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It was a long road to the title for Brown Deer's champs

Brown Deer's Zack Baun (32) was one of the new players who helped build the Falcon basketball team into a state championship unit.

Brown Deer's Zack Baun (32) was one of the new players who helped build the Falcon basketball team into a state championship unit. Photo By Peter Zuzga

March 19, 2014

Last Saturday was more than a little too much happiness for 32-year old Brown Deer boys basketball coach Kelly Appleby to take in, seeing as it was his son Felix's first birthday as well as the day his team won its first WIAA State D3 championship.

So that's why his wife set up little Felix's birthday party for Sunday as the leader of the newly-crowned champs took a a well-earned nap on the couch.

But more happiness was to follow as the championship pep assembly was held on Tuesday in the school's fine new Novak Family Fieldhouse.

Soon after that, Appleby will have some time to slow down and think of what he and his Falcons have accomplished in this astonishing season, when so little was thought of them for so long.

The first opportunity to do so actually came before they got home Saturday evening. They stopped in the Chili's in Madison for a celebratory dinner with parents and other fans and then they put the big gold trophy on one of the tables.

"Right then, we all took a breath and started to enjoy things," said Appleby.

That celebration continued late into the evening as as they came in on Brown Deer Road toward 60th Street (where the school is) and realized that they were part of a rapidly growing parade heading into the school parking lot. Athletic Director Mike Novak had arranged it all with Superintendent Dr. Deb Kerr.

"It started out little," said Novak. "We got escorted down Brown Deer Road, down 60th. It might have started out as a two-car parade (a bus and a police car) but then it also included a fire truck, an ambulance, a DPW snowplow and a mini-coach bus.

"The sirens all flashed on about 60th Street. When the kids saw everyone pulling up in order, they just started giggling, laughing and high-fiving. They were just loving it!"

So was Novak. When he was coach back in 2002, he took his sons Steve (now in the NBA) and Chris to state and lost a disappointing semifinal decision to eventual champion Madison Edgewood.

He took many pictures of the championship ceremony at the Kohl Center with his phone. Later, Steve texted his Dad once he learned of the happy news.

Recalling his part in helping put together the brand-new fieldhouse (the Falcon boys and girls played in it for the first time this past winter as Steve donated $100,000 to its construction), Steve was practically laughing in his text when he wrote: "The state championship runs through the Nova-Dome!"

One can't blame Brown Deer for getting a little enthusiastic about things. It was the school's 14th overall WIAA state title and the first since the 2008 state D2 boys track title, which followed the 2007 girls D2 track title.

"People don't really understand the significance of a boys or girls state title (on a school)," Novak said. "It's such a big difference compared from regional to sectional as opposed to sectional to state. It's such a big morale booster for the community.

"Those kids will remember it until the day they leave this earth."

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