Ross Pattermann

   For the first time since 1996 the Winter Warriors are the Lakeland East Conference champions. It’s an amazing accomplishment, but the conference title is just one of several goals the Warriors have for this season – they’re on the cusp of something bigger and their eyes are set on even more prizes.
   Winter entered last week in a three-way tie with Birchwood and Auburn for first place in the East Lakeland. The Warriors wrested the conference crown away from the Bobcats and Trojans with a bludgeoning of Prairie Farm and Lake Holcombe on Tuesday and Friday.
Lake Holcombe

   Records are made to be broken, and on Friday the Warriors made history with a season sweep of the Lake Holcombe Chieftains in Winter. In their last meeting the conference rivals lit up the scoreboards resulting in a school record 112 points for Winter.
   It only took a month for Winter to set a new standard for scoring. It was part of a night where the Warriors left no doubt who the top team in the East Lakeland Conference is this year.
“We knew we were tied with New Auburn and Birchwood, but we knew we were the better team,” Winter High senior Gunnar Greuel said. “We outworked everyone in our conference this year so tonight was just a matter of execution. We did that tonight.”
   The Warriors erased any hope of a Chieftains upset in the first ten minutes. Winter attacked inside with aggressive drives from CJ Thompson and Gunnar Greuel, but Carter Petit turned in a game for the ages.
   Petit was a force of nature, scored at will in both halves. Petit is known more for his interior and mid-range game, but on Friday he made the nets sing, snapping the nylon with four triples. Petit recorded a career high 38 points in what was one of the top scoring performances in program history.
   Petit had 23 points in the first half and he was not the only Warrior lighting up the scorer’s column. Malte Colliander was even more devastating from three, and the Swedish foreign exchange student finished with six triples, four in the first half alone. Colliander finished with 24 points.
   Adam Bednorski added two more threes in the first half, and between those threes and Thompson and Greuel’s points in the paint, the Warriors went into the break with a 65-38 advantage.
   Lake Holcombe got the lead under twenty several times in the second half, but the Warriors always had answers. Colliander was fouled twice in the act of shooting three and converted his free throws. Greuel and Thompson remained aggressive, finishing with 18 points apiece.
   Bednorski tallied 13 points, splashing one more triple in the second. Winter head coach Josh Hautamaki emptied his bench to give his reserves some playing time. Kingston Frey scored on a putback for Winter’s final points, setting the new school record. Frey finished with two points and Hautamaki rounded out the scoring with three points.
   Winter’s high-octane offense comes courtesy of assistant coach Curtis DeCora, who hopes people see that this style of play is both sustainable and successful.  
    “When we played fast originally it was so new to the northern Wisconsin area that a lot of people saw it as a gimmick. It can be a gimmick, but it can also be a tool,” DeCora explained. “We used it as more of a tool and kept the structure. Anybody can run but very few teams can run with structure.”
   Winter outscored Lake Holcombe 51-44 in the second half, picking up their 17th win of the year, which ties a school record for most in a season. Friday’s feats are all part of a bigger plan that DeCora has for the season and the program’s culture.
   “I hope it means that we’re doing some really good things here with the program,” DeCora said. “I hope it is a recruitment tool to bring more kids out at the younger levels and I hope the conference realizes that what we are doing over here is serious.”
   The regular season is over, but DeCora and Hautamaki and the Warriors are hoping to add more hardware to the trophy case before the year is done.
“We have some specific goals for this year, and [conference] was just one of them,” DeCora revealed. “Another goal is regional champions. You take it one game at a time and we’re taking bite sized goals one game at a time and not looking too far into the future.”
   The postseason is on everyone’s mind. The Warriors will host Gilman on Tuesday, February 27 in their first postseason game, but many of the players still took time to celebrate what they achieved.
   “It feels great to truly feel like you have made an impact on the basketball team, the school district and the record books,”    Winter High senior CJ Thompson said. “Hopefully people will look at that and want to do the same things we did.”
   Swedish foreign exchange student Malte Colliander had no idea what he was getting into this season; he simply wanted to play basketball. To be a part of this team, to know he’s leaving behind a legacy in Winter, is mind-blowing to him.
    “I never thought I would be a part of something like this. I thought I would come to school and just play some basketball. I knew we would win some and lose some, but it’s been such a great time and now we have the conference title,” Colliander responded. “I had not really thought about my legacy but it’s crazy to think that I was a part of this.”
   As for Gunnar Greuel, his journey to 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds, a conference title and perhaps even more, was something that two years ago seemed impossible.
    “Its just been crazy. I never thought after my sophomore year when we went 4-21 that I would ever be doing stuff like this. We came into this season wanting to beat records and do things that haven’t been for years. Now other kids can see that it's possible and hopefully they can be better than we were.”
Prairie Farm, 81-45
Winter added a Tuesday night road victory over Prairie Farm prior to their victory over Lake Holcombe. The Warriors knew they needed to win to have a chance to preserve their lead in the hunt for the East Lakeland, so Winter quickly jumped out to a 45-19 advantage at the end of one half of play.
   The Warriors subbed their bench in the second half to give them varsity minutes and to keep their starters fresh for Friday night’s match with the Chieftains. Winter outscored the Panthers 36-26. Gunnar Greuel had a career high 37 points along with 24 rebounds. Carter Petit scored 12 points and CJ Thompson added ten. Kingston Frey finished with eight points.
   Cole Petit tallied four points and Adam Bednorski and Malte Colliander scored three points apiece. Logan Hautamaki and Dakota Holm both chipped in with two points each.



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