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Kobe King, La Crosse Central hold off Cedarburg for state title

Central coach Todd Fergot (right) and assistant coach Tony Servais react after the Red Raiders won the WIAA Division 2 state championship at the Kohl Center in Madison on Saturday.

Rory O’Driscoll, La Crosse Tribune

Todd Fergot is a crier.

The Coulee Region is filled with basketball coaches with an overflowing level of passion for the sport, but there may not be another who wears his or her feelings in such an open manner.

The Central High School boys basketball coach doesn’t know how many times he has fought off tears or stubbornly let them roll down his cheeks over the last eight days because he is living his dream.

Central’s 55-53 victory over Cedarburg in the WIAA Division 2 championship game at the Kohl Center on Saturday turned Fergot into a big, appreciative and humbled mess.

“It always comes when people ask me about my coaches or being with these (seniors) for the last time,” Fergot said during the aftermath of a victory celebration at the high school on Sunday. “I love these guys and it makes me a little emotional.”

Very emotional.

Fergot has tried to build his Central program into a state champion since taking over prior to the 2004-05 season. The Red Raiders have won 215 games and lost 92 since his promotion from assistant to Ken Barrett to head coach, but Saturday’s performance against the second-ranked Bulldogs (25-3) made the thing he’d been chasing all of these years a reality.

While celebrating Central’s 92-54 win over Wausau East in the sectional final in Stevens Point, Wis., Fergot cried. When talking last week about coaching his team one or two more games, he cried.

After the top-ranked Red Raiders (26-2) beat fourth-ranked Waunakee (24-3) in the semifinals, Fergot teared up at the thought of coaching in a championship game. When asked about the prospect of competing against a coaching legend like Tom Diener in the finals, he had to pause and fight off the tears again.

Seniors Kobe King and Bailey Kale even had to comfort Fergot in the press conference following the game, one putting a hand on his shoulder and the other a hand on his arm as room filled with reporters jotted down notes.

It isn’t a look we see from coaches very often.

None of this is mentioned to mock Fergot or even have fun with his reactions. They are genuine — every single one of them.

Basketball, specifically coaching basketball, is very important to Fergot, and so is every person who helps him do that and every kid who benefits from the expertise he makes sure they get from him and others.

He joked about the size of his coaching staff on Sunday, but player after player followed that by addressing all of them in short speeches. King went down the line and said something about each of them.

The support and guidance provided to the players is shown through the effort displayed on the court. The Red Raiders were certainly out to win for themselves on Saturday, but they were also out to win for their coaches.

They fought extremely hard against a team that had been playing very well to beat it and won the game in the second half with hustle plays.

Sophomore Noah Parcher saved two near turnovers on one Central possession, and it led to points. Adam Haberman didn’t make his customary early 3-pointer but pulled down a tough defensive rebound with his team clinging to a 53-50 lead and 23.3 seconds on the clock.

Freshmen Johnny and Jordan Davis each had an offensive rebound in the last 18 seconds as the Red Raiders held off Cedarburg’s tough closing performance.

They were all plays made by players who are focused and playing with a purpose.

Central played every one of its 28 games this season with a purpose, and that’s a credit to the guy running the program.

Fergot is emotional because he loves what he does, and that should be praised by all of us.

Todd Sommerfeldt is the assistant sports editor for the La Crosse Tribune.



Colten Bartholomew is a reporter and columnist for River Valley Media Group. Colten is the college sports coordinator for the La Crosse Tribune.