CHIPPEWA FALLS — The list includes former stars Wisconsin high school basketball fans remember well.
NBA draft pick Diamond Stone of the unstoppable Dominican teams of recent years is on it, as is eventual NCAA Division I player Junior Lomomba of the Madison Memorial juggernaut in the early 2010s.
This week, the list adds two from the ranks of the Chippewa Falls McDonell boys basketball program.
Cory Hoglund and Charlie Bleskachek will join the elite group of players who reached four career state tournaments when the Macks take the floor for their Division 5 semifinal against Sheboygan Area Lutheran on Friday morning.
McDonell has made four consecutive trips to the state tournament, and Bleskachek and Hoglund have been part of every team.
“I’ve had a day to kind of reflect on it,” Bleskachek said. “It’s an awesome experience. It’s unheard of, so to be back there again is really exciting.”
“On the past trips, I haven’t really taken time to think about it,” Hoglund said. “But definitely this past week I thought of the rare opportunity I’ve had throughout these four years. I definitely am very grateful for it.”
The senior duo’s rise through the McDonell program has been palpable over the last four years, with each trip to state serving as a stepping stone to a larger role with the team.
As freshmen, the two saw minimal game time at state. Hoglund played a couple of minutes in the Macks’ two games on the way to the state title, while Bleskachek got a handful of seconds of live action.
“It was a little nerve-wracking,” Bleskachek said of his first steps onto the Kohl Center court. “It’s a big stage to be on, but it’s also really exciting at the same time to know that you can perform and play in front of that many people.”
That excitement fueled a drive to get back and to have a more direct hand in what happened in the game. The two both appeared in 20 games or more as sophomores, although their effect on the scorebook remained largely the same.
As juniors, their impact really took flight.
Both earned starting roles for the Macks, as Hoglund was named second team All-Western Cloverbelt and Bleskachek received an honorable mention on the all-conference team.
They both helped lift McDonell into last year’s Division 5 state championship game, with Bleskachek recording a double-double and Hoglund scoring 11 points in a semifinal win over Deerfield.
As that game showed, the Kohl Center isn’t really nerve-wracking for the Macks’ been-there-done-that duo anymore.
“The stage — I don’t feel it really bothers me or affects me,” Hoglund said. “Just helping my teammates prepare for it and get ready for it is my main concern.”
Such a concern speaks to where Hoglund and Bleskachek are now compared to four years ago. Not only are they the team’s top two scorers, but as seniors they have filled the same role as the leaders they looked up to as underclassmen.
“I’d say as an upperclassman I definitely have a bigger role — verbally, (or) non-verbally — as an example on the floor,” Bleskachek said. “Whatever it takes to help the team moving forward, I’ll take on that role.”
Hoglund sees things similarly.
“Just helping everybody get better on the team, not just thinking about what I can do individually,” he said.
Hoglund will have played in all four state tournaments during his career, while Bleskachek will have played in three. Bleskachek didn’t appear in the Macks’ 2017 semifinal loss to Shullsburg.
“(Hoglund) has been a good example to younger kids, and the kids he plays with all look up to him a little bit,” McDonell coach Adam Schilling said. “He leads by example, and if he has to get vocal he will. Everybody sees how hard he’s working, and it makes everybody else want to work hard also.”
Bleskachek and Hoglund have brought home one state title and one runner-up trophy in their careers. This weekend brings one final chance to take home another piece of hardware.
“(We know) that any game can be your last. If you aren’t focused and ready to go, any team can beat anybody, especially in March,” Hoglund said.