It was a "what-if?" kind of season for the Whitefish Bay boys basketball team this winter.
The Blue Dukes finished with a fairly gaudy 18-6 record with many wins over high-caliber opponents, but in truly big games, Bay struggled a bit and the campaign ended with a flat, frustrating WIAA regional final loss to Pius XI that left coach Kevin Lazovik shaking his head and looking to the rafters of the Bay Fieldhouse for answers.
"We had an overall good season," said Lazovik, "but we didn't reach our goals at the end of the season. It was disappointing. Overall, we played well, but we would just have these lapses. It just seemed that at times we played tight, trying not to lose, instead of playing to win."
And that took the edge off of a season that included very competitive early losses to state semifinalist Milwaukee King (five points) and to North Shore rival and eventual three-time state champ Germantown (an eight-point loss).
There were two eight-game winning streaks, but then there were also two difficult-to-take losses to Homestead (two points and six points). The closing eight-game streak looked like it was going to lead into a strong tournament run before Pius shut the door.
That run including a good road win over non-conference power Milwaukee Vincent, and several double-digit routs in a row. It also included a rally from a 10-point deficit against eventual WIAA sectional finalist Port Washington.
"We were able to overcome a few things and get some things done at times," said Lazovik.
But not quite enough of them, and that was too bad, because the Blue Dukes were built on length up-front (several players 6'-6" or better) and speed and talent in the backcourt with Isaiah Johnson and Miles Sigh.
That led to some very entertaining ball at several points of the season, as behind North Shore Conference co-player of the year, senior forward Joe Sherburne, the Blue Dukes averaged around 62 points per game.
"What I really liked, especially at the end of the year, was how we shared the ball," said Lazovik. "We did it exceptionally well at times and I think our average assist per game totals at the end of the season were in the high teens to low 20s per game. We could look really good when we were talking and moving the ball well."
The 6'-6" Sherburne, a three-year letterwinner, shared the NSC Player of the Year honors with Jake Showalter of Germantown. He averaged 14.8 points per game, hit 77 percent of his free throws and nailed a team high 52 three-pointers. He finished his career with 1,001 points and he also led the team in rebounds at 5.1 per game was second in assists at 3.1 per game.
"He did just so many things for us," said Lazovik.
Both Johnson (11.5 ppg) and Sigh (12.8 ppg) earned second-team All-North Shore honors, hitting 24 and 22 three-pointers apiece. Jake Casey (7 ppg) and Christian Lane (5.5 ppg) also contributed well.
Seniors on the team include Sherburne, Lane, Ryan Olver, Casey, Cole Stasiak, Rhashad Gray and Riley Breitenbach.
"The seniors worked hard," said Lazovik. "They weren't the most vocal group, but they represented themselves well."
Lazovik has reason to be optimistic. The junior varsity was undefeated at 22-0 and the freshmen team went 18-2. Lazovik said the junior varsity is a little like the current varsity group as it communicates well and has played a lot of ball over the years.
"We're definitely excited about the future," he said.
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