(WFRV) – The Neenah boy’s basketball team punched their ticket back to the WIAA State Tournament over the weekend with a 93-65 win over Superior.
Just a year ago, the Rockets had one of the most successful seasons in program history posting a 29-1 record and winning the D1 State Title for the first time since 1978. But, repeating that magic this season was always going to be a tall task. The Rockets lost five key seniors on their championship roster.
“The kids just took advantage of the opportunity”, said head coach Lee Rabas.
Neenah finished the regular season this year going 14-10, but what matters is playing the best at the right time. The team has rocketed through the postseason with their latest win coming in the sectional final where Neenah won by nearly 30 points. A trip to the Kohl Center was the reward.
“Rewarding and happy for the kids, especially our seniors, because they’re the first group to do that in Neenah since – I believe – 1977 and 1978. That’s special for them”, Rabas said.
“We just had to stay the course and really keep our head down and climb up the hill. We worked every day in practice and gave it our best and here we are. We’re back and it’s a dream come true”, Junior Brady Corso explained.
“There was a lot of people talking that we weren’t going to be good this year, fourth in the FVA, and we weren’t supposed to be here so there’s really not a lot of pressure on us right now. We’re just going to go out there and start hooping like we’ve been doing in the playoffs and we’re playing our best basketball right now. It’s going to be fun”, said senior Cal Klesmit.
While everyone in the program is excited to get back to the Kohl Center and begin their State Tournament run, the chance to play in the brightest of lights might mean a little more to Klesmit. The UW-Green Bay commit tore his ACL during the summer of 2021 meaning his playing time during the Rockets championship season was gone. He only played two minutes throughout the whole season, but those two minutes came in the state championship game to close it out. Klesmit, the brother of Wisconsin basketball star Max Klesmit, said he’s eager to get down there.
“I’m really hungry. I’m really excited to get out there and actually play this time. My brother is going to give me a few tips on how to shoot there”, Klesmit laughed. “It’s going to be fun.”
The Rockets (#3) will face off against Arrowhead (#2) in the state semifinals on Friday evening. The winner of that contest will go on to face the winner of De Pere (#1) and Kettle Moraine (#4) in the state championship on Saturday evening. Rabas is looking forward to the challenge.
“On Friday night we need to play our best basketball. Like I’ve said, I feel like we haven’t done that in a while and hopefully, Friday night is the night where we put it all together,” Rabas expressed.