It was printed as a hashtag on T-shirts.
It was chanted by its substantial cheering section after the lineups were introduced and during timeouts.
The phrase, “Yes we can,” had become a rallying cry for the Southwestern High School boys basketball team as it made an improbable run to the WIAA Division 5 sectional final.
While that may have been true against a different team, Saturday’s game at Logan High School belonged to Bangor. The Cardinals answered, “Yes we can,” with “not today,” as they boat raced the Wildcats 76-36 to secure a spot in next weekend’s state tournament.
Bangor (25-1) will appear in its first boys state tournament since 1936. It will learn its Friday opponent, game time and seeding information on Sunday. Southwestern — which entered the postseason with a below-.500 record — ends its season 14-13.
The Cardinals made their move almost immediately. After not scoring on its first possession, Bangor allowed Southwestern to make a short jump shot on the other end. Those were the only points the Wildcats scored in nearly the first 8 minutes, as the Cardinals exploded for a 20-0 run that proved to be all they would need to punch their ticket to state.
“We’ve got a good mindset,” Bangor senior Caleb Miedema said. “We came in strong, played good defense, and finished the game.”
Bangor didn’t even need the usual scoring output from senior Luke Reader. He had nine points, but was a tremendous facilitator for Miedema and senior forward Grant Manke. Miedema scored 25 points, while Manke had 18.
Senior Drew Johnson scored his 1,000th career point with a 3-pointer with 13 minutes left of the second half, and finished with 12 points. He’s the second 1,000-point career point scorer active for the Bangor boys along with Reader.
Bangor was working on a 23-6 run, and had the running clock going, when coach Jordan Laufenberg put in all his reserves.
“This team (Southwestern) can come back from anything. They’ve proven that time after time, so we knew no lead was safe and we had to keep playing aggressive,” Laufenberg said.
The Logan Fieldhouse was controlled by more than just the Bangor boys on the floor: the Cardinals girls team, fresh off its Division 5 state championship win over Black Hawk Saturday morning, was sitting courtside, and Bangor red outweighed Southwestern blue by about a 60-40 margin in the stands.
Manke powered the Cardinals in the first half, exploiting the weak-side block against Southwestern for offensive rebounds and easy put-back layups. He had 12 points — including four free throws — in the first half, while Miedema added 11 before half.
Bangor was the aggressor underneath the basket throughout the first half, as it was a pair of late 3-pointers and jumpers just inside the 3-point line that got Southwestern some points in the first half for a 37-19 deficit at the break.
Southwestern’s student section implored its team to pull back into it in the second half, chanting “cardiac ‘Cats” in reference to the team’s double overtime win in earlier in the postseason. Breckin Schneider and Tim Pergande each had seven points to lead Southwestern.
But there wasn’t going to be any stopping Bangor on Saturday.
“I’m super happy,” Manke said. “This is so surreal. I can’t even … I don’t have any words.”