MADISON — The Neenah Rockets boys basketball team has made the most Division One state appearances out of any team coming into Saturday night's game and yet they hadn’t won a title since 1978.
Until yesterday. The Rockets dominated Brookfield Central 64-52. That was in large part to their most complete performance of the season.
“I had been telling them all year, I didn't think we had played our best game yet,” said head coach Lee Rabas. “I still thought we had better ahead of us and I thought tonight on offense we were coming close.”
Senior guard Chevalier Emery Junior was the team's leading scorer all season and to put a cherry on top of winning a state title, he also surpassed 1,000 career points. He had 19 on Saturday night.
“Like I've said the past couple of weeks, this is all surreal,” he said. “This is a kid's dream – winning a state championship, especially in your senior year, last ever game – won’t ever put this jersey on again. It’s really surreal for me and it means the world to me just to go out on top.”
JJ Paider, a senior forward for Neenah, absolutely dominated the glass in the game. He finished with a double-double, scoring 14 points and amassing a whopping 18 rebounds.
“Not really a surprise to any of us in the program,” Rabas said. “We knew he’s certainly capable. If we could do a franchise tag (to keep Paider around) – we might try to do that.”
Senior Andrew Rohde tried his best to keep Brookfield Central in it, scoring 34 points. However, Neenah didn’t allow any other player to score more than seven.
“He’s a good player,” said Rabas of Rohde. “We have kids that commit to playing defense. It’s not like we have just one guy that plays defense.”
Rabas credited the difficult Fox Valley Association conference for helping prepare the team to win the title.
“Hats off to all the coaches and players in the FV, because they got us ready. They prepped us all year long for these types of games tonight,” he said.