Pirates aiming for conference title
By Rich Palzewic
SUAMICO – Bay Port boys’ basketball coach Nate Rykal is honest about his team’s chances this season.
“We should be a team that has a chance to win the conference title,” said Rykal. “I believe we are the front-runners, and I’m not afraid to say that. I’ve said it before in years past, too. It’s a good thing to have the confidence to make such a statement. It means we have the players to make a good run. There are lots of other good teams in the conference, but I think most of the coaches in the Fox River Classic Conference – including myself – would say we are the favorites.”
The Pirates return all of their main weapons from a team that finished 16-8 overall a year ago and third in the FRCC with a 13-5 mark.
“We have the veterans coming back,” Rykal said. “It’s a good group, and they work hard. We were the underdogs last year, and we still finished third.”
With a conference title as Bay Port’s first goal, moving deeper into the WIAA Division 1 postseason will be a challenge.
“Our sectional is a bear,” Rykal laughed. “Sussex-Hamilton has the No. 1-player in the state in Patrick Baldwin Jr. Brookfield Central, Brookfield East and lots of good teams will be there with us. You never know – we have an experienced group.”
The Pirates had their first week of practice thrown off because a handful of the team’s best players were ending their fall football season in the state title game.
“It won’t affect us long term,” said Rykal. “They needed some rest after the football season, but most of them came right to the courts once their season ended on the gridiron.”
Bay Port postponed its first game of the season against Appleton West to help in the transition.
The Pirates’ first game isn’t until Dec. 7.
“Even though the football guys missed the first week of practice, there are positives,” Rykal said. “It was a bonus week for the guys at practice to get some work in and improve their games. They got reps while the football players were gone.”
Logan Geissler, the team’s top-returning scorer, averaged 13.6 points per game last year.
Ethan Begotka (7.2), Andrew Thomas (6.4), Sam Plumb (4.8), Cole Weber (2.3) and Gunnar DeCleene (3.3) all return as well.
Geissler, Thomas, Plumb and Weber were affected by the late football season.
Bay Port lost seniors Mohamed Salem (4.5), Logan Bruntz (3.4), Chris Steffes, Jake Plummer and Christian Kozak.
Chris Farrington, who averaged 10.3 points per game last season, moved out of the district.
Rykal expects a competitive conference race.
“De Pere will be good, Notre Dame will be better and Pulaski always finds a way to win some games,” said Rykal. “I feel De Pere will be right there battling with us at the top. Manitowoc Lincoln should be improved, and Sheboygan South will be interesting. Even though Green Bay Southwest lost some good players, they will be dangerous with how they shoot the ball.”
Bay Port boys’ basketball schedule
12/7 – Stevens Point
12/12 – Manitowoc Lincoln
12/14 – @ St. John’s Northwestern Military Academy – 4 p.m.
12/17 – @ Sheboygan North
12/20 – Ashwaubenon
1/7 – @ De Pere
1/10 – @ Notre Dame Academy
1/14 – Green Bay Southwest
1/17 – @ Pulaski
1/21 – Preble
1/24 – @ Sheboygan South
1/28 – @ Manitowoc
1/31 – @ Ashwaubenon
2/4 – Sheboygan North
2/7 – De Pere – 5:40
2/11 – Notre Dame
2/14 – @ Southwest
2/15 – @ Appleton West – 7:30 p.m.
2/18 – Pulaski
2/21 – @ Preble
2/22 – Eau Claire North
2/27 – Sheboygan South
Editor’s note: All games begin at 7 p.m. unless otherwise noted.