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De Pere boys basketball takes home post-season hardware

De Pere’s John Kinziger, with ball, is a Division I commit to Illinois State University. Rich Palzewic photo

By Rich Palzewic

Contributing Writer

DE PERE – After becoming the first 30-0 boys’ team in state history, the De Pere basketball squad took home plenty of post-season hardware.

Senior John Kinziger, a Division I commit to Illinois State University, was named the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Co-Player of the Year, while Brian Winchester wads named AP Coach of the Year after both helped lead the Redbirds to the WIAA Division 1 championship in March.

It was De Pere’s first state title since 1934.

In the process, the Redbirds became the fifth Division 1 team since 1991 – the year the state tournament moved to divisions – to go undefeated.

“If you go back to the beginning of the season, we came in with that No. 1 (preseason) ranking,” Winchester said. “Expectations were high, but our players did a great job of handling those expectations and thriving – we took everyone’s best shot, but we stayed focused on the end goal.”

Winchester said at the beginning of the season, he and his staff addressed the No. 1 ranking, but they didn’t dwell on it.

“We talked about it being a nice compliment that people thought we had a good team,” he said. “But we also said, ‘What we accomplish in March has nothing to do with our preseason ranking.’”

Winchester also said the perfect season “is a nice feather in our cap.”

“Teams in the state were allowed to play 24 regular season games just a few years ago, so there’s only been a short time for teams to finish 30-0,” he said. “Having said that, it’s hard to go undefeated in any division.”

When asked if his De Pere squad could be considered the best boys’ team in state history, Winchester said it’s hard to say.

“I’d like to think we’re in that conversation, but it’s hard to compare teams across different eras,” he said. “This team has a special place in Wisconsin state basketball history – we’ll always be remembered as the first 30-0 team, and no one can take that away from us.”

De Pere won 28 games by double figures in averaging more than 74 points per outing.

Its closest two games came against Wisconsin Lutheran (54-52) and Pewaukee (70-63), the Division 2 state champion.

The trio of Johnny Kinziger, junior Will Hornseth and sophomore Zach Kinziger combined to average almost 51 points per game.

Both the 6-foot-8 Hornseth and the younger Kinziger are also drawing Division I interest.

Hornseth was also named to the WBCA Division 1 All-State Team.

“We lost a few great seniors, but I’d like to think we can compete for another state title next season,” Winchester said. “That’s our goal, and that’s the kids’ goal. They understand the talent level coming back – it’s extremely high. We might be a little different next season, but we have a special team coming back – the work has to be done.”

As for his Coach of the Year award, Winchester deflected the praise to his team and staff.

“It’s a great honor, but it starts with having talented players and a great coaching staff by my side,” he said. “If you don’t have talented players and a successful season, you’re probably not going to be in the running for the award. I bet there are lots of coaches who do a great job with a team and go .500, but they’re not getting recognition. There are a lot of things that half to align. All of the coaches put in a lot of time and helped develop these players.”

Winchester, who just completed his 16th season as head coach of the Redbirds, is from Escanaba, Michigan – the third largest city in the Upper Peninsula (U.P.).

“It’s neat to receive that support from the place I grew up,” he said. “In August, I’ll be going up there and doing a radio show with one of my former teammates. The U.P. is a close-knit community – just like Northeast Wisconsin. You might not have as many entertainment options up there, so people really love their sports in the U.P.”

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