By Greg Bates
Times-Press sports correspondent
This was a historic year for the Shiocton boys basketball program.
For the first time since 1991 and ’92, the Chiefs captured back-to-back conference titles. Shiocton earned a share of the Central Wisconsin East championship for the second straight year with Iola-Scandinavia.
Even though the season didn’t result in a state tournament appearance – the WIAA shut down the season after sectional semifinals due to the COVID-19 pandemic – the Shiocton players can be proud of a great run that ended in a loss in a Division 4 regional final.
“We’re still happy with the conference championship and stuff,” Shiocton senior Austin Van Den Bosch said. “Overall, it was a pretty good year. It didn’t really go the way we wanted it to, but we can’t let that define the season. We still had a good record and had a lot of fun together.”
With a 20-4 record, Shiocton reached 17 or more victories for the fifth consecutive season. It’s the first time since the 2012-13 campaign that the Chiefs hit the 20-win plateau.
“The group that we had, we had almost everybody returning plus we had some JV kids that I expected to contribute well,” Shiocton coach Chad Schmidt said. “I’m fully happy with how the season overall went with how well we played.”
The defining moment of the season came in the last game of the regular season. Undefeated Iola-Scandinavia, 11-0 in conference and ranked No. 4 in Division 4 in the last WisSports.net Coaches Poll, hosted 10-1 Shiocton. The Thunderbirds eked out a 70-68 victory at Shiocton on Jan. 7, so the Chiefs had a little revenge on their minds. A win by Shiocton meant another share of a conference title.
It was a playoff-type atmosphere in the standing-room-only Iola-Scandinavia gym. With the lights on the brightest, the Shiocton players responded. The Chiefs built an 11-point halftime lead and never wavered, earning a 77-62 victory. Seniors Derek Bedor (31 points) and Van Den Bosch (21) combined for 52 points.
“The kids played so well,” Schmidt said. “Best game of the season against great competition, because they were just in that mode where they were grateful to be in the moment, to play in front of an atmosphere like that.”
“A lot of people thought we wouldn’t be able to beat them because we’re the 3-seed and they already beat us once this season and they haven’t lost all year,” Van Den Bosch said. “Then for us to beat them, it opened a lot of peoples’ eyes like, ‘Wow. You guys can actually handle them.’”
With the season ending abruptly, it was Iola-Scandinavia’s lone loss since the Thunderbirds had advanced to the sectional final.
Even with a 19-3 regular-season record, Shiocton earned a No. 3 seed in its sectional bracket. That just proved how stacked Division 4 was with solid teams in northeastern and central Wisconsin.
Shiocton ended up falling to No. 2-seeded and No. 5-ranked in the state Lourdes Academy, 83-64. Had the Chiefs won that game, Iola-Scandinavia was standing in their way. Had Shiocton advanced to the sectional final, the state’s No. 2-ranked team, Stratford would have stood in its way. Schmidt’s brother, Curt, is the coach of the undefeated Tigers.
Shiocton didn’t have an easy road during the season having to battle injuries. During football season, Cole Wilcox, the team’s starting point guard, hurt his knee and had to miss the entire basketball season. Not having Wilcox in the lineup was a 20-point swing. A lock down defender, having him on the court would have meant 10 points on the defensive end and 10 points on the offensive end, coach Schmidt said.
“We had one of our better teams that we’ve had – and we’ve had some good teams lately,” Schmidt said. “We had depth; we had the size. We had all the pieces outside of Cole. I told the guys this in the locker room after our last game, ‘We had a good year, but we really missed out on the type of player Cole is – explosiveness, the leadership, the point guard skills, the way that he can defend.’ We really missed out on watching a dynamic player and playing with a dynamic player. In spite of all that, we did pretty well.”
Van Den Bosch knows the impact would have been immense had Wilcox been able to be on the court.
“We would have matched up a lot better with a lot of teams,” Van Den Bosch said. “He’s a quick player and smarter on defense, and I think that could have helped us in a lot of games where they had a point guard that was a little quicker because Cole could shut them down.”
A senior-laden team, four of Shiocton’s top five guys played their final season. Van Den Bosch led the team in scoring at 17.6 points per game to go with 7.8 rebounds. Derek Bedor, who will play next season at Ripon College, put up 16.2 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals. Corbin Lorge was at 11.8 points per game and Deven Bedor at 7.6 points.
It was an accomplished senior class with a four-year record of 76-22 and three conference titles.
“This senior class this year is certainly special to me,” Schmidt said. “I’ve watched them grow up. Their seriousness for the game, their passion for the game. The families were very nurturing of their kids. They’ve done a fantastic job of raising them into fine young men. When you’re coaching a group of kids that are not only talented at basketball but are very serious about it and are good kids on and off the court, they buy into the culture that we build here. Great leaders that treat underclassmen really well. They’re special and they’re going to be missed.”
The seniors always included the underclassmen in everything and helped them improve as basketball players.
“I think that starts when us seniors were sophomores, the senior class really helped us out and tucked us under their wing and really helped us develop as a team, too,” Van Den Bosch said. “We looked up to them and we wanted to be like that same class this year as they were two years ago.”
Shiocton will return just one starter next season, junior Caden Schmidt (11 points, 3.4 assists, 3.2 rebounds per game). Juniors Hudson Spencer (7.4 points) and Jack Scott (2.6 points) and freshman Dawson Schmidt (5.4) will all play larger roles next season.
The Chiefs will have a roster filled with shooters, ballhandlers and guys willing to defend.
“We’re going to keep rolling,” coach Schmidt said. “We’re not going to have the size that we had, but we’re still going to have the skill. The skill isn’t going away. We should still be pretty strong the next few years. And, again, I think we’re going to compete for a conference championship every year for the next few years.”
Van Den Bosch and his fellow seniors hope they left the Shiocton program in better hands. It was their goal to make the community members proud every time they stepped on the court. Did they accomplish that?
“I think so,” Van Den Bosch said. “I hope so.”