My column for the Washington County Daily News is online. Something positive this week. Here it is:
Spoiled professional football players disrespecting their country’s flag; Olympic athletes getting caught doping; extensive corruption in FIFA; FBI arrests in college basketball … sports are supposed to be fun, right? It has been easy to forget that fact, but there is something special going on with the boys’ basketball team at Kettle Moraine Lutheran High School to remind you.
After a run as impressive as it was improbable, the KML boys basketball team came back from a 13-point halftime deficit Saturday to defeat their East Central Conference rival Waupun Warriors and win the sectional championship. Now they are off to Madison to compete in the Division 3 WIAA Boys Basketball Tournament.
The road to the sectional championship was not easy for the Chargers. On March 3, the Chargers faced off against the Brown Deer Falcons who were the No. 1 seed and ranked No. 2 in the state. The Falcons were heavily favored, but the Chargers fought to a strong 10-point victory.
Next up was the perennial powerhouse, the Dominican Knights, with Alex Antetokounmpo. Milwaukee Bucks player Giannis Antetokounmpo attended the game to cheer on his brother in what was supposed to be an easy victory on the way to the championship. Instead, the KML Chargers played tough and clinched the win on a clutch basket at the buzzer by Solomon Zarling.
Embracing the motto, “embrace the grind,” the Chargers got right back to practice to face their powerful conference rivals, the Waupun Warriors, two days later. The game between the Warriors and the Chargers was everything that sports is supposed to be. The stands were packed with fans from both schools who mightily cheered for their respective teams.
The Warriors were unbeatable in the first half. With a staunch defense leaving the Chargers little room to maneuver, the Warriors gutted it out on the inside while sinking seven 3-pointers. With the final 3-pointer of the half swishing into the basket at the halftime buzzer, both teams entered the locker room at halftime with the Warriors ahead 3421. It seems like the Chargers’ journey was ending.
In the second half, the Warriors’ shooting went cold as the Chargers defense stepped up. The Chargers went on an 18-4 run to take a 39-38 lead before the Warriors could stop the bleeding. After going back and forth for several minutes, the Chargers pulled away to win the game, 53-48.
More impressive than the game was the sportsmanship displayed on both sides. Throughout the hard fought game, the fans, with rare exception, cheered for their team without booing the other side.
The boys on the court played hard and could be heard encouraging each other and forgiving mistakes easily. When it was all over, the Warriors players remained on the court to congratulate the Chargers despite their understandable disappointment. It was everything one could want from a game.
I have had the pleasure of watching several of the Charger boys play together since they were in grade school. They come from West Bend, Germantown, Jackson and all over Washington County and beyond. You will not find a better group of humble, competitive, cheerful, tough, thoughtful, Christian young men and it shows in how they play the game.
These young men remind us that faith, joy and character matter more than winning. They remind us of what sports is supposed to be. Coach Todd Jahns and his assistants expect nothing less from the young men in their charge.
This week will see teenagers being inspirational. It will happen on Thursday afternoon at 1:35 p.m. in Madison as the KML Chargers take on the No. 1-seeded Valders, who defeated Appleton Xavier.