Franklin boys basketball coach Tim Hogan drove the school librarian crazy digging through old yearbooks, trying to find something positive about the hoops program before the Sabers' stellar 18-6 campaign this winter.
"I had her going through the books all the way from 1963 to 2000," he said. "I'm familiar with the last 10 years (the time he's been on staff at the school), but we're thinking that this is close to the best record in school history. The only other time we can see a (WIAA) regional title was way back in 1983 (when Hogan himself would have been a small child)."
And Hogan would like to use this one-year renaissance as a launching pad for future success and he has a couple of excellent poster boys for that process in the senior class, highlighted by the now two-time NOW All-Suburban selection, 6-7 senior Nick Romanowski and senior guard Matt Krueger.
"They were great examples of what needs to be done in the off-season, they just worked and worked and worked," said Hogan.
And it showed, as the Sabers won that first elusive WIAA regional title in 28 years and were competitive in the Southeast Conference all season.
A lot of the credit for it does go to the three-year letter winner Romanowski, who averaged over 19 points a game this season and who was a full-fledged supporter of the Franklin athletic program.
For even after the Sabers lost their sectional semifinal to Beloit Memorial, he and other teammates came out time and again avidly backing the girls squad on their surprising WIAA sectional championship run.
He even gave the Sabers' mascot costume a try.
"The rest of the costume didn't fit so well (no surprise) but the head was OK," he laughed. "Ms. (Sara) Petric thought it might be a good idea, so I gave it a shot. It was a lot of fun."
Like Hogan said, a poster boy for the future, and a prototype for the type of player Franklin will need in the future if it wants to remain successful.
"We like to support the rest of our athletic program be it cheerleading, football or baseball," said Hogan. "We're very proud of everyone."
"I think it was actually a whole team statement," said Romanowski of the season. "Hopefully, they'll get players who work as hard as Matt and I did. Have the same thoughts and attitude towards practice and games that we did."
Romanowski and Krueger played on the same AAU team last summer.
"We learned how to win," Romanowski said. "We'd see a lot of the same guys, same teams. They'd beat us a couple of times and they we'd beat them. It really helped us."
Technically, Romanowski was sound. He was very active on the offensive boards and on the defensive end, changing shots and serving as a backstop. He was also a big effort guy, such as the huge 29-point effort against Kenosha Bradford in a tough game that determined position in the upper echelon in the Southeast.
He fought through fouls, no calls and hits to the deck but still succeeded in carrying the Sabers to a critical victory.
It was all part of Romanowski's development this season as he went over 1,000 points for his career.
"The biggest thing for me, I think was that I really worked on my leadership," he said. "I needed to take a bigger step up this year. Show some intensity and show the other guys that we won't quit (when we're down)."
"We won or lost as a team and I wanted to lead by example. I really didn't yell at anybody (in practice). I would talk to them afterwards if I felt I needed to."
"I hope people saw me as someone competitive, someone who just wanted to win. If the team needs something done, I'll do it."
The regional final win over Muskego was huge, said Romanowski.
"We really wanted to go to sectional because we just wanted to keep the season going," said Romanowski. "We had so much fun as a team. We were always joking around. This was easily the best team as far as that goes that I've been on since high school."
"We'd have team bonding exercises and even without the team bonding, we were all friends anyway. We just spent a lot of time together."
But now he has a great future ahead of him, said Hogan. Romanowski will visit Madison Edgewood and UW-Platteville, with the idea of majoring in mechanical engineering wherever he attends. He's always been good with his hands, as Sabers fans know, and has spent time with his father Joe building things with wood.
"We're really going to miss him," said Hogan. "He was a leader on and off the court. …and we're still going to continue to bust our butts to see if we can stay up there with the elite."
Romanowski will also play in the WBCA All-Star game as a member of the South team on June 18 at 9 a.m. in the UW-Madison Fieldhouse. Romanowski, as everyone who is selected to play in the event, will try to raise money for the MACC Fund.
To that end, Romanowski will have a fundraiser on Tuesday, April 12 at Mulligan's Irish Pub and Grill, 8933 S. 27th Street in Franklin from 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Patrons that day are asked to advise their server or bartender that they are supporting Romanowski and 20 percent of the bill will be donated by Mulligans to the MACC Fund. There will also be a silent auction (closes at 8 p.m.), with all proceeds going towards the MACC Fund.
The total goal for all participants in the event is $100,000 and Romanowski's personal goal is $4,000.
Other key seniors for the Sabers include Krueger, Trevor Theissen, and Macon Plewa. The junior varsity was 14-7 and the freshmen were 13-7.
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