By Rob Whitmire
The SPASH Boys basketball team finds itself in a bit of a rut – just the sort of rut they’d like to stay in.
The Panthers enter the 2016-17 season as back-to-back defending state WIAA Division I champions bringing a 54-1 record over the past two seasons to the court.
“Our goals for this season will be the same goals we have every season,” said Panthers coach Scott Anderson. “We want to come as close as we can to maximizing our potential and become the best team we are capable of becoming. We want to be in the hunt for winning the conference, regional, sectional and state championships. We have been in the top three in the state with team GPA and want to continue that as well.”
Despite losing senior talents Trev Anderson and Sam Hauser to graduation, the Panthers return a solid group of players who saw considerable playing time last season.
Junior Joey Hauser returns as the go-to guy in the paint. The 6’8” all-conference, all-stater from a year ago led the Wisconsin Valley Conference in free throw shooting hitting, 25 of 28 from the charity stripe. He pulled down 78 rebounds, averaging 7.8 boards per game and averaged 16.2 points per game. Hauser hit 64 of 110 field goal attempts for a .582 field goal percentage and dished out 34 assists.
Looking for a big year on the court are veterans Drew Blair, Keonte Williams and Beau Rosenthal. The Panthers will look to Blair for the outside shot — the junior was among the conference three-point field goal shooting leaders, hitting 16 of 38 for a .421 average.
“We have some good players back including Joey, Drew, Keonte and Beau and we will lean on their experience and leadership,” said Anderson. “Drew can really shoot the ball, with great ranges and has improved his all-around game. He is a very good player. Beau and Keonte are ready to have a very good senior year for us.”
SPASH opens its season at Rhinelander on Nov. 25, with tip off scheduled for 8 PM, then they travel to Appleton East Nov. 29 for a 7:15 PM tilt.
Then, the team returns to the SPASH fieldhouse Dec. 2, when they play host to Eau Claire Memorial in their home opener at 7:30 PM.
“We are focused on this year and hope to be everything this team is capable of being,“ Anderson said. “We won’t necessarily talk a ton about trying to win a third title. We will keep the focus on what this group can achieve.”
The Panthers return a veteran coaching staff who bring a wealth of knowledge and very successful backgrounds to the bench including top assistants Kraig Terpstra and Dave Hauser. They are joined by Jon Krull, Travis Kornowski, Bruce Weinkauf, Brandon Desmet, Phil Jageilo and John Schurk.
“We are extremely excited about the season ahead and the many opportunities that await us,” Anderson added. “Our traditional conference rivals, and some of the non-conference match-ups we have, will really test us.”