Share story

Some basketball players shy away from pivotal moments late in a game.

Kaukauna’s Jordan McCabe? Those are the times when he wants the ball in his hand. And the Ghosts’ WIAA Division 2 championship matchup with Milwaukee Washington on March 17 was a perfect example.

The senior point guard scored his team’s final eight points in its 76-74 victory over the Purgolders at the Kohl Center in Madison. That performance helped cement him as one of the state’s all-time greats and earned him Associated Press state player of the year as determined by voting of statewide sports reporters.

Oshkosh North head coach Brad Weber completed a sweep of the top awards for the Fox Valley Association after he was named coach of the year after leading the Spartans to the Division 1 state title.

McCabe’s game-winning layup in the waning seconds of the Division 2 title game is the exact situation that McCabe lives for and a situation he’s worked tirelessly to perfect.

“It’s funny how the world works itself out,” he said. “It seems to put these guys who put an extreme amount of extra time in in advantageous situations so they can really show what they’re about, what they have and how hard they work. It’s all about seizing those opportunities when they arrive and guys who put the most work in are able to see it to the end and you kind of saw that this year in prep high school basketball.”

McCabe was a unanimous pick to the first team and it was his third consecutive selection to the first team. He beat out a close vote between the two other player of the year candidates: Whitnall’s Tyler Herro and Oshkosh North’s Tyrese Haliburton, both of which were also unanimous selections to the first team which also included Racine Prairie’s JC Butler and Stevens Point’s Drew Blair.

McCabe, a West Virginia recruit, finished his high school career as the state’s sixth all-time leading scorer with 2,442 points. He averaged 26.7 points and 7.8 assists this season.

But it’s McCabe’s penchant for coming through in the clutch that separates him from other players, said Kaukauna head coach Mike Schalow.

“Sometimes you get in a situation where a player or a group of people, they’re not going to allow you to lose,” Schalow said. “And in Jordan’s case, his work ethic has provided him with tremendous confidence over the years. With that confidence, he wants to be in those situations. He wants the ball in his hands and he wants the opportunity to make a play and he’s willing to handle whatever outcome that comes his way from that.”

As for Weber, it turns out he picked up a thing or two from 18 seasons sitting next to Hall of Fame coach Frank Schade on the Oshkosh North bench.

Weber led Oshkosh North to school-record 27 victories and the program’s first WIAA state title in his first year on the bench to earn the coach of the year honor.

“It’s a great honor and it is very humbling,” Weber said. “There are so many coaches in our state deserving of it. I hope this is recognizing those I’ve gotten to work with and those I’ve learned from.”

Weber was chosen by a panel of statewide media for the award. Bangor’s Jordan Laufenberg, Brookfield East’s Joe Rux and Milwaukee Washington’s Fred Riley were also nominated.

After losing in the sectional final a year ago, Schade stepped down at Oshkosh North and handed the reins to Weber, who made it his goal to make the transition to a new coach as smooth as possible.

“My goal when I took over was that our kids didn’t really feel like anything changed,” said Weber, who led the team to a 27-1 record and a second straight Fox Valley Association title. “What Frank did worked so I wasn’t about to try to reinvent the wheel just to say I did something different.”

The Spartans’ only loss this season came in January to Division 2 state champion Kaukauna – a loss that would be avenged later in the season – and North breezed into the state tournament with wins over Appleton North, Wisconsin Rapids, Eau Claire North and Stevens Point.

After surviving a scare from Sussex Hamilton in the Division 1 state semifinals, the Weber-led Spartans dominated Brookfield East, 61-44, to win the state championship.

“It was a sense of fulfillment to win the state title,” Weber said. “To be able to win that for everybody who has come before us is so rewarding. This has been a long time in the making and we just keep learning and trying to enhance our product year after year.”

Schade wasn’t the only influence on Weber’s coaching style. He also credits longtime Sheboygan North coach Tom Desotell as being a mentor as well and had regular conversations with both Hall of Fame coaches during the season.

“(Desotell) saw me as a kid who loved the game and from our conversations and going scouting with him, it really gave me a foundation,” Weber said. “To have two Hall of Fame coaches I get to talk to on a weekly basis and learn from and talk through situations had a profound influence on who I am as a coach.”