Resisting the urge to play the "what-if" game, Whitnall boys basketball coach Steve Kujawa said he was pleased with the 2016-17 season.
The Falcons went 16-7 overall, including 13-3 in the Woodland Conference to share the East Division championship with Brown Deer. They then fell to New Berlin Eisenhower in a WIAA Division 2 regional championship contest.
"We are proud that we won the conference title," Kujawa said, "and that we did things the right way. I was happy with the coaching preparation, with the way the kids executed the game plans and with the fact that everyone was willing to make sacrifices for the good of the program."
The Falcons were without standout junior guard Tyler Herro for much of the latter part of the season due to a knee injury sustained midway through the campaign.
Herro missed a couple of games, returned to play a big role in a crucial victory over Pewaukee on Jan. 27 and then sat out of a meeting with eventual Division 2 state runner-up Cedarburg the next day.
He was in and out of the lineup and then finally shut down completely for the WIAA playoffs, finishing with 16 games played.
Despite the abbreviated schedule, Herro was still named the Woodland East player of the year and first-team all-state by the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association after averaging 23.9 points, 4.5 assists, 4.2 rebounds and 1.5 steals.
The natural tendency would be to wonder what the Falcons might have done with a healthy Herro, but Kujawa would not speculate.
"Actually, we had three major injuries," the coach said. "Tyler was out, Joey Tilley was out and Danny Alexopoulos was out for a while. We had guys who understood their roles and stepped up, and we had guys who came off the bench and made big contributions like (A.J.) Thut and (Daniel) Wolff, who gave us key minutes. We also had senior leadership from Kevion Taylor and Mitchell Knapp.
"You can't use losing Tyler as an excuse. Sometimes things just don't work out for you, but I was proud of what we accomplished. The team improved and grew, and the kids showed faith in the system."
The player who really came through in Herro's absence was Taylor, the senior forward who averaged about 25 points in the games Herro missed.
Taylor finished with 17.8 points, a team-leading 7.9 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.9 steals per contest in making first-team all-Woodland East and honorable-mention all-state.
"He has grown so much from his freshman to senior years," Kujawa said. "He took full advantage of his opportunities. It was a pleasure to watch him grow and develop as a player and person. Winona State will be excited about getting him next season. Some other schools actually tried to get in on him, but he is sticking with Winona, since he made the commitment."
Junior forward Tilley made second-team all-division after averaging 10.9 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.3 assists. He came off the bench as a sixth-man sparkplug early in the season and then moved into the starting lineup with Herro's injury.
Junior forward Jonah Bzdawka made honorable-mention after averaging 8.2 points and 4.5 rebounds. He also stepped up his game after Herro went out for the season.
Alexopoulos finished with 6.1 points per game, and junior guard Will Kegel made some key contributions down the stretch as well.
The Falcons lose only two seniors, Taylor and Knapp, so plenty of talent will return next season, led by Herro.
"He is on the road to recovery and rehabbing," Kujawa said. "He is getting ready for the AAU season, and I don't see any reason why he would not be 100 percent for the start of the next high school season. We should be strong again. It will depend on our development and willingness to work hard."