When the seniors on Mauston High School’s boys basketball team were asked to describe their basketball careers in one word, Mitchell Burch said the Golden Eagles motto for this season.
“Our team motto is to be relentless,” Burch said.
The definition of relentless according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary is “showing or promising no abatement of severity, intensity, strength, or pace.” This definition has followed this group of seniors, not only throughout this season, but also their entire lives.
“Relentless people don’t stop,” Head Coach Gil Saylor said. “The score doesn’t matter, outcome doesn’t matter… when you love what you’re doing, you just keep going no matter what and that’s how they are.”
A majority of the athletes have been playing on the court together since they were around six years old in youth basketball. Saylor also had a role at that time when he was the assistant coach for the youth team. Being together for so long has created not only many memories but also a family like atmosphere on and off the court for both athletes as well as Saylor.
“To be able to communicate with them at any time and they’re closeness I’ve never seen anything quite like it,” Saylor said. It’s almost like one unit no matter where they go it’s been amazing to watch them grow.”
The strong team chemistry built way to success, first starting out at the elementary school level. During the team’s 8th grade year they placed 17th in the state. When the group became sophomores in high school, they aided the team in bringing home their first conference title in 29 years and won the conference title last season as well. Hall has been named South Central Conference Player of the Year the last two years.
“We all had high hopes for ourselves that we’d be planning on doing this for our careers,” Mitchell Gray said.
But the team hasn’t only been living up to their team motto on the court, but also in the classroom as well. Erler, Tarren Hall, John Bauer, and Mitchell Gray are National Honor Society members.
It’s hit some of the members of the team that their time together is limited. But Erler said the team has more to prove as post-season gets underway. After a 86-47 win against Wautoma last Thursday, the Golden Eagles fell short of their goal to “three-peat” at the conference level, finishing 3rd in the SCC with a 6-4 record.
With falling short of their goal, the Golden Eagles are now looking towards the WIAA Regional Tournament. The team received a bye from the first round and will have some challenges facing Westby Friday with Jesse Solberg averaging 21 points per game as well as 6 rebounds per game. Hall averages around 17 points per game and 7.7 rebounds.
But despite the stats, the Golden Eagles say they have more to prove.
“We haven’t made it that far in the playoffs yet,” Erler said. “We want to hopefully go to state.”
With all the success this group of seniors has had throughout their time together, they won’t take time to reflect on all they have done until the season is over.
“Right now we’re focused on what’s ahead and what more we can do,” Hall who has scored over 1,600 points in his high school career, said.
Saylor agreed with Hall, but added the hardest part when it’s over won’t be going to games, but not going to practices with each other.
“It’s where you work, it’s a fun work and it’s a challenging work,” Saylor said. “It’s when you’re together doing what you love with the people you love most.”
While their time on the court as athletes is limited, no matter what the scoreboard says, their friendship will be relentless even as the buzzer sounds.
“It’s (our friendship) is not completely done,” Gray said. “We spent so much time together that it’s hard not to stay in touch with each other.”
Saylor said the group will also be relentless while pursuing their own dreams long after they leave Mauston High School.
“These are going to be successful people who have gotten to use sports as the opportunity to learn,” Saylor said. “Wherever they are going to go they need to be that way in their careers, their jobs, their families and working towards the things they want to have happen.”
Saylor said all of the seniors plan to attend college next year, however Hall is the only one from the group who plans to continue his basketball career in college. Next year, he will attend Carroll University where he hopes to bring what he’s learned from being a Golden Eagle to a Pioneer.
“Have fun, but enjoy what you do,” Hall said.
#5 Mauston (15-7) will travel to #4 Westby (17-5) Friday evening. The game starts at 7:00 p.m.
Other post-season action
#14 New Lisbon (4-18) played #3 Royall (16-6) Tuesday at Royall while #11 Wonewoc-Center (7-15) will play #6 Lincoln (9-13).
#3 Necedah (17-5) also received a bye from the first round of the WIAA tournament and will play on their home court Friday evening at 7:00 p.m. against the winner of the #11 Montello (3-19) vs. #6 Luther (10-12) game.