As the final seconds ticked off the clock and Platteview punched its ticket to the next round Norris head coach Jim Motz looked on stoically. His team’s season had ended with a 60-50 loss in the first round of the NSAA Boy’s Basketball Class B State Tournament.
A loss to end the season is not typically the way a team wants to end its season, but for Norris, it was the journey to that state tournament game that meant everything to the team as well as the community.
That loss ended the season for the Titans as they finished with a 17-10 record and a state tournament berth that was far from guaranteed when their season began in November. With underclassman stepping up their play and upperclassman stepping up into leadership roles, Norris was able to flourish. And with a young core, the Titans are set up well beyond this last season.
“In terms of what this group has accomplished, you saw what it was like tonight with the crowd noise and having an entire community rally around these guys and this experience to be here will help us grow moving forward,” Motz said. “The only kid who had been here was (Wyatt) Wubbels and the way that this group responded and came out ready to play and to fight was really impressive to me.”
With 11 freshmen and sophomores on the roster for Norris’ varsity team, this season was full of uncertainties. Entering the season with such a young team there was importance of preparing the underclassmen for the change into varsity. One of the coaches who played a large part in that was junior varsity head coach and varsity assistant coach Greg Hobza.
“Starting in the summer, I had the JV kids and I knew that they had some toughness and some talent. Many of the underclassmen played JV and some even played Reserves at times,” Hobza said. “They continued to get better every week and when we competed in practice, our JVs would beat the Varsity at times. Our practices were good. They were competitive, and I feel that was a huge reason why we had the success we had at the end of the year.”
The Titans featured sophomore Barret Boesiger who led the team with 14.9 points per game and shot 42% from behind the arc for the season. Freshman Chris Garner averaged 11.6 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. The underclassmen were helped along thanks to the tutelage of the remaining seniors who, according to assistant coach Henry Penner, embraced the mentoring of the younger players.
“It was pretty amazing to watch the upperclassmen take the young guys under their wing and help them continue the growth that had already started,” he said. “The young guys were so easy to root for because of how hard they work and the growth that they went through from November up until the season ended. They went through the steps of getting there and now moving forward the emphasis is on how do we get there and find a way to string some wins together.”
The 2022-2023 season for the Norris Titans was not judged on how it ended, but was judged on what they accomplished during the year. It was a season full of unknowns and a journey that tested a young and inexperienced team at every turn. The Titans made the state tournament against the heavy odds of putting such a young team on the floor, now they are looking to take the next big step heading into next season.
“Getting to state for us was playing with house money,” Hobza said. “It gave our guys experience for the state environment. We have an idea on what our expectations will be next year but this will put even more pressure on us for next year. To me pressure is a good thing. I have told some of our freshmen we can’t take this for granted but we have such a huge opportunity coming up, we can’t get complacent. The program took a step this year but it’s only going to get tougher because we will get everyone’s best shot moving forward.”
Motz shared the same sentiment following the season-ending loss to Platteview. He didn’t dwell on it but instead looked towards the future.
“These kids got a taste of what it is like to play on the big stage and moving forward this is big for our program in terms of down the road,” Motz said. “It has been a rollercoaster ride to even get to this point and what these kids did to put themselves in this position was just phenomenal.”