Sharing their success
GBSW hoops programs off to fast start
By Rich Palzewic
GREEN BAY – With the Fox River Classic Conference (FRCC) basketball season in full force, there has been a surprise or two at the top of the standings.
Going into each team’s Tuesday, Jan. 3, games against Bay Port, both Green Bay Southwest squads were perfect in the FRCC — the girls at 5-0 and the boys at 3-0.
Heading into the 2023 calendar, the Trojans were the only school in the conference to have undefeated teams in each program.
Despite the Trojans’ 63-29 loss on Dec. 29 to Neenah, the No. 1 ranked Division 1 team in the state, the girls have gotten off to a strong start.
“That’s one game against one of the best teams in the state,” Southwest coach Tony Lee said. “Something like that can’t define our season or the start we’ve had — we’ll learn from it.”
Lee said his girls were within 12 points late in the first half, but then Allie Ziebell, a Connecticut commit, scored six quick points before intermission.
“We got worn down,” Lee said. “We battled the whole game, but we don’t have a big bench. We handled their pressure defense well. I was proud of our effort.”
Before the loss to the Rockets, the Trojans had won six consecutive games.
Southwest began its season with a four-point nonconference win over Menasha before losing at West De Pere by 12 in another nonconference tilt.
During their six-game winning streak, the Trojans (7-3) won by an average of 16.7 points.
Southwest went through a tumultuous offseason after then-coach Berri West resigned last March after the completion of the season.
A few months later, Jacob Polfus was hired but then resigned a short time later before Lee eventually accepted the job.
“The team is working well together,” Lee said. “I wouldn’t say I expected our strong start, but the camaraderie of the team has helped — they’ve all bought into the system. We’re clicking as a group. The highs are great, but we’ve come together as a team when we’ve lost.”
Through nine games this season, junior Addison Pytleski is averaging 15.4 points and 6.7 rebounds per game for the 7-2 Trojans.
Senior Margie Stevens (13 points, 8.1 rebounds) and junior Alex Siudzinski (12.2 points, 4.9 rebounds) are also off to strong starts.
Pytleski and Stevens were both second-team FRCC picks last season.
“Addie is very important to the squad, and the ball is in her hands a lot,” Lee said. “There have been a few games she hasn’t scored as much, but then she’s passed the ball well. Margie is also key for us. We rely on her inside game and her ability to bring the ball up at times and set screens. Alex has blossomed this season and knows where the strong parts of her game are — she runs the floor well and gets a lot of hustle points.”
After the Bay Port game, Southwest travels to Sheboygan North before hosting De Pere in consecutive conference games.
After those two tests, the Trojans’ “reward” is playing conference rival Notre Dame Academy — perhaps the best team in the state, regardless of division.
“These are some tough games,” Lee said. “There are ups and downs in a season — we never expected to go undefeated. There are only maybe a few teams in the state that get to that point. We’re up for the challenge.”
Like the Southwest girls, the boys bolted out to a strong start.
After losing its nonconference opener to Seymour to begin the season, the Trojans (5-4) won five consecutive games by an average of 14 points.
Unlike the Southwest girls, who have only four seniors, the boys are senior-led squad.
“We have good senior leadership,” Southwest coach John Polkowski said. “The nine seniors on the team have gone through a lot in their careers and realize winning is the most important thing on the floor. Our team success comes first, and they’ve bought into that mentality. None of the boys have egos — they all want the same thing.”
After the five-game winning streak, the Trojans lost two in a row.
“It’s how the season is set up,” Polkowski said. “Shawano (is 8-1) and D.C. Everest (is 6-3) — two good teams. Our strong start to the season is exactly that — a good start to the season. We must remain humble and not take ourselves too seriously.”
Connor Pytleski, the older brother of Addison on the Southwest girls’ squad, was a second-team pick in the FRCC last year and is averaging almost 21 points and 11 rebounds per game this season.
“Connor is having a great senior year,” Polkowski said. “He’s a humble young man and doesn’t take himself too seriously or push the issue on too many things. He’s having a great year because of the players he’s surrounded by.”
Perhaps the biggest surprise comes from another senior — Chris Seals, who is currently averaging more than 18 points per game.
“Chris has had a breakout season,” Polkowski said. “He’s receptive to how he scores. Sometimes, it doesn’t look natural, but he gets the job done. He’s been a big bright spot.”
Another senior, Miles Rauschenbach, is averaging 7.3 points per game.
“Miles, like other players on our team, benefits from other teams’ focus on Connor and Chris,” Polkowski said. “Miles is a solid, well-rounded player on both ends of the floor. We ask a lot of him because we don’t have much size — he gets the short end of the stick when it comes to doing a lot of our dirty work.”
The Trojans face some of the other top teams in the conference in the coming weeks — something Polkowski said his team is looking forward to.
“With some of the (FRCC) teams we have coming up, it’s the first time seeing them for us,” he said. “It’s hard to compare where we’re at until we face them — we’ll find out soon. Bay Port, De Pere and Notre Dame are all solid teams. There is still a lot of the season left and a lot for us to prove. It’s nice to see both my squad and the girls doing so well — it says a lot about our student-athletes.”