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Kozlowski (click for larger version)
December 08, 2012 | 11:11 AMIt's year two of the Darin Lottig program for the Badger boys basketball squad.
Though last year ended with five wins, Badger earned a huge victory over conference champion Burlington and pushed formidable foe Wilmot to the limit.
Small, yet positive stepping stones for a young team without one senior.
Fast forward to this year, and nine Badgers are back. It's still early, but Lottig said he knows this year's club will focus on team basketball.
"We play together much better as a team this year," he said. "We share the basketball well. And we have the potential to defend better. However, we're still developing an identity."
Badger welcomes back seniors Ian Weber, Colton Andresen, Eric Skipper, Rob Slagle and Jack Golitz. Tony Ashley and Jake Kozlowski are back as juniors, and sophomore Lincoln Wieseman returns after missing most of last season with a leg injury.
Offensively, Badger will feature balanced scoring. Last year's leading scorer, Jacob Growel (14 ppg), moved to East Troy for his junior season, so Kozlowski (7.1 ppg last year), a 6-foot-4 forward, should pick up some offensive slack along with Wieseman, Ashley, Weber and Slagle.
Kozlowski is leading the squad so far with 8.7 points per game, and the 6-foot-4 Wieseman adds 8.3 per contest. Weber, a 6-foot sharpshooter, averages 8 points.
New faces to the varsity are juniors Logan Tenney, Derrick Buntrock, Paul Leedle and Christian Sontag. Leedle and Tenney are both 6-foot-6 and provide an intimidating post presence.
Jake Berhorst, a 6-foot guard, is the team's lone freshman.
"These guys practice hard," Lottig said. "They hit the weight room hard during the season. It's a sign of things to come."
Lottig said Badger boasts full rosters at the varsity, junior varsity and freshmen levels.
"Numbers are way up," he said. "The J.V. guys are playing really hard. It's a step in the right direction. They have acclimated to their expectations."
The Southern Lakes Conference is strong at the top this winter. Wilmot, which is led by new head coach Jake Erbentraut, a former Badger player and coach, is the conference favorite, according to Lottig.
"They are very good," he said of the Panthers. "They will be at the top with Burlington."
Early season struggles
The Badgers remained winless (0-4 overall, 0-2 SLC) Friday with a 57-30 home loss to the Panthers.
The local boys fell behind, 24-9, at the half and never recovered.
The Panthers were every bit as advertised. Their smothering defense forced errant passes, several of which led to Panther fast-break points. Rarely did Badger find itself with an uncontested shot.
Also, the Panthers were hot from beyond the arc.
However, Badger picked up its intensity on both sides of the floor in the second half and finished the game strong.
Badger dropped its first two games to Sussex Hamilton and DeForest, two nonconference powers, and nearly pulled off a win at Waterford Dec. 4. The Badgers were within one point late and had a chance to take the lead but came up short. The Wolverines notched a 50-48 victory.
Lottig said a common theme in the early stages has been turnovers. Badger is averaging more than 20 per contest.
"It's still early, but we have to play the game better," he said. "We have to establish an attitude. We must take care of the ball and find a higher level of energy."