Chippewa Falls (WQOW) -- After back-to-back appearances in the State tournament and a State title in 2016, the McDonell Central boys basketball team has returned to the Division 5 Sectional semifinals for the 4th straight season.
This will be the first time the Macks are not a one seed heading into Sectionals since 2015 - instead, they will face top seeded Rib Lake in the semis Thursday night. But even though this Macks team has plenty of new faces on the roster, their level of success has stayed the same.
"We had to get a few young guys up to speed and ready to play to in order to count on them, where we've kind of had a lot of seniors the past couple of years," explains head coach Archie Sherbinow, "This year we have four, and they've been great, but we've had to get people like Eion Kressin, JD Bohaty, and Jaebin Bourget accustomed to the speed we want to play."
"It says a lot about our program, and Archie, the way he coaches," says senior forward Hayden Baughman, "It's just an intensity every day we come to practice, and just a focus on getting better every time we hit the floor. I guess that's showed the last four years."
McDonell needed a late basket from junior Cory Hoglund to edge the second seed Owen-Withee in the Regional Finals. Hoglund missed time with a leg injury late in the regular season, as the team lost 4 of its last 5 games before the playoffs. That allowed time for the rest of their roster to gain confidence and contribute, but having him back on the floor for this year's playoff run has been key to their success to far.
"Takes a lot of pressure off of all of us, just having one more person who can put the ball in the hole," says Baughman, "It just makes it so there's one more person who we can say, 'Yeah, you go score a basket for us.'"
"We said that's probably a silver lining for us, [Hoglund's] injury, because some of those guys had to play again, we needed them to step up and perform, and they did and they got some valuable experience when he was gone," Sherbinow explains, "He did a good job of staying in shape, even though it was a leg injury, so it's definitely nice to have his leadership on the defensive end and the offensive end back on the court."
The Macks will face the Redmen in Chetek-Weyerhaeuser Thursday night at 7 p.m.