LENA — From one win to 20 in just four years, the Lena boys' basketball team had the largest turnaround of any M&O Conference basketball team.
A large reason for the Wildcats' success was the play of seniors Connor Heise and Hunter Borchert and they were rewarded for their strong play.
Heise capped off his illustrious career for Lena by earning the M&O's Player of the Year honors.
"I'm happy with the way things turned out and Connor deserved to be the MVP," Lena coach Jeff Heimke. "His stats alone were impressive, but he just did so much for our team."
Joining the Wildcats varsity midway through his sophomore year, Heise made an immediate impact.
Earning first-team laurels a year ago, Heise averaged a conference-high 23 points per game this season to along with 8.3 rebounds a game, ranking second in the M&O.
"He's not a very big kid, but he was strong driving to the basket and had a knack for pulling in rebounds," said Heimke. "Connor spend a lot of time in the weight room in the off-season and just put in a ton of time on his game."
For Borchert, this was his fourth straight all-conference selection, something almost unheard of no matter what conference you play in.
After making the second team his freshman and sophomore seasons, Borchert was an honorable mention selection last year, before breaking out in his senior campaign and was a formidable one-two punch to go along with Heise.
"Hunter's versatility stood out to me because we asked him to do so many things," Heimke said. "He can play in the post, step out on the wing and handled the basketball."
Borchert averaged 16.6 points per game along with eight rebounds and took over if Heise needed a blow on the bench.
"Both players were great together on the court, but they could take over when one needed to sit for a little bit," said Heimke. "They both hit some big shots for us during their career and we wouldn't have reached the sectionals without them."
Finishing first in the M&O with a 17-1 record, Peshtigo had a plethora of options on both sides of the ball.
Senior Ryley Demmith finished off his career on a high note by making the first team and fellow senior Joey Bradley was a second-teamer, but earned the conference's top defensive player award.
Demmith, who was a second-teamer last season, was sixth in the M&O in scoring at just under 17 points per game, but was the league's top rebounder at 10.7 a night.
Time and commitment in the off-season was something Bulldogs coach Nate Motkowski raved about from Demmith as he watched him grow from his freshman year on up.
"Ryley played on the freshman team his freshman year, but worked his butt off and made varsity his final three years," said Motkowski. "He put a lot of time in during the off-season, working on different aspects of his game and it paid off."
Not only did Demmith lead Peshtigo in points and rebounds, he also led the team in assists and had the highest three-point percentage, a facet of his game he became very good at.
For Bradley, his growth through the years also stood out to Motkowski and was a duel-threat on both sides of the ball.
"Joey is a great defender and can score both inside and out," said Motkowski. "He developed into a complete player from his freshman year on up and had a huge jump for us over the years."
One of the many stats Motkowski was most proud of is what his Bulldog senior class achieved.
During the careers of Demmith and Bradley, along with fellow three-year varsity starter Justin Thill, Peshtigo won 61 games, two conference titles and two regional titles.
Rounding out the first team were Crivitz junior Travis Giese and Suring junior Ryan Mahoney.
Giese was one of the few true post players in the M&O and excelled inside, causing constant double-teams.
Leading the Wolverines with 16.6 points per game along with averaging a conference-high 3.1 steals per game and adding three assists a night, Giese received high praise from Crivitz coach Jeff Baumann about his growth and ability to make others better.
"Travis has a high motor and is a very coachable kid," Baumann said. "He got to the free throws a lot more this year and improved his average to around 70 percent from the line. He also had five games of 20 points scoring or better, which was impressive on a balanced team. I'm very happy to have him back next year."
Mahoney has done just about all you can ask through his first three years of varsity ball, other than win a conference championship.
Earning honorable mention his first two seasons, Mahoney spiked his scoring average to over 17 points a night and has already eclipsed the 1,000-point scoring mark with another season to go.
Suring has gone from an 8-8 record to place fourth in the conference his freshman year to a 15-3 record and second place this season, making Suring a team to look out for next season with his return.
ALL M&O BOYS' BASKETBALL
Hunter Borchert Lena Sr.
Ryley Demmith Peshtigo Sr.
Travis Giese Crivitz Jr.
*Connor Heise Lena Sr.
Ryan Mahoney Suring Jr.
Ethan Blagec Niagara Sr.
+Joey Bradley Peshtigo Sr.
Jack Farley STAA Jr.
Chris Geniesse Suring Sr.
Jonethan Massey Oneida Nation Sr.
Cole Woulf Coleman Jr.
Dalton Anderson Lena Sr.
John Christensen Suring Sr.
Logan Krause Gillett So.
Austin Marquardt Coleman Jr.
Eric Powers STAA Sr.
Crimsen Powless Oneida Nation Sr.
Cody Renikow Wausaukee Sr.
Tyler Stuart STAA Jr.
Kershaw Stumbris Crivitz Sr.
Jakob Voss Crivitz Jr.
*Connor Heise was selected as the conference MVP
+Joey Bradley was selected as the top defensive player