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Posted On: 03/11/19 6:10 AM
MADISON, Wis. — The 2019 WIAA Division 1 State Tournament tips off on Friday. Here’s a look at the four teams battling for the coveted gold ball at the Kohl Center this week.
1. BROOKFIELD CENTRAL (21-5)
How They Got Here
W Fond Du Lac 63-31
W Bay Port 66-46
W Brookfield East 63-55
W Sussex Hamilton 69-62 (OT)
After losing star guard and leading scorer Gage Malensek late in the season, Brookfield Central became an afterthought in their own sectional. Heck, the Lancers had a combined 1-3 record against Sussex Hamilton and Brookfield East with Malensek, yet managed to pull together in March, knocking off both squads to book a trip to Madison. Just like that, Central goes from being the hunted, to the hunter, earning the No. 1 seed in the Division 1 state tournament.
The duo of Cole Nau and David Joplin have elevated their games in the playoffs.
Through four games in the postseason, Joplin is posting 20.8 points and 9.5 rebounds per game, including two double-doubles. The sophomore forward holds early scholarship offers from UNLV and DePaul.
Nau, a Hillsdale signee, is averaging 19.3 points and 3.5 assists per game, including three 20-point performances. He is also top three on the team in scoring, rebounding, assists, steals, and blocks.
Ben Nau is going to be key for the Lancers at the Kohl Center. With teams drawing so much attention to Joplin and Cole Nau, Nau can kill teams who leave him open on the perimeter. The sophomore guard is averaging 8.9 ppg and shooting nearly 37 percent from downtown. Nau also a momentum changer defensively with his ability to draw charges in key moments.
4. NEENAH (20-7)
W D.C. Everest 80-60
W Appleton North 78-63
W Kimberly 57-56
W Hudson 68-66
Neenah was able to exorcise some demons in the playoffs. After being swept by Kimberly in the regular season, the Rockets got the last laugh with a sectional semifinal upset. Despite finishing tied for third in their own conference, Neenah got hot down the stretch, winning nine of their last 10 games.
One of our biggest anticipated breakout performers in the preseason, Max Klesmit has exceeded expectations in 2018-19. The junior guard is scoring 24.5 ppg, while shooting 52.5 percent from the floor, including 37.3 percent from 3-point range. Klesmit also came up clutch for Neenah in the sectional finals, hitting the game-winning shot against Hudson, capping off a 34-point effort.
2. WEST ALLIS CENTRAL (22-3)
W Milwaukee Bradley Tech 84-43
W Milwaukee Riverside 63-57
W Franklin 71-46
W Waukesha West 78-72
Talk about a team that few expected to be here, all West Allis Central did was win without drawing a ton of attention their way. The Bulldogs don’t have any headline stars, but plenty of capable players who go about their business with no individual agendas. West Allis Central survived a scare against Riverside, only to throttle a very good Franklin squad in the sectional semifinals. The Bulldogs then pulled one of the biggest surprises on sectional final Saturday, taking down No. 1 seed and perhaps even the favorite in Division 1, Waukesha West.
Morningside College commit Jacob Fierst is an interesting matchup for a lot of teams. A strong forward with mobility and versatility, Fierst leads West Allis Central with 21.0 ppg. The senior forward shoots a 54.9 percent clip, including a blistering 45.8 percent clip from 3-point range.
Glenn Martin has a knack for hitting opposing defenses with a change of pace. West Allis Central has a strong frontcourt with Fierst and Shilo Bowles. Martin (12.9 ppg) often becomes the engine for this team with his ability to dribble penetrate and create offense around the rim.
3. SUN PRAIRIE (20-6)
W Verona 50-38
W Madison Memorial 61-59
W Racine Horlick 73-49
W Madison La Follette 66-53
Want to beat Sun Prairie? Better be prepared to win ugly. A team that will put you in a fistfight for 36 minutes and see comes out on top, the Cardinals are making their second consecutive trip to state. Sun Prairie might have six losses, but four of those came to the top two teams in the Big Eight, East and La Follette, who were both top 10 ranked squads in Division 1 throughout the season.
He’s not their leading scorer, that title belongs to Brock Voigt, but Delaware Hale is the player Sun Prairie probably needs to ride to match up with the talented frontcourt prospects in Madison. An intriguing, high-upside forward, Hale has taken some big steps forward this season, averaging 12.8 points per game. An athletic, explosive prospect, Hale can do damage around the rim and from the high post.
A big reason for Sun Prairie’s run has been the return of Colin Schaefer. The junior guard has only played in six games, but is averaging nearly 12 ppg along the way. Schaefer, a skilled, high-IQ guard, had 17 points in the sectional semifinal win over Racine Horlick.