Zephyr girls rise to the challenge, bring home state title

By | April 8, 2009


The 2008-2009 basketball season was one for the record books at St. Mary Central High School. The Zephyr girls won the WIAA Division 4 state championship by defeating Potosi 45-42. A week later, the boys team made its first ever WIAA state tournament appearance, falling 65-54 in the semi-finals to Assumption of Wisconsin Rapids.

Members of both teams had little time to bask in the glory of playing in Madison. Captains Rachel Brown and Maggie Pawlowski had a 6 a.m. soccer practice scheduled two days after the title game. Tri-captains Matt Flunker, Brian O’Connell and Eric Ransom of the boys’ hoops team opened the baseball season with a 3-2 victory over Wautoma less than two weeks after state. Such is the life of the multi-sport athlete, and these five seniors relish the challenge. Brown and Pawlowski also played on the SMC tennis team, and the guys were members of the football team.

“If I was at a bigger school, I may have been restricted to one sport,” said O’Connell. “I probably would have tried to play basketball and baseball, but probably would not have played football. Since we are a smaller school (208 students), it really opens up stuff for us.”

“Because of the small size of our school, you not only have the opportunity to play more sports,” said Brown, “but you have a better chance to play at the varsity level more years.”

Brown, a third team all-state selection in basketball, has competed in seven state events. In addition to basketball the last two seasons, she played in the Division 2 state singles tennis tournament as both a junior and senior and in three consecutive state soccer tourneys. The Zephyr girls won the 2007 WIAA Division 2 state soccer championship. The basketball title is starting to sink in, said Brown.

“People are still coming up to us to say congratulations,” she said. “It was great to see how much support we received from the school and the community.”

“The support here is always great,” said Pawlowski. “Winning state definitely made my senior year that much better.”

The girls took the championship trophy to the elementary schools where they signed autographs for the students.

“That was really cool,” said Brown, who plans to attend UW-Stevens Point to compete in tennis or basketball. “You really don’t think it makes that much of an impact, but you get to see how the younger kids look up to you.”

The boys tournament run followed a 7-11 conference record.

“We only played one Division 4 team during the season,” said O’Connell.

“We knew we had a chance if we put a good string of games together,” said Ransom.

They hope to follow their basketball success with a good season on the diamond.

“We only lost two players from last year’s team,” said O’Connell, the team’s shortstop. “We returned all our pitchers.”

O’Connell and Ransom will attend UW-Oshkosh in the fall. Flunker will be a student at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where he hopes to participate in athletics in a different form.

“I am going to try out to be Bucky Badger (mascot),” he said. “I’m doing my push-ups.”

The school’s small number of athletes poses the biggest hurdle on the football field, but the benefits of a small school outweigh the challenges, said Ransom.

“The small population allows you to know everyone,” he said. “Everyone is friends with everyone.”

“It really gives you an opportunity to form relationships with the teachers and with people in your classes,” added Flunker.

O’Connell suggests that prospective students do not let any misconceptions temper their interest in SMC.

“There are still people who think it’s a Catholic school, so all they must do is go to church,” he said. “They do a good job of mixing in faith, and you still have a lot of fun.”

News and notes:
Leadership extends beyond the field for Notre Dame Academy senior Alex Moss. Last month, Moss, a captain on the 2008 Tritons’ football team, volunteered to have his head shaved as part of the school’s support of Sting Cancer Awareness in collaboration with Preble High School and the Greater Green Bay St. Baldrick Foundation. Moss and his younger brother, Sam, a fifth grader at Notre Dame School in De Pere, raised $1,313 for the cause.

“We know quite a few people affected by cancer,” said Moss. “I was happy to represent the senior class and my school. I had a lot of hair, so I figured I could raise some money. It was fun.”

Moss collected donations from teachers and students. Basketball games generated funds.

“We made announcements at halftime,” he said. “Some girls made buckets for us, which we carried everywhere.”

Notre Dame and Preble are cross-town rivals in the Fox River Classic Conference, but teammates in the fight against cancer.

“On the football field or the basketball court, we may not like each other,” said Moss, “but we can come together for the greater good.

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