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Can Brown Deer boys claim 'the big prize' in Madison?

Falcons still looking for first state hoops win

March 11, 2014

The first thought that Brown Deer Athletic Director Mike Novak had run through his head after the Falcons' boys basketball team had qualified for the WIAA State D3 Tournament was simple.

"Now that we're there, we've got to go win one, maybe two (which would result in a state title)," Novak said with a chuckle.

That's because in their previous two trips to state — a Division 1 quarterfinal in 1982 and a 2002 tournament in Division 2, when Novak led his future NBA-bound son Steve and company back to Madison — the Falcons were involved one-and-done affairs.

A winning way

"That's one of my points of emphasis," said Novak. "In 2002, we were just so happy to be there and it was the same attitude 20 years before that. Now, 12 years later, there are still some people around who can impart a little wisdom on the young group.

"That there are great things to be had out there."

That point is not lost on current Falcons coach Kelly Appleby, as he leads his 21-5 Falcons into a "dawn's early light" special of a state D3 semifinal against Manitowoc Roncalli (25-1) on Friday at 9:05 a.m. at the Kohl Center in Madison.

He wants to get something done for the 10-member senior class that helped the Falcons to an impressive 21-4 record a year ago, but which lost to East Troy in the sectional semifinals. Brown Deer returned the favor on March 6 en route to earning their state berth. (See Brown DeerNOW.com for details).

"Players from last year have been texting me," Appleby said. "I always tell everyone that that team laid a foundation and that 'We're just trying to finish what you started.'"

To do that, the Falcons will have to get over the jitters of a still-young team over a first-time, big-time situation as well as their ungodly tip-off time.

"It's not a privilege to be playing at 9 a.m.," said Novak, "but it is a privilege to be there. ... Still, I don't think that this group is going to be blindsided by any new situations."

Both aggressive

What the Falcons may be interested in is that their opponents like to be almost as aggressive as they are, averaging 63.7 points per game in winning the Olympian Conference, with their only loss being an early non-conference loss to D1 Milwaukee Vincent. The Jets enter the tourney on a 22-game winning streak.

They live and die by the 3-pointer, shooting 670 on the season and making 231. Eight players have made 10 or more on the season, led by 6-3 senior forward Josh Erickson (17 ppg and 46 3s) and 6-2 senior guard Nick Stelzer (13 ppg and 67 3s).

But as in the case of the Falcons' previous tourney opponents, they will have a size advantage — the Jets do not have anyone over 6-4 listed on the roster — and maybe an edge in speed, too.

"A major factor to look at will be how many 3s they make versus how many turnovers we're able to force," said Appleby.

The Falcons will counter the long-range bombing of the Jets with their interior power duo of Devante Jackson and Jerry Luckett.

"They really developed a friendship," said Appleby of his posts. "They really look out for one another. We had to spend countless hours in the gym, and it took some time to wash away some bad habits they picked up over the summer, but now they're really blending well together."

Welcoming a tough task

Appleby feels the Falcons' challenging schedule, which included an invigorating Woodland Conference slate, will help them in Madison.

"All year long, I've felt that there's a lot of quality in the Woodland, especially in the Western Division," he said. "The tourney's proven that point." Brown Deer won the Woodland East and Greendale out of the West Division has advanced to the D2 state tourney as well.

Which leads us back to Novak's earlier point. The Falcons' task will be tough, no doubt. The other semifinal consists of 2013 D3 runner-up Lodi (25-1) and Elk Mound (25-1) with the championship slated for 2:30 p.m. Saturday.

The old coach and now AD just wants them to realize what a great situation they are in.

"I just want them to feel blessed by the opportunity," he said. "That they can out and play and feel that they can make some big waves. It's been very rewarding so far. Maybe they can come home with the big prize."

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