EagleHerald/Billy Betts
Peshtigo’s Mitchell VanVooren rises up for a contested shot as Oconto’s Zach Sherman trails tightly behind him to try and block the shot. Both VanVooren and Sherman were named to the Packerland All-Conference first team.
EagleHerald/Billy Betts

Peshtigo’s Mitchell VanVooren rises up for a contested shot as Oconto’s Zach Sherman trails tightly behind him to try and block the shot. Both VanVooren and Sherman were named to the Packerland All-Conference first team.

PESHTIGO — Size and versatility are just two of the attributes sported by seniors Mitchell VanVooren of Peshtigo and Zach Sherman of Oconto.

Both leading their teams in a variety of ways, VanVooren and Sherman were honored for stellar seasons by earning first-team honors on the Packerland All Conference team.

For VanVooren, the road to success did not come instantly. Having to fight his way through the junior varsity ranks as a freshman and sophomore, the fruits of his labor began to pay off last season when he was awarded a second team all-conference selection.

Entering his senior season and playing on a Peshtigo team that featured 10 total seniors and more depth than the Bulldogs have had in years, the six-foot-five VanVooren guided an unselfish team with just that approach — never doing too much and almost always making the right decisions.

“Mitchell is a unique, special athlete that makes it hard on others to guard him,” Peshtigo coach Nate Motkowski said. “He’s just a hard worker. Plays great defense, very unselfish on offense and he put in a ton of extra time in the off-season.”

The Bulldogs finished second in the Packerland to Southern Door, whom they defeated in the season finale, snapping a 40-game conference winning streak. VanVooren was a huge part of that success, though he may not have been the leading scorer every night.

Averaging just under 14 points per game to lead the team, VanVooren was also second on the team in rebounds at five per contest and often times had to guard the opponents best player.

“Every accolade Mitchell has gotten he’s earned,” Motkowski said. “He could score 25 points one night and then shut down the opponents’ leading scorer the next. Just so versatile.”

VanVooren also developed a jump shot, which helped stretch the defense, opening up more room for his teammates all over the court.

“If Mitchell hit his shots early, the defense had to change and that helped others,” said Motkowski. “He’s just a well-rounded person on and off the court and is one of the nicest kids you’ll ever meet.”

For Sherman, after years of being the defensive stopper and fall-back offensive option on talented Oconto teams, he became the focal point on a rebuilding program that lost six seniors from the season ago.

Instead of forcing bad shots and making it difficult for his young teammates to develop, the six-foot-five Sherman thrived as the teacher and leader, helping the Blue Devils surprise teams by winning six conference games and nearly taking down several Packerland leaders.

“Zach has been our bulldog in the post and was always really good at rebounding and shooting free throws,” Oconto coach Jon Bostedt said. “This year, he was ready to expand his athletic ability and score more and he really did.”

Leading the Packerland in rebounding at just over 11 per game, Sherman not only was effective inside, but he also helped the younger Blue Devils handle the ball.

“If we needed Zach to bring the ball up, he was able to do that,” Bostedt said. “He helped guide our youth and led by example. We were a team filled with sophomores and inexperienced players and he just helped everyone get better.”

Earning second-team laurels for both Peshtigo and Oconto were Bulldogs junior Cade Tackmier and Blue Devils sophomore Josh Woller.

Tackmier led the Bulldogs in rebounding at 6.6 per game and was their second leading scorer at just over 11 ppg. His athletic ability is what helped Tackmier stand out, but he was also a good defender that could score in a variety of ways.

“The numbers don’t represent all of what Cade did for our team and where he’s at as a player,” Motkowski said. “He had a way of finding the mismatch and exploiting it. We’re excited to have him back next year and he’ll play a pivotal role in our success.”

Woller was one of the primary ball handlers for Oconto and could also knock down shots from outside with more consistency than the average sophomore in his first varsity season.

“Josh is a basketball junkie. He’s just a workaholic that spends a lot of time in the gym,” Bostedt said. “I was very happy for him and look forward to coaching him for two more years. His potential is very high.”