At the beginning of the season the Upper Midwest Athletics Conference Preseason Poll had the Yellowjackets men’s team on the outside looking in. Only four teams make the tournament at the end of the regular season and UW -Superior was ranked in fifth. The team started off slow in the first nine games going 3-6 before winter break.
“I thought we really challenged ourselves in the non-conference schedule,” said head coach Greg Polkowski and also mentioned a possible turning point in the Naples Shootout, down in Florida. “When you look at the schedule, it looks like it started there, but I thought we were playing really well from the get-go, we had some losses, but we were still playing tough.”
The turning point was in the first game of the shootout where UWS was faced up against eighth ranked John Carrol. Led by junior J’vaun Walker’s 23 points the team was able to squeeze out an 11-point win. They then defeated Clarkson and headed north for conference play.
To open post-break conference play they rattled off 5 straight victories, ending with an overtime win over last year’s UMAC champs, Northwestern. The rest of the season UWS would only lose to Bethany Lutheran and North Central in conference finishing 10-4.
This record not only got them in the playoffs but also the No. 2 overall seed which meant they were hosting Northwestern. The game was postponed two days due to weather, but it didn’t stop the fans from showing out to the men’s first home playoff game since entering the UMAC.
“That’s something I haven’t experienced in all four years, especially towards the end of the season with the type of fan base we had, it was awesome, just that feeling in the gym you get when you’re in big games, especially playing Northwestern at the end of the year,” said Senior Josef Farenholtz UWS went on to win the game by 11, outscoring Northwestern 24-14 in the final ten minutes.
Walker and Farenholtz led a team effort with four players in double-digit scoring. The next was Bethany Lutheran and the two transfers from UWS, Mason Ackley and Xavier Patterson. In Mankato, Minn., the team would suffer defeat in the championship 75-93.
The Yellowjackets have two players graduating in Levy Miguel and Carter Brown but will return everyone including Farenholtz, who is using his extra year of eligibility.
“The reasons I want to stay are to keep playing basketball, because I love it and I have the competitiveness to play collegiate basketball,” said Farenholtz, who wants to see how far the team can go. After doing things that have never been done for the ‘jackets, the championship is the only one that eludes them, “Maybe there is some unfinished business left on the table, so I’m excited for him and the team to have the opportunity to pursue those goals together,” Polkowski said about Farenholtz’s choice to come back.