We are on the verge of completing one of the best boys basketball regular seasons in recent memory in my opinion. I’ve been covering Coulee Region hoops since 1990 and I can’t remember where we’ve had everything from star power (Matt Thomas, Bronson Koenig, Tim Wagner) to highly ranked teams (Onalaska, Central, Aquinas) to teams that have simply grown in front of our eyes (G-E-T starting two freshman, Luther’s emergence, Royall and North Crawford waving the banner for local small schools). With that said, here are some thoughts heading into the playoffs, which start Tuesday, February 19th and conclude on WXOW 19 at the WIAA State Tournament March 7-9.
Favorites: Onalaska, Central
All signs point to an Onalaska vs. Central Sectional semifinal on Feb. 28th. But before Onalaska can get there they must first beat either River Falls or Holmen. Both teams gave the Hilltoppers a hard time in their meetings this season. Central will likely need to get by Rice Lake, which has been ranked in the top 10 in the state all season long. Holmen has shown they can play the top teams tough. If they can spring an upset it might be enough to carry them all the way to the Sectional Final.
Despite one-point losses to Onalaska and Central recently, I still have the Blugolds making it to state and winning it all. Their road to state will be easier than their conference schedule in the MVC. Beware of G-E-T though. The Red Hawks fell behind by 20 points quickly in their regular season meeting with Aquinas. Then rallied late to pull to within 3 before losing. The fact G-E-T almost pulled off a miracle comeback should give them confidence. Possible Aquinas vs. G-E-T re-match Thursday, Feb. 28th in Osseo.
Favorite: Ona. Luther
Luther surprised everyone by making it to the Sectional final last year before losing.
This year it would be a surprise if they don’t make it back to the Sectional final. Waiting for them there will likely be Cuba City, one of the top teams in the state. Could be another intriguing showdown between those two. That match-up would be Saturday, March 2nd in Wisconsin Dells if both teams advance as expected.
Sleeper: North Crawford
Royall has been ranked in the top 10 in the state all season long and, with the exception of an upset loss to Bangor, have dominated the Scenic Bluffs. They were a cinderella story two years ago when they made it to State. I give them an excellent shot at getting back this year. North Crawford dominated the Ridge and Valley and has enough to spring an upset over Royall. Those two could meet in a Sectional semifinal Thursday, February 28th in Reedsburg.
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