Xavier two games from first state championship title
For the third year in a row, the Xavier Hawks boys basketball team find themselves making an appearance in the WIAA Divison 3 State Tournament.
Champions of the Bay Conference for the fourth consecutive season, Xavier enters with a perfect 26-0 record, averaging 83 points per game, and are outscoring their opponents on average by 22 points. Although it’s hard to find a flaw in this team, they’ll be the first to admit they still strive for improvement.
“It’s been a pretty incredible journey,” said Xavier head coach Matt Klarner on this season’s success thus far. “Everybody kind of came together early in the season and offensively we were able to score points and beat some teams, but as the season moved on, credit to the guys, they realized that scoring points is one thing, but we needed our defense and rebounding to improve. We continued to work on that and now the defense is clicking with the offense and that has rolled right into the postseason.”
Coach Klarner said it’s been a luxury having veteran leadership on this year’s team, who can motivate others and lead by example.
“This group has come with a consistent attitude and effort, and it really starts with our two guards,” said Klarner. “Sam Ferris and Hunter Plamann practice hard, they play really hard, they make sure our defense is going, and of course that leads into our offense.”
Plamann led the Bay Conference in scoring, averaging 21.3 points per game. He also averaged 7.6 assists per contest, good for second behind teammate Sam Ferris, who dished out 8.2 a game. The two also led the conference in steals, each coming away with 3.5 a game.
Xavier’s guard play has powered the Hawks’ offense, which has scored 80 or more in 17 of their 26 contests. They’ve reached the 90-point mark on eight occasions and have eclipsed the 100-point plateau in three of their games this year.
Despite all of Xavier’s success on the court, the last two years at state have been bittersweet for the program. They’ve managed to advance into the state championship, however, have fallen short of the Gold Ball. They fell to Brown Deer in 2015 and their most recent loss came against Waupun in 2016.
That’s not to say Xavier hasn’t found a sustained success over the years, winning seven conference crowns in 12 years and 25 in their 58-year history. For coach Klarner, he attributes much of the success from quality coaching up and down the program.
“We don’t look at it as one season, or one stretch of games,” Klarner said. “We look at it as a program thing. We look at what our sixth graders are doing, or what our eighth graders are doing. Are they developing the skills we want them to play with? Same for our freshman and sophomores, doing what we want the varsity kids to be doing someday, so we can get them on that same page and teach them the skills we think are important to win in our program.”
When asked about how his team could capture the elusive title, coach Klarner said they’re only focused on one thing at a time.
“First thing we need to do is figure out how to beat Ripon,” said Klarner. “Obviously no one else has figured that out this year. They are an incredibly talented group. They have size, they have athleticism, they have shooting, quickness. We have a huge mountain ahead of us.”
Ripon also enters the state semi-final with a 26-0 record, claiming the top spot in the East Central Conference this season. They’re led by the scoring duo of Eddie Muench and Bennett Vander Plas, who combine for 42.5 points a game.
Xavier attempts to inch closer to the school’s first state title when they tip-off against Ripon at about 3:15 p.m. from the Kohl Center in Madison.