November 30, 2011 | 07:54 AMPardon the cliche, but there is no place to go but up for the Badger boys basketball team.
After a rough 3-20 season last year, only three years removed from a WIAA state tournament appearance, the Badgers hope a change at the top will produce wins this winter.
New head coach, Darin Lottig, who compiled a 99-18 record over the last five seasons at East Troy. A physical education teacher at Lake Geneva Middle School and a Geneva Township resident, Lottig comes home after posting a 122-59 overall record in eight seasons at East Troy.
Lottig takes over a squad that lost three key seniors, Brendan Gruenwald-Schmitz, Will Swanson and Bobby Lamparek, and only features two seniors. Once again, Badger will rely on a youth movement, with four juniors, three sophomores and a freshman.
Jacob Growel, Jake Kozlowski, Eric Skipper, Colton Andresen and Rob Slagle are back for the Badgers.
So far, Lottig says the team is working on chemistry.
"The guys are still getting to know each other," he said. "We still have a lot of work to do defensively. But the guys are hungry to learn and have shown great effort."
Along with the five returners, Badger welcomes Tyler Compton, a 6-foot-3 junior who transferred from Williams Bay.
Other newcomers will include juniors Travis Stahulak, Ian Weber and Jack Golitz along with freshman Lincoln Wieseman.
Lottig realizes the concept of winning won't be learned immediately.
"I expect us to go out and compete every night," he said. "We have to learn how to win. We aren't very athletic right now. But we will lift regularly. It's going to take a lot of blood, sweat and tears."
In terms of scoring, Growel is the team's leading returning scorer at 8.3 points per game. Andresen is next at 7.6. Compton registered 5.8 points per contest last year for the Bay.
Lottig hopes balanced scoring will be a key asset.
"We want something from everyone offensively," he said.
Defensively, Lottig says the team will implement a mix of zone. He said players must want to buy in on the defensive side of the ball.
According to Lottig, Growel, Kozlowski and Wieseman all had good summers and are much improved from a year ago.
"We can be a dangerous team," Lottig said.
Badger opens up Southern Lakes Conference play Friday against Waterford, which took second last year.
"It will be tough right away," Lottig said. "We are facing the top of the SLC right away. Burlington, Waterford, and Elkhorn should be up there. Wilmot could be a dark horse."
Nonconference schedule unkind
Last weekend, the Badgers dropped two games in the Carthage Invite to bigger schools.
On Saturday, Racine Case, which advanced to sectionals a year ago with a 22-3 record, pounded the local boys, 77-45.
But Badger hung tough, only trailing 32-25 at the half. However, a 25-10 second half from Case broke the game wide open.
Wieseman led Badger with 11 points, followed by Andresen with nine. Growel added eight. Kozlowski and Compton each tallied six.
On Friday, Badger fell in a low-scoring tilt to Waukesha North, 39-26. North built a 15-8 halftime lead and hung on in the second half.
Compton led the Badgers with eight points, and Growel and Kozlowski each chipped in seven.