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The disappointing regional final loss to rival Franklin is well behind the Southeast Conference champion Oak Creek boys basketball.

It did not diminish the record-setting 21-3 season that secured the first league title for the Knights in 11 years. That achievement was a fulfillment of a goal the large senior group set for itself several years ago.

"I am extremely happy for these seniors and what they accomplished," said coach Mike Jossie. "It was a goal they set for themselves as freshmen. This was a group that had serious goals. Anyone can set goals for themselves, but this group really worked for them."

"The fact that they stayed together this long was also impressive. In this day and age, you don't often get senior groups that stick it out this long, and this group included kids who didn't play as much, but they stuck it out. They were a rarity."

The group also proved something to themselves, that they could survive the loss of Now All-Suburban and all-state guard Harrison Cleary to graduation, that they could be better despite Cleary heading off for an amazing freshman year at Minnesota-Crookston.

They got their wake-up call early as they opened the season in a showcase tournament at the Just A Game Fieldhouse in Wisconsin Dells in late November. They downed Wisconsin Rapids in the opener, but then the next day was essentially "run out of the gym" in Jossie's words by a powerful Middleton squad, 74-54.

"After that game, if you had told me we would wind up finishing at 21-3, I would have been very skeptical," Jossie said, "but we were still all together (for Saturday night) in a bunch of rooms (in the Dells), so we got together and had a good team meeting. We talked about moving past this."

They won six straight games after that point before they had another ephiany. They won both games in the Go Sports America Classic at Carthage College, including beating a conference champion Westosha Central.

But then they turned around and lost to conference foe Racine Horlick in their first game in January.

"We hadn't been playing the greatest of games or having the greatest of practices," Jossie said, "and we took that Horlick loss hard, but it was the kids who got it done this time. It wasn't me talking. Jakup (senior forward Sinani) was the one who stood up and said 'We can't do this to ourselves. We just can't fold like we've done in the past.'

"When I head the players saying these things, I knew that things would be different."

A good win against Racine Case followed and then the Knights were off and running. They ran off 14 straight wins before the season-ending Franklin defeat.

"The team held itself accountable," said Jossie.

Leading the way was first-team All-Southeast Conference selection and 6-6 senior forward Drew Yetka, who averaged 19.9 ppg. and was the team's leading 3-point shoorer (63 hits), free throw shooter (94-106, 89 percent) and rebounder. Senior guard Joey Zietlow averaged 11.7 in earning second-team all-league (37 3-pointers) and Sinani tossed in 7.6 ppg.).

Yetka was also an honorable mention WBCA D1 All-State selection.

Jossie said it was amazing how Yetka stepped up to fill the scoring vaccum left by the graduation of Cleary. He was the best player on the team and was the hardest worker too, Jossie added.

Jossie said the team would have not gotten fractionally as far without the efforts of senior point guard Nathan Luedtke (81 percent foul shooter) and center Bobby Smith (4 ppg.).

The senior group included Blake Mierow, Matt Kasar, George Spyres, Sinani, Yetka, Zietlow, Max Magyar, David Ortiz, Luedtke and Smith. Of the underclassmen, only junior guard Shamari Easley (2.9 ppg.) saw significant time.

The junior varsity finished at 15-7 and the freshmen at 12-9.

Still, Jossie remains optimistic.

"All the underclassmen got to see what a great group could do when they put their minds to it," Jossie said. "That you could get things done and do it the right way. There are a lot of younger brothers in this incoming freshmen group, and I think they'll want to do something like this, too.

"It really was a pleasure this year. People said I was more quiet, less animated on the sidelines. It was because that while we (the coaches) did all that stuff to prepare the kids during the week, I didn't have to micromanage during the games. These guys had it down.

"They were a group that could care less about awards and accolades; they just wanted to win conference."

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