MADISON - It took De Pere 34 years to return to the boys state basketball tournament, but coach Brian Winchester believes the wait for the next trip won't be nearly as long.
Despite losing senior starters Reece Zoelle, Chris Kading and Mason Mocarski and bench player Matt VanStraten, Winchester thinks the Redbirds once again can reach the Kohl Center - next season.
"I don't think there's any question that we can," Winchester said. "We have the athletes, we've got skilled basketball players. Most of all, we have kids who love basketball and will put the time into it. They're going to get better from this.
"They've had disappointment before. The kids that come back next year will find a way to get better. We're not a team that just lost everything. We have the nucleus."
Among the key players returning next season are forwards Brett VandenBergh, Brett Marshall and Kaden Coleman and guards Jordan Poydras and Adam Beyer. VandenBergh and Coleman started this season, while Poydras, Marshall and Beyer played good minutes off the bench.
Winchester also said he has good talent coming up through the ranks and knows the upcoming players will develop. Zoelle is an example of that.
"This is my fourth year as head coach," Winchester said. "When I came in Reece was about 5-8 and 110 pounds dripping wet when he came in. He came up his sophomore year and struggled a bit, but by the end of the season we couldn't take him off the floor. He just developed tremendously, as did all our seniors."
Zoelle reflects on season
Zoelle was disappointed De Pere couldn't outlast Madison Memorial in the epic three-overtime state title game Saturday night, but he knows what he and his teammates accomplished was pretty special.
"Of course we all hurt a little bit," Zoelle said. "This was a long journey. We made it as far as we could, so I'm thankful for that. It was a great experience. By far, the best basketball game I've played in my entire life. It was a good experience, we just came up short. Life goes on, next chapter, I guess."
Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter: @dougritchay
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