Team effort fuels Tigers’ stellar season

Matt Kraus
Review Co respondent

HOWARDS GROVE — Entering the 2015-2016 boys basketball season, Howards Grove Tigers’ head coach Eric Worth knew the team’s biggest challenges were a lack of playing experience and the players finding their roles on the team.

Worth was excited to see how the team developed, saying the kids were willing to put in the time to improve.

Throughout the season, Worth talked about the team improving day-in and day-out and having a team of leaders. That day-to-day progress drove the Tigers to the inaugural Big East Conference regular-season championship with a 13-0 record (21-5 overall), the BEC Tournament championship, a regional championship and a return trip to a Division 4 sectional final.

For the second straight year, the Tigers season ended with a loss to eventual five-time consecutive Division 4 state champion Whitefish Bay Dominican in the sectional fi- nal, 52-45.

Although the team lost its opening game, 67-64, in a non-conference match-up against Kiel, Worth saw positive signs.

“I think the energy we played with in game one told me that we would be alright. We played a good Kiel team and I thought we did a really nice job of competing from start to finish,” said Worth.

“There were a lot of question marks going into that game and I think the main questions were answered that night. I was very pleased with the way different guys stepped up and they were all willing to do what was best for the team.”

The Tigers went 5-3 in their first eight games, but followed up with a 13-game winning streak, including winning the conference tournament championship, before being upset, 58-54, by Reedsville as they headed into the playoffs.

The team learned from the loss and moved on to defeat St. Mary’s Springs (Fond du Lac), 59-51, in a closely-contested regional semifi- nal battle. The next night, Oshkosh Lourdes Academy visited HGHS. The Tigers were able to pull away in the second half and take the regional championship with a 65-51 victory.

Six days later, sectionals saw the Tigers upset No. 1-seeded Markesan, 75-50, in Sheboygan to earn a trip to Waukesha to face No. 1-ranked Dominican.

On the season, senior forward Devin Gallenberger led the Tigers in scoring with a 20-points-per game average and grabbed a teamhigh six rebounds per game. He earned Division 4 All-State honorable mention, was a unanimous selection to the All-BEC first team and was honored as the Tigers’ Most Valuable Offensive Player.

“Like Ethan Brinkman [2015 graduate] before him, Devin led our team in scoring at about 20 points per game but I think the reason why we were so successful is because of our overall team effort and those guys willing to make the right plays,” Worth pointed out.

“Both Devin and Ethan were very talented and capable of putting up big numbers. I think their biggest strengths were their ability to make the right play and make decisions about what’s best for the team,” said Worth.

Looking to next year, Worth said, “I know there are a number of guys in the program that are willing and capable of stepping up and becoming our go-to guy in the scoring category.”

Junior guard Bryce Pedrin finished second on the team in scoring (10.8 ppg). Gallenberger credited Pedrin’s scoring in making the team more difficult to defend because of multiple scoring options. Unlike Gallenberger who was a threat inside and outside, Pedrin was an outside threat, making 50 of his 82 field goals from three-point land, shooting 49% from the three-point area. Pedrin led HGHS in treys, followed by Gallenberger’s 48.

Pedrin was voted as the team’s Most Improved Player.

Senior center Jordan Miller was voted to the All-Big East second team. He was second in team rebounding with 4.0 per game.

Senior guard Derrick Grimm joined Miller on the All-Big East second team. Grimm led the Tigers with 2.8 assists per game and was third in scoring with 6.8 points per game and was the winner of the team’s Tiger Award. Throughout the season, Grimm’s defense was often cited by his teammates as the catalyst to the team’s offense.

Grimm and Gallenberger led the Tigers in steals with 2.0 averages.

Junior guard/forward Caleb Holzman received honorable mention on the All-Big East team and was awarded the Tigers’ defensive MVP award.

“I thought our defense progressively got better throughout the year. The guys did a really good job focusing on our job as a team versus their individual job when they’re on the floor. They started to buy into the concept of ‘we-overme’ and understanding that we, as a group, need to stop the ball going through the hoop,” said Worth.

The Tiger’s Ultimate Warrior Award was received by senior Micah Rautmann.

“I think there are a lot of unsung heroes from last year’s [season’s] team. Not everyone gets to showcase the work they put in on game night,” said the coach.

“Everyone that is a part of our team has helped in contributing to our team’s success. We wouldn’t have been able to accomplish all that we did without everyone’s contributions.

“All the coaches know how much I appreciate what they do to make things run smoothly. No one knows what goes into it until they do it and are a part of a program. Basketball season is the longest high school season and you need a great support system to make things run smoothly,” said Worth.

The entire Tiger squad earned varsity letters.

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