In 2020, the Spring Valley boys basketball team won the Dunn-St. Croix Conference championship for the first time since the 2007-08 season. Now, on the verge of the 2021 season, the Cardinals are looking to repeat as conference champions.
The 2020 Spring Valley Cardinals finished the season with a 16-4 overall record, including a 12-2 record in Dunn-St. Croix Conference action. Juniors Connor Ducklow and Tyler Bowman accounted for a majority of the offensive output throughout the 2020 season. Last season, Bowman averaged 15 points per game and Ducklow averaged 13.4 points per game. Spring Valley head coach Rob Bosshart spoke about winning the conference championship last season.
“For two or three years before last season, we were always right on the doorstep of our conference,” Bosshart said. “We would always be a game back, a lot of second and third-place finishes. Last year we were finally able to close that deal, which I don’t think was necessarily unexpected, but we weren’t a conference favorite going into the season either.”
In the first conference matchup of the 2020 season, Spring Valley lost its first conference game which was the home opener against Elk Mound. Bosshart said he was happy with how his team responded after the 62-54 loss early in the season in an important conference matchup.
“I think people had some doubts about where we would be after that opening loss to Elk Mound,” Bosshart said. “The kids really rallied and kept focused on trying to improve one day at a time. They didn’t get hung up on the outcome of one game.”
The opening loss against Elk Mound wasn’t the only adversity that Spring Valley had to overcome. In December, the team had struggled with COVID-19, and kids getting exposed to the virus which made them ineligible for games.
“We got hit with COVID and started missing some kids who were quarantined,” Bosshart said. “Connor Ducklow and Brady Bednarik were in and out and it was disrupting the practice schedule as much as anything else. When you go into practice daily and you’re missing a couple of kids, it was hard to get into a rhythm.”
Once Christmas came and went, Spring Valley got fully healthy, kids stopped having to miss time due to COVID-19 and its protocols, and the team hit its stride midway through the regular season.
The first game after Christmas was a tough 50-49 loss at home against Baldwin-Woodville. However, after that, Spring Valley rolled off 16 wins in its next 18 games of the season, spanning from Dec. 31 to Feb. 20. Bosshart talked about the importance of those first couple of wins in that streak.
“We were able to win some close games, won a close game at Durand and a close game at Elk Mound within a week of each other,” Bosshart said. “We scored late in the game to win both of those games and I think that gave the kids some confidence that they can compete with the teams that were favored to win our league.”
During that aforementioned 18-game stretch, the Cardinals gained some much-needed confidence that they used to win their first playoff game of the year, a road contest against Eau Claire Regis on Friday, Feb. 19. The 65-49 victory in that game advanced the Cardinals to the Division 4 Regional Final the following day on Saturday, Feb. 20.
The regional final was on the road against Fall Creek. In that game, Spring Valley got significantly outscored in the first half 29-15. In the second half, the Cardinals battled back and outscored Fall Creek 32-23. However, it wasn’t enough to dig out of the 14-point hole that was established in the first half. Spring Valley lost a close 52-47 game road regional final game. Bosshart talked about how playing on the road impacted that game.
“We’ve been to the regional finals a couple of times in the last two years here and we’ve run into some really good teams,” Bosshart said. “It wasn’t necessarily that we played poorly, but it’s who played better that night. Both of those (regional final) games were on the road. That would be one thing. Winning conference is our first goal, after that, maybe our goal should be to have a regional final at home instead of on the road.”
As previously noted, winning the conference for the first time since the 2007-08 season was a significant accomplishment for the Spring Valley boys basketball program. Bosshart talked about how that same core group of players from last year is coming back for their senior campaign.
“That core group is coming back, we had a lot of juniors that played last year and were a really critical part of our team,” Bosshart said. “We started three juniors last year. But those seniors that we lost provided – a lot of people overlook how good those kids were defensively and in the rebounding game.”
The seniors that Bosshart is referencing are Mike Bauer and Nolan Stans, two 2021 graduates who provided valuable minutes on the conference championship team. According to Bosshart, it’s going to be hard to replace that size and toughness in the rotation.
Although the size and toughness will be difficult to replace, the primary scorers from last season are returning to the starting lineup. Last year, Tyler Bowman and Connor Ducklow both averaged over 14 points per game last season.
“One of the strengths of our team is having the ability to have balanced scoring,” Bosshart said. “We have some kids that can score in Bowman and Ducklow, they certainly may do that again, but we have a lot of other kids who are capable of scoring and have had big games in the last year or two. I think that’s probably going to be our strength, our ability to score from different positions.”
According to Bosshart, the Cardinals expect to compete for another Dunn-St. Croix Conference championship this season. The road to a repeat for the Cardinals begins on Tuesday, Nov. 30, when Spring Valley hosts Somerset in their first game of the year. That game is slated to begin at 7:15 p.m.