by Dave Boehler
Beacon Sports Editor
Considering the circumstances, life doesn’t get much better than this for Michael Berger.
This past summer, he was living in Kansas City when he found out his 9-year-old cousin had cancer and his grandmother was getting divorced.
“It was pretty much my decision to move,” Berger said. “So I moved in with my grandma and my mom also moved in with us.”
Berger enrolled at Sheboygan Lutheran for his final year of high school while his father continued to work in Kansas City. The two will be reunited this weekend in Madison, as Berger and the Crusaders try to win the Division 5 boys state basketball championship.
“This is something I’ve been waiting for,” Berger said. “I’ve always wanted to play in a state tournament. I’ve prepared my whole life to play in this type of game by dedicating my life to play basketball.”
Even better for Berger, who has never played at state before, his cousin is cancer free.
“I’m pretty sure he’s all good now,” Berger said. “It’s pretty crazy how everything is working out. I get to play basketball and my family is doing great right now.”
Berger’s mother got a job at Lutheran – his father graduated there – and he says leaving Kansas City was not that hard.
“I knew that I was coming here to be around family and most of my family lives up here anyway,” he said.
Berger did not know anyone from the team, however, but started playing basketball with them in August. He slowly started to realize state was a possibility.
“Everybody started saying how good we were and stuff, so I prepared myself to think we were going to make it,” Berger said. “That was just the mindset I had.”
However, Berger was not a starter and was a back-up to freshman guard Casey Verhagen.
Some seniors would not be happy about that. Not Berger.
“He’s playing a role as a back-up point guard to a freshman, but Michael’s always been super respectful of Casey and our program,” Lutheran coach Nick Verhagen said. “He adjusts and adapts to a whole new role and recognizes his value. When his name is called, he jumps in and does exactly what needs to be done. He’s a huge reason we got over Hustisford (in the sectional semifinal) the other day. He stepped in during a really hostile situation and we were down a bunch, and he played really well on both ends of the court, got us back in the game, and lifted us to a double-digit lead because of his leadership and his experience.”
Berger has appeared in every game and is averaging 3.7 points a contest.
Casey Verhagen averages 10.5 points per game and recently set the school record for most assists in a season.
“I think it’s awesome to have him as a senior,” Casey said. “A freshman starting over (a senior) is not easy, but I think he’s embraced his role and pushes us in practice.”