CRIVITZ — In high school basketball, consistency from year-to-year is not always easy to come by.

Teams can have a good season and then lose the majority of its players to graduation or have someone not come back out the next year, and then they are forced to start all over from square one.

For coach Jeff Baumann and the Crivitz boys basketball team, they have found a way to constantly stay in the win column over the last three years in Marinette & Oconto Conference play, tallying the fifth-best M&O record in the last 50 years in the process.

From the 2017-2018 season through 2019-2020, the Wolverines have amassed 45 conference wins with just three losses en route to three straight conference titles and a win percentage of 93. Only the 2010-2014 undefeated Peshtigo Bulldogs, the 1994-1997 Wausaukee Rangers (41-1), the 1988-1992 Wausaukee Rangers (54-2) and the 2005-2008 Suring Eagles (46-2) have better win percentages over a three-or-four year span.

“The consistency we have shown the last few years has been really nice,” Baumann said. “All of the kids we have had have been extremely hard workers, they love the game, play all summer and they are willing to get in the gym and put the work in.”

When Baumann took over in 2008, he understood the importance of getting a good, solid youth program up and running. The eye opener, he says, was when he noticed some of the middle school teams losing games by 30 or 40 points, and from that point on he has worked on shaping the way kids learn the game so by the time they get to middle school, fundamentals already come second nature and more advanced learning can be done.

The only detriment to the youth program Baumann sees is that it sometimes weeds kids out before they get to high school which in turn can hurt the program numbers. But, as with any team, there will always be that handful of kids who put the work in and do everything they can to lift the program to where they eventually want it to be.

“We put a lot of effort into our youth program since I took over and the last few years it has really started to show,” Baumann said. “In order to get a high quality program, you have to build up from when the kids are young. You’re always going to lose a couple of kids in the process to other sports or whatever it may be, but for every one that quits there is someone else to take their place.”

Three staples to the Crivitz squad on its historic run have been seniors Jaden Werner, Dawson Andrist and Chandler Kaldenberg. Each one of them has been a part of the Wolverines varsity since their freshman year when Crivitz went 13-5 in the conference, bringing their four-year conference record to 58-8 (88 percent).

The trio did not contribute a whole lot over their first two years on varsity, averaging between 2-5 points per game their freshman year while Werner led all three with 8.1 points per game their sophomore season when the team went 14-2 in the M&O and won their first conference title of the streak. During their sophomore season, freshman Eian Baumann was called up to the varsity squad for the final three games of the year, making him a part of all three teams as well.

As juniors in 2018-2019, Werner again led the way with 14.9 points per game, but Kaldenberg (14.7) and Andrist (14.3) were right on his heels. Not only did the trio lead their team in scoring, they also led the Wolverines to an undefeated conference record (16-0) where they dominated the competition and took home their second straight M&O title.

In their senior season, the Wolverines won another conference record after a 15-1 regular season, but it all came down to one of the final games of the year and took some heroics from not one of the seniors or juniors who were there the whole way, but from freshman Dillan Gehm.

After suffering a blowout loss to Coleman earlier in the season, Crivitz found itself locked in a dogfight with the Cougars in a game that would decide whether or not the Wolverines would be back-to-back-to-back M&O champs.

With 13 seconds remaining in regulation and trailing by three, everyone in the gym knew Crivitz wanted to get the ball in the hands of Werner or Andrist, so Coleman shaded help defenders towards each of them as to not give them a good look at the basket. Werner received the inbounds pass but couldn’t find his shot and instead kicked it over to Gehm who saved the season by draining a triple as time expired to send it to overtime. Crivitz nailed free throws in the overtime period and the Wolverines were victorious 60-58 to clinch their third-straight conference title.

“That was the biggest game I’ve ever been a part of in my 12 years as head coach,” Baumann said. “We had a tough beginning to the season and at one point lost three in a row for the first time in years. After we lost to Coleman the first time, we started to play more as a team and then we got to the rematch and actually led most of the game until they got the lead on us. When we called timeout with 13 seconds left down three, I was already thinking in my head the season was probably over and then Dillan hits the biggest shot of the season as a freshman to clinch a conference title. It was just an unbelievable game.”

For his efforts during the regular season, Werner was named M&O Conference Most Valuable Player and given a spot on the first team along with Andrist. Kaldenberg was named to honorable mention and Baumann graced the second team.

“All of those guys put in so much time and they all truly deserved those awards,” coach Baumann said. “They always showed up and they started to get more and more underclassmen to show up during summer workouts as the years went on. It’s important for us to compete against teams that are better than us in the summer. We need to come out and get beat up sometimes because that helps to motivate. They’ve been fantastic on this run and we’re really going to miss this senior class.”

While Baumann and the Wolverines will miss the senior trio of Werner, Andrist and Kaldenberg, they will have some experience returning in Baumann, Gehm, Alec Grandaw, Trey Franzen and Seth Sellen, along with a few more underclassmen that will more than likely get brought up and see time on the varsity squad.

“We’ve somewhat come to expect that we are going to have guys step up for us every year now,” coach Baumann said. “We’ve been blessed the last few years that when we lose our senior class, we’ve have kids who have been on varsity since they were freshman to take over the reins. I’m a big believer in bringing freshman up to get that experience, and we’ve got some good ones in the program coming up now that we’re excited about as well as we’re excited about the talent we have returning.

“These last 12 years have been really fun. The M&O coaches are all great. We all want to beat each other, but then after the game we’re friends again. We know we have the tools to be successful again this upcoming season, we just have to continue to put the work in and good things will happen.”