The intensity level, not to mention the decibel level, will be rising rapidly in local gyms over the next two weeks, as the girls basketball postseason begins. Which teams will make it to Madison for the 2009 WIAA Championships? We have plenty of area contenders, but that number will dwindle after every night of action.
Here are my thoughts as to how it’ll unfold:
Eau Claire North needs to win three games to advance to the state tournament. The Huskies get a home game against either Menomonie or Hudson, and then will face either Chippewa Falls or River Falls in a sectional semi. Since Chi-Hi is the pre-designated site for that game, it’ll be very interesting to see what impact that may have on a North-Chippewa matchup. Still, games are decided by players, not venues, and the Huskies have the best player in the area in senior Sam Price–so I see them advancing to the sectional final at Wausau West, versus either Marshfield or D.C. Everest. Both the Tigers and Evergreens are solid teams, but they each have one loss to North. However, the Huskies’ win over Marshfield was at a neutral site (Ashwaubenon) in a holiday tournament. I didn’t witness that game but I was on hand for the season opener, when the Tigers came to North and handed the Huskies a 52-34 loss. Both teams have evolved in the months since that matchup, but I can’t get the memory out of my head how Marshfield’s 6-3 twin towers Emmalee Boyle and Daneille Carlson dominated play inside, while guards Katie Wolff and Andie Varsho controlled the tempo. My heart says to pick North, but my head says Marshfield will win the sectional and advance to state. Other sectional winners: Middleton, Janesville Parker, Neenah, Milwaukee Vincent, DePere, Brookfield Central, and Milwaukee King.
There was some very good girls basketball played in the Middle Border Conference this season, and the top two teams, Amery and Durand, were rewarded with #1 seeds in their respective regionals. 3rd-place Osceola was not so fortunate (see Osceola Athletic Director Arvid Maki’s reponse to my earlier post “Stretch Run Straight Ahead”) and got a #5 seed, which means a long trek north to play at 4th-seeded Northwestern. I’ll say the Chieftains get off the bus and hand the Tigers a loss, but then will lose to MBC rival Amery (featuring Osceola transfer Heather Byl) in a regional semi. The Warriors will advance to the sectional semi, but their outstanding season will end there–#2 seed Altoona, after eliminating #1 seed Barron in a regional final, will do likewise to Amery. On the bottom part of the bracket, Durand ‘s biggest challenge will be a trip to to Stevens Point for a sectional semifinal against Wittenberg-Birnamwood. I think the Panthers can pull out that win, but I have this feeling that the Railroaders are a team on a mission…and I think they’ll win this section for a second straight season. Other sectional winners: Freedom, Columbus, and Ripon.
Others have referred to the local regional (with the likes of Colfax, Osseo-Fairchild, Regis, and Mondovi) as the “Regional of Death.” Personally, I think the “death” reference is a little over the top–this is girls high school basketball, after all. “Heartbreak Regional” could work…some excellent teams will be heartrbroken about not getting to state….but this is a blog entry about picking winners, not picking clever sayings.
With that out of the way, let me deal with another topic: seedings. Theoretically, seeding an entire sectional is a fine idea, but what about the logistics of getting 32 coaches together for a Sunday meeting? How long would a meeting like that take? Remember, coaches are also teachers, and at this time of year, as they’re preparing scouting reports and practice schedules on top of lesson plans, do any of those people want to devote even more time to the seeding process? And, if the coaches weren’t the ones to seed the teams, who would? The WIAA? If that were to happen, the griping/complaining quotient would be even greater than it is now. The media? Please…. Let’s remember this is high school basketball, not the NCAA tournament. Besides, geography is a big issue in this part of the state. For the sake of seeding, is it worth it to send Grantsburg on a Tuesday night journey to Osseo-Fairchild? (I think not…) Regis coach Brady Hoolihan told me Saturday night, after his team beat Owen-Withee: “To get to state, you’re going to have to beat some good teams along the way–and it really doesn’t matter when you play them.”
Now, back to the brackets. Prescott will advance out of the Amery regional, Ladysmith from the Park Falls regional, and Neillsville from the Eau Claire North regional, although the Warriors will find #2 seed Fall Creek a very tough out in a regional final at the Doghouse. Which two teams will square off in the regional final scheduled for Rice Lake on Saturday, February 28? I don’t think we’ll see any upsets in the regional quarterfinals, although Elk Mound could challenge Mondovi, while Eleva-Strum competes hard at Regis. The regional semi’s are another story. I’ve thought about these matchups for a while, and I see Colfax beating Mondovi by 5-8 points, while Osseo-Fairchild hangs on to edge Regis by 2 or 3. It’ll be interesting to see whether the regional final is moved to a more central location, but wherever the game is played, it’ll be before a packed house. Again, I think it’ll be a close game, but the perimeter game of Colfax gives the Vikings the edge, and I’ll pick them to beat O-F by 3 in another barnburner. In the sectional semi’s, Prescott plays Colfax tough, but the Vikings move on. So does Neillsville, which takes out Ladysmith in the other semi. It’s pretty easy to predict that the Altoona gym will be jam-packed for the sectional final, a great matchup between the explosive offensve of Colfax and the lock-down defense of Neillsville. Still, I get the feeling that Colfax, having made it to state last season, is playing loose and not feeling the overwhelming pressure to “break through,” as have some other Vikings teams of the past…which is why I’m picking Colfax to repeat as sectional champs. Other sectional winners: Amherst, Cuba City, and Oostburg.
Flambeau is the three-time defending state champ, but can the Falcons get back to Madison this season? Ted Alberson’s team should make it to the regional final at Marathon, but that’s where Flambeau will face Prentice, a team that won on the Falcons’ home floor by 17 points back on January 12. More recently, Prentice lost by 18 points in a Marawood playoff game to Wisconsin Rapids Assumption, while Flambeau’s won seven straight, including a win at Ladysmith, a #2 seed in Division 3. I think the Falcons’ very tough non-conference schedule will pay off in the postseason. Besides, picking against Flambeau in a basketball bracket is like picking against Menomonie in a football bracket…not good policy. So I’ll say the Falcons knock off Prentice in the regional final, do the same to Siren in a sectional semi, then take out Clayton in the sectional final to advance to Madison once again. Other sectional winners: St. Mary Central, Barneveld, and Black Hawk.
Your thoughts? Feel free to post a comment, or two, or three. These are mere opinions, mind you, the players will decide things on the court…that’ll be the exciting part.
Posted under Sports
This post was written by bbradovich on February 23, 2009