RIB LAKE, Wis. (WSAW)- A 22 win season that included a Marawood North conference championship and a deep playoff run ended without any sort of closure for Rib Lake.
The Rib Lake basketball team during a game against Pittsville at D.C. Everest High School in Weston, Wisconsin, on March 12, 2020. (WSAW)
A season that ended before the storybook final chapter could be written.
"Honestly, I don't think I'll ever get over this,” said Steven Petkau, a senior guard/forward. “It's still going to be in the back of my head.”
“I'll probably think 30 years from now, man we were one game away from making history."
A sectional semi-final win over Pittsville put Rib Lake one win away from their first state tournament appearance since 1986.
Hours after that high, came the lowest of lows.
"It was about 11:30 at night, and we all saw a tweet,” said Levin Ewan, senior guard for Rib Lake. “And we were kind of texting each other. We found out over text, group chat, and Twitter."
The dream season was over due to COVID-19. For Nick Gerstberger and Devyn Vlach, so was the chance to join a small fraternity with their fathers, who were part of the last Rib Lake team to go to state.
"After it happened we (he and his father) talked a little bit about it,” said Gerstberger. “Just how cool it would've been to share that experience."
"Even before the season started, me and my dad really talked about how cool it would to in 34 years, us two would be the last two to go,” Vlach said. “When it got shut down, when our season got shut down, it not only devastated us, but him."
However, the most touching moment of the season came less than a week before the shutdown, when the team honored longtime Rib Lake school board president Jerry Blomberg, who died after a battle with cancer on March 6, with a regional championship the night after.
"The guys had dedicated their Saturday win against Wild Rose to him," said assistant coach Todd Henderson. “His wife had come in and talked to the team before that game, and shared how special it was that these guys were playing for him."
Blomberg's grandson, Logan, was a sophomore guard on the team.
"Everybody on the team, we were a brotherhood,” said Gerstberger. “And we support each other no matter what."
Despite the ending, it was a special season, from an extraordinary group, that won't be forgotten in Rib Lake, Wisconsin anytime soon.
"I think we'll be remembered as the season that never ended, and one of the best teams to come out of Rib Lake,” Vlach said.
I think other teams are going to be playing in the future to say 'We have unfinished business for these seniors.’” Henderson said. “That we're going to work to get back to state someday, and it's going to be to honor this group of seniors."
Another piece of potential history that was robbed from Rib Lake, head coach Carrie Ewan would have become the first woman ever to lead a boys team to the state tournament in Wisconsin.