Wildcats look to build off of surprising season

Expectations were low for the Blair-Taylor boys basketball team entering the 2021-22 season, but they ended up as the last Dairyland Conference team standing, playing in the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association sectional round. B-T coach Randy Storlie – one of the winningest coaches in the history of the state – is returning several players from that squad with the hopes of making another run. 

“No one picked us to go to the sectional last year as we were so inexperienced, but our guys just kept playing, having fun and did a fantastic job with it,” Storlie said.  “The experience they got from last year is always a plus going into the next year.”

The Wildcats finished with an 18-10 record as they went 9-6 in Dairyland Conference play, behind Whitehall and Melrose-Mindoro in the Large Division. The stuck with Bangor in the sectional before late free throws put the game out of reach. Storlie said he will use the sectional appearance as a building stone for this year’s team. 

While B-T graduated its top scorer from that team – Cain Fremstad – it returns the next three leading scorers.

Among them is Evan Nehring who averaged 11.7 points and 8.1 rebounds as a junior and fellow senior Jaren Swanson, who averaged 11.3 points per game. The team also returns guard Ethan Kniseley who averaged eight points per game as a freshman. 

The team will need young players to fill in this year. In addition to losing Fremstad, the team lost point guard Kyle Obieglo and a third starter, Caden Kruse. Storlie said replacing those players won’t be easy. 

“We are looking to develop our young guys into their abilities and put together a solid squad with each of them bringing their own skills to it,” Storlie said. 

Storlie expects the Dairyland Conference to be difficult again this year. He said there are some strong preseason contenders and there is always a surprise team, like his team was last year. He expects Whitehall’s size and experience to make them the favorites in the Large Division and Alma/Pepin to be the front runners in the Small. 

As for his own team, Storlie said that if they play like they are capable the wins will come.

“We plan to play hard and see what happens,” Storlie said. “We never talk about wins or losses we just want to go out and play hard and see what happens. We are always planning on a solid year and have fun doing it.”

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