As the Bangor High School boys basketball team rolled through the WIAA state tournament a season ago, the Cardinals relied largely on veterans to help bring home the school’s first gold ball.
With seniors like Drew Johnson, Caleb Miedema and Luke Reader leading the way, Bangor won its seven playoff games by an average of 38 points, including a 91-67 romp over Chippewa Falls McDonell in the Division 5 championship game.
Then-sophomore Grant Manke was able to make a name for himself along the way, with 19 points and 13 rebounds in that title game, but the Cardinals were going to need to replace quite a bit of production to round out Manke’s supporting cast this season.
Enough was found to allow Bangor make another run to the Kohl Center this week. The third-seeded Cardinals (25-1) play second-seeded Marshfield Columbus (25-2) in a semifinal at approximately 10:45 a.m. Friday.
“Since the beginning of the year, we knew that we were losing some guys that were big varsity players for a number of years and that we were going to have to fill those roles,” said Bangor coach Jacob Pederson, who moved up from assistant to head coach following Jordan Laufenberg’s decision to step down after last season.
The good news for the Cardinals? Sophomore Zane Langrehr was up for the challenge.
Langrehr followed up a 17-point effort against Blair-Taylor in a sectional semifinal last Thursday — he made the winning 3-pointer with less than 3 seconds remaining — with 16 points in the Cardinals’ 70-60 win over Southwestern in the sectional final on Saturday.
That type of scoring complement to Manke has been just what Bangor coach Jacob Pederson said that the Cardinals needed this season, and especially over the course of their playoff run.
“He’s been consistent for us all year,” Pederson said of Langrehr. “He’s a very good shooter, and kind of really found a rhythm at the end of the game on Thursday. He hit three 3s for us in the last minute-and-a-half to bring us back. He’s a tough guard, at 6-foot-3 and able to get to the basket.”
After seeing minimal time on the floor at the Kohl Center during last season’s state tournament, Langrehr took it upon himself to make sure he’d be firmly in the mix in his sophomore season.
“It made me more hungry, and it made me work harder in the offseason,” Langrehr said. “I knew I had something to prove, and so filling my role and helping the team win is all you can do.”
His on-court presence has taken a jump this season, and Cardinals senior Trevor Jones said that it’s gone up another level since the calendar flipped over to March.
“It’s really cool because you can see him mature,” Jones said of his teammate. “He’s not forcing bad shots, and he’s getting good looks. It’s awesome to see what he’s done for us this year, especially the last week, hitting the game-winner against Blair-Taylor for us. It’s awesome to see him mature and become a better player for us, especially just as a sophomore.”
If Bangor is to bring home another gold ball this week, Langrehr will have a big part as to why it happens. But until the semifinal begins, there are still things that need tweaking.
“We’ll go back to practice and work on what we need to,” Langrehr said. “We still have things we need to work on, and it’s getting mentally prepared and getting ready for the big tourney.”