I haven’t been around as long as some media members across the state, but 2008 was the 14th WIAA boys basketball tournament I’ve witnessed in person. I was courtside for the 1992 and 1993 tourneys as an intern at WKOW-TV in Madison, and since I became sports director at WQOW-18, I’ve had the privelege to do play-by-play at every tournament since 1997.
Start to finish, this may have been the most competitive tournament of all those I’ve seen. Every single game had its share of drama…clutch shots…intense play…and great hustle. I’ll always remember Eleva-Strum’s Nick Zander hurdling a courtside photgrapher in pursuit of a loose ball, then calling a timeout before crashing into the E-S band’s bass drum.
Since I’ve called Eau Claire home, I always enjoy seeing teams from this area compete at state, although there have been a few years when the locals aren’t at the same level with teams from other parts of Wisconsin. 2008 will be remembered as the year when Chippewa Valley teams proved they were every bit as good as the others from around the state.
Let’s start with Eleva-Strum. The Cardinals have been a joy to watch all season, with their unselfish, hard-nosed play and their suffocating defense. E-S took apart perennial power Randolph in the Division 4 semi’s, then gutted out a win over a vastly improved team from Suring to win the school’s first-ever boys basketball state title. It may be a long time before we see another small school suit up a collection of athletes like the Cardinals put on the floor. Much like the Randolph teams of Greg Stiemsma and Ryan Tillema could have competed in any division, I think the ’07-’08 Eleva-Strum Cardinals could have done likewise.
The other local teams may have dropped their first games at state, but all certainly had chances to win. Eau Claire North was within 3 points of eventual Division 1 state champ Wauwatosa East with 1:30 to go in the 4th quarter. The Huskies’ height and 1-3-1 zone defense gave the Red Raiders fits all game. With 6-11 Evan Anderson, 6-7 Tyler Brown, and 6-5 Andy Kleist all returning for next season, I’d be very surprised if North’s not a top 10 team.
Eau Claire Regis also returns plenty of talent (guards Adam Ganske and Jack Eaton) for next season, although the Ramblers have to replace their front line. This season, head coach Bill Uelmen was able to overcome the loss of four starters from the ’06-’07 team, so it won’t be a surprise if other players step in for next year.
Luck also loses some starters, but the Cardinals return a real talent in forward Brennan Olson. However, anyone who follows high school hoops knows getting to the state tournament doesn’t guarantee a return trip the next year.
Thanks to all the area coaches, players, fans, and bands who made the 2007-2008 boys basketball season one to remember!
Posted under Hometown Sports
This post was written by bbradovich on March 11, 2008