The progress the 18-7 Franklin boys basketball made in coach Tyler Podoll's second season can be measured in a number of different metrics.
They include simple wins and losses (vast improvement from the 7-16 mark of a year ago), scoring on 47 percent of their offensive sets this year as opposed to 34 percent last year, allowing only one opponent (the season-ending loss to Vincent) to score more than 80 points on them all season and improvement in overall shooting percent from 36 to 45 percent.
There was also the intangible that Podoll loved to cite: He estimated about 90 percent of the kids involved at all levels were giving 100 percent.
"We gave them structure and a process, and surprisingly, everyone picked up on it much faster than I thought they would," he said.
There was also the first WIAA regional title in about a decade.
And for Podoll, the way the Sabers won it is the thing that he thinks can propel Franklin into much bigger and brighter things in the future.
They did it with the gut-busting 44-39 victory over Southeast Conference champion and archrival Oak Creek on March 4. The Knights had won two nailbiters over the Sabers in regular season play, but Franklin got the last hurrah.
"It's a game we can refer to for years to come for kids coming up," Podoll said. "About 90 percent of the youth program was at that game, and now they have seen the expectation for the future. It's something they can really rally around."
Already it has had an impact as there has been a tremendous jump in registrations for the youth program in the last three weeks.
The AAU/youth program is being modeled after the highly successful Waunakee and Germantown models and can only help accelerate Podoll's long-range goal of turning Franklin into a basketball town much faster than he could have ever expected.
Franklin's season really took off after an uneven mid-January stretch where the Sabers went 2-4, including an early Saturday morning 16-point defeat to Kettle Moraine Lutheran that came on the heels of one of those difficult Oak Creek losses the night before.
The Sabers then won four conference games in a row, none by more than eight points, beat a strong Muskego squad in a nonconference contest and then stretched the streak to nine games before the disappointing loss to Vincent in the sectional semifinal.
There was an overlying theme to the season that helped the process along, Podoll said.
"There were too many experiences like the Vincent game in previous years," said Podoll, "but this year, we showed a real competitiveness. The kids were constantly competitive. We were not going to give up until the very end."
That's why they had the term "Relentless" printed on all their gear.
"We were not chaotic," he said, "but we were nonstop because the ultimate goal is a state title (like those Waunakee and Germantown have earned). A lot of people recognized the effort we put in, and we enjoy that recognition and like how things are taking shape. I think we surprised a lot of people.
"There's a a lot of camaraderie (in the basketball fraternity), and it is all very nice. We haven't been recognized like this for awhile."
Leading the way was a strong mix of juniors and seniors, led by first-team all-Southeast Conference forward Max Alba (18.5 ppg.); second-team all-league guard and team MVP Marcus Lee (12. 8 ppg.); and honorable mention selections sophomore point guard Jacob Vonderwell and senior forward Ethan Wittenburg.
Senior forward Caleb Selensky was a great example to everyone, Podoll added, and earned the most improved award.
"The better Max (Alba) did, the better the other guys did," he said, "and Marcus (Lee) did a great job of representing our culture. He represents everything we're trying to accomplish here."
The seniors included Wittenburg, Faisal Obeidat, Dawson Ziegler, Lee, Selensky, Zak Poweleit and Joey Rathkamp.
The junior varsity was 16-6, and the freshmen were 17-5.
Podoll will continue to monitor all levels of the program, seeing how much progress is actually being made.
"I need to be present so everyone buys in," he said. "When you see the youth kids buy in; that's the true road to success."