylings aside, the Mustangs are enjoying the journey and have their sights set on that long overdo conference title later this month.

"That's been a huge point of emphasis for me here at Little Chute the last five years," VanRoy said. "It would mean a lot for these seniors too. Getting one in football, and then following it up in basketball... It would be great."