The Central High School boys basketball team did something that Red Raiders’ fans had waited decades for — go to Madison, then win a state championship.
This powerhouse team, led by future Wisconsin Badger Kobe King and Minnesota-Duluth recruit Bailey Kale, ended a 92-year drought when it went to the Kohl Center, dispatched Waunakee in the Division 2 semifinals, then held off Cedarburg 55-53 to win the school’s first boys basketball title since 1925.
It was a tremendous season, and one which earned the Central basketball team the Tribune’s top local sports story of 2017, as voted on the by the paper’s sports staff.
“We didn’t finish the way we wanted to here (with a semifinal loss) last year,” King said after the state championship win. “We wanted to go out the right way as a group. We’ve been working for this every day since fifth grade, and we weren’t going to let anything stop us.”
King, a 6-foot-4 guard, was in prime form in the state title game — as he was all season — as he scored a game-high 28 points to power the Red Raiders, who finished 26-2 overall and ended the season on a 14-game winning streak. King, who finished his stellar prep career with 2,060 points, went on to earn the Associated Press Player of the Year honors after averaging 27 points and 9.7 rebounds his senior season.
He then earned playing time as a true freshman for the Badgers before a knee injury on Dec. 9 ended his season.
Kale, meanwhile, scored 15 points and had two assists in the title game. He earned third-team All-State honors after a senior season in which he averaged 17.6 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.3 assists. Kale had a scholarship offer from Duluth, but decided to take the junior college route and is currently playing at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Central’s win was about more than King, Kale, Noah Parcher, Isaiah Dahman, Adam Haberman or even a pair of standout freshman at the time, Johnny and Jordan Davis. It was about a team that had a goal, a mission, and went out and made it happen.