Wrightstown basketball coach Cory Haese gets some face time on television after the Tigers beat Brillion, advancing to the WIAA state boys basketball tournament for the first time in school history.
By Brian Roebke
In the sixth try in school history, the Wrightstown boys basketball got the monkey off its back Saturday, beating Brillion 55-54 to win the WIAA Division 3 sectional championship for the first time.
There probably won’t be anyone who thinks this year’s Wrightstown team is the most talented team to come through the ranks, but this year’s team will be remembered as the one who made it through.
The Tigers caught some breaks along the way, starting with the WIAA’s decision to realign the four divisions to make them each with an equal number of teams.
Wrightstown’s challengers in the North Eastern Conference — Freedom, Denmark, and Little Chute — moved up from Division 3 to Division 2 along with the area’s traditional strongest D-3 team, Xavier.
That left Wrightstown as the top-ranked team in the sectional and they were awarded with a No. 1 seed at the WIAA seeding meeting, giving them home games throughout the quest to make the state tournament.
Terry Schaeuble is the person who’s seen it all.
“It’s the sixth time that we played to go to state,” he said. “The previous five we lost.”
He was an assistant coach for Mark Mitchell the first time, in 1978, and was head coach twice, and Cory Haese was the coach for two more while Schaeuble was an assistant again.
That doesn’t include last year’s tournament, where the sectional final wasn’t played due to fears of the cornonavirus.
“This is really sweet,” Schaeuble said after the game.
Despite the closeness of the game, he wasn’t nervous because he has a lot of confidence in Haese and the rest of the coaches.
He was proud of the team to finally break through and win the game.
“I told the guys in the locker room, Cory let me speak just for a bit, and I thanked them especially for guys like me, I started playing basketball in fifth grade, 1964,” he said. “I told them to do the math on that one.”
He’s played and coached at every level of basketball in Wrightstown from Biddy Basketball to fifth grade to varsity.
“I’ve played on terrible teams, I’ve seen us be really bad, and I’ve seen us become a perennial power and I congratulated the guys and thanked them,” he said. “It really does mean a lot to guys like me who are really invested in the community and the community members. They don’t know what it means to those people.”
When Schaeuble was in high school his teams won nine games in three years, and the Tigers were also-rans for many years.
“Now we’re a perennial contender every year for conference and tournament,” he said.
Despite the long-term success the program’s had, it was one of the few schools in the state never to have played in the state boys basketball tournament.
“It’s really come a long way,” he said. “It was a slow process and to sustain that really is a feather in Cory’s cap. To get there is one thing, but to sustain it when there’s constant turnover every couple of years is impressive.”
Schaeuble had a winning record in his 15 seasons as the head coach before Haese came in. “He took it to the next level,” he said. “He had a lot more energy than I ever had and it was a really good decision to hire him.”
Adding to the importance of winning the game and advancing to state was the disappointment last year’s team had when they reached the game but couldn’t play it due to the WIAA cancelling the rest of the season on the day before the girls championship game and boys sectional games.
All members of the Wrightstown Class of 2020 were in the stands and watched the game together.
Mason Hendricks, Ben Peer, Tyler Kroes, Mason DeCleene, Jeremy Van Zeeland, and Grant Nemecek were also introduced at halftime.
Haese wished he could have been on the court at halftime when the Class of 2020 seniors were recognized but he had responsibilities in the locker room.
“They didn’t get a chance to play in this game last year and it wasn’t because they lost,” he said. “It was tough for those guys and it was tough for everybody in our program, especially those seven seniors.”
Haese went into the bleachers to be with those seven guys pretty quickly after he received the sectional championship plaque for this year’s team.
“We keep in touch a lot … they’re great kids,” he said.
This year’s win can never make up for last year’s disappointment but Saturday’s win helped put a little closure to that and those guys can have more confidence they would have beaten Sheboygan Falls if they would have played.
“I brought the plaque up there and they saw the 2021 on it and they said it should be 2020,” Haese said.
Haese has had mostly the same staff with him since he started coaching the Tigers 23 years ago.
“They’re my best, close friends, and from a selfishness point, for us as a staff to be able to get over this hump is pretty big and we’re pretty excited about it,” he said.
However, he’s happy for the kids and the community. “We’ve been battling and working,” he said.