A massive turnaround that began last season for the Muskego boys basketball team hit a new high in 2015-16, with the Warriors making it all the way to the WIAA Division 1 state championship game.
Muskego had gone 35-77 over five seasons before finishing 21-2 last season and following up with a 23-5 mark in this campaign.
The Warriors claimed their second straight undisputed Classic 8 Conference crown at 13-1 and put together a 13-game winning streak going into the state title contest.
Included in that string were four victories over teams from the powerful Big Eight Conference, including one of the tri-champions, Sun Prairie, and a state semifinal triumph over Greater Metro Conference champion Marquette.
All of those games were decided by single digits, and two of them were won with memorable shots at the buzzer by senior power forward Matty Farner.
The Warriors, who developed into a resilient and tough-minded group, may well have won the state championship were it not for one of the better teams in Wisconsin history in unbeaten Stevens Point.
'I am so proud of the effort these guys give and the way they represent the school,' coach Andy Capes said in Madison. 'Our five seniors have a 3.95 grade-point average. They show great character, and it comes out on the basketball court.'
They certainly had a sense of unfinished business after the way last season ended, when they had only one regular-season loss and held the top seed in their sectional, only to lose their playoff opener to 16th seed Janesville Craig.
'That loss really stuck with the seniors,' Farner said. 'We really wanted to avenge that loss. To be (in Madison) this year, we proved a lot of people wrong. People in our own city did not think we would get this far.'
This year's seniors, Farner, point guard Caleb Wagner, guard Tommy Anderson and forwards Michael Frasher and Erik Henkel (who made up this year's starting lineup) took it upon themselves several years ago to revive the Muskego program.
'When we first got here, playing on freshman and junior varsity was fun, but the goal once you're on varsity is obviously to get to state,' Wagner said. 'Tons of work had to go into it, and Matty, Tommy and I were leaders, and we had to bring everyone with us. We had to help them push themselves, too, in practice every day. That set the tone for the games, and when you work hard in practice, that translates into the games.'
Gradually, the Warriors became a power, and they hit their peak during the tournament run.
'We knew we could compete with the best teams in the state; we've known that for a while,' Farner said. 'I think we did a great job dialing in with all 13 guys and making a heck of a run.'
Wagner averaged 22 points, four rebounds and four assists this season; Anderson scored 15.4 points per game and Farner tallied 23 double-doubles for the season and averaged a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds per contest.
Wagner was named the Classic 8 Player of the Year, and Anderson and Farner made the second team only because they split their votes for first team.
Wagner was also first-team all-state, and he and Farner made the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association All-Star Game this summer.
Muskego loses its five starters but will return some players who made valuable contributions on varsity this season, such as freshman forward Stu Vent, who tallied 9 key points in the sectional title game; junior guard Ben Schaefer; junior power forward Luke Horozewski; and junior center Will Herald.
Wagner, Farner, Anderson and the other seniors helped re-establish the Muskego program, and they set the standard for future squads.
'These guys changed the idea of what Muskego basketball is going to be like in the future,' Capes said.