NY2LASPORTS.COM - 414HOOPS.COM - WIAA SECTIONAL FINALS RECAP
Antonio Curro — NATIONAL RECRUITING DIRECTOR - NY2LASPORTS.COM
A flurry of boys basketball took place this past weekend as the WIAA Sectional Finals tipped off on Saturday with trips to Madison on the line. When the dust settled it was Elgin Cook and Milwaukee Hamilton who sent the biggest message of the day. Here's some thoughts after another exciting weekend of basketball.
The cinderella run for Merrill ended as senior Jordan Mach and Antigo turned in a superior effort in a convincing win over the Paul Jesperson led Merrill squad. Antigo has been a model of consistency all year long and they could be a dangerous team in Madison if taken lightly.
One of many surprises on an upset filled weekend was Appleton East outlasting a heavily favored De Pere squad. Prior to the tournament we felt Appleton East was a very dangerous team but perhaps were one year away. A matchup with De Pere looked like it would be laying the foundation for a deep run for East next year. Problem is someone forgot to tell sophomore Sam Mader and junior Johnny Coenen for East. Mader was spectacular on Friday night and Coenen knocked down a trey ball at the buzzer to defeat De Pere on Saturday sending East to Madison. We continue to boast of the prospects of Sam Mader who is a legitimate mid to high major Division 1 talent on the rise.
The more things change, the more they stay the same and that statement fits perfectly for Madison Memorial who makes yet another trip to Madison. While last year they were the sexy pick, this year they head to Madison looking to grab the respect back from people who thought they were ripe for an upset. This team is rolling right now and they hit the Kohl Center later this week with the best player in the state and a loaded group of young talent. Right now a trip to the state championship seems like it will go down once again.
Gotta give props to Neenah who defeated Sheboygan South and heads to Madison out of what could be considered a very easy Sectional #4 in comparison to the rest. This one could've seen as many as six different teams come out of it but in the end Neenah proved to be the team to beat as they are playing their best basketball of the season. Up next is the Goliath in Madison Memorial who could see David connect with the stone if they take Neenah lightly in Madison.
Milwaukee Hamilton sent the biggest message this weekend with a complete domination of Racine Park on Saturday night. Having seen these young men play for years now, I can say that was the best performance I've ever personally witnessed from Cook, Harris, Lee, etc. Elgin Cook was spectacular along with Charles Lee but key players in the mix were juniors Jalonnie Parks and Kiwane Crowder who played arguably their best games of the season. Hamilton was absolutely unbeatable in front of a packed house and should they play like that later this week it will be equally impossible to get past them in Madison. Spectacular performance on all levels as they finished in transition, dominated the glass, knocked down shots, etc.
As dominating a performance as it was for Hamilton, Marquette turned in an equal performance on their end in a dismantling of Milwaukee King on Saturday. Junior John Kopriva was completely unstoppable and anyone who doesn't believe this young man is one of the top pure power forward prospects in the state really should stop right now. Kopriva dominated the glass and scored at will as his 9 point first quarter effort put Marquette up 16-9 and they never looked back. A three sport star, Kopriva has never spent a full year playing on the hardwood but this young man can really play and brings to mind soft comparisons to Cedarburg's Chip Rank in terms of his toughness and ability to dominate the paint. Equally solid on Saturday was the play of junior Phil O'Connor who turned in the performance of his young career. While Kopriva and O'Connor completely dominated the glass, the sharpshooting of junior Quinten Calloway who knocked down trey ball after trey ball in the third quarter blew the game wide open. Marquette was spectacular and you gotta give a lot of praise to the work of Head Coach David Cooks who kept the ship in the right direction after starting the season slowly. Consider that Marquette rolled through Bay View, Riverside, Washington, and King to get to Madison and Kopriva was completely dominant in every game. That's a big time message. Up next is Milwaukee Hamilton...so it doesn't get any easier.
Arrowhead finally landed in Madison with a heart pounding victory over Menomonee Falls. Falls was rolling into the game on a huge winning streak but Arrowhead gained a bit of their swagger back with a convincing win over Waukesha West on Friday. Key free throws, key baskets, and a little luck all played a factor in Arrowhead grabbing the victory as a trey ball at the buzzer fell short. Senior Ben Mills turned in a decent second half effort after struggling in the first half but it was a complete team effort from top to bottom that pushed them over the top. Arrowhead looks like a virtual lock for the state semi-finals right now but we'll break down those games later this week.
Verona Area outlasted a hungry group from Kenosha Bradford on Saturday to come out of Sectional #6. This sectional was similar to the one Neenah came out of in that it drew very little respect. Nevertheless Verona did exactly what they were supposed to and now they take their balanced attack up against Arrowhead later this week.
Sauk Prairie proved to be the cinderella that made the ball as they were able to drop a young Madison Edgewood team that promises to return even better next year. This wasn't much of a surprise as Sauk Prairie presented a lot of matchup problems for Edgewood. Up next is a date with Catholic Memorial.
Senior Derek Schell was sensational on Saturday for Catholic Memorial as he set the tone with a number of huge baskets in the first half while the rest of Memorial struggled to get their legs. By the time Schell was finished he practically outscored Whitefish Bay by himself on a flurry of trey balls and layups that blew the game wide open by halftime. Memorial looks like a lock for the state title game absent the wheels completely coming off later this week.
Kiel surprised a favored Seymour squad who looked to be in control of their game early on Saturday. This one surprised us as Seymour really looked to be on top of their game lately. Nevertheless congratulations to Kiel who played exceptionally well and now meets a very tough group from Northwestern.
Sparked by the return of Steve Tecker, Northwestern turned in another convincing effort on Saturday and is the clear favorite to capture the state championship later this week. A state championship game between Northwestern and Catholic Memorial really looks like a strong possibility and Memorial may be the only team with the firepower to get past Northwestern. Great performance for Northwestern this weekend.
Blair-Taylor escaped Poynette on Saturday in another solid performance. Poynette dropped Cuba City in a surprise on Friday and Blair-Taylor proved to be the beneficiary of that with a solid effort on Saturday.
Congratulations to Steve McWhorter and Racine St. Catherines who were absolutely spectacular this past weekend. McWhorter is one of the most underrated guards in the country and he was sensational in back to back performances this weekend.
Eau Claire Regis and junior lead guard Connor Miller turned in a convincing effort as well on Saturday as they defeated Thorp. A matchup between the Miller led Regis and the McWhorter led St. Cats would be a must see state title game but they have to get past Brillion first.
Brillion continued to roll on Saturday with a solid performance against a favored Marathan bunch.
The surprise of the day was GB NEW Lutheran outlasting Green Lake who looked on paper to have too much offensive firepower. A double overtime classic is all it took and now they head to Madison with eyes on an even bigger prize.
Clayton turned in a very convincing and dominating effort against Prentice Saturday. They are rolling right now and it will take a huge effort from GB NEW Lutheran to get past them in the semi-finals.
Congratulations to Royall who outlasted McDonell Central on Saturday. Another solid team effort was the case in that one and up next is the heavily favored Randolph team in Madison.
As for Randolph...it's their state title to lose, it's that simple. They have the best player in Kelm on the best team and anything less than a state championship would be shock.
Note: Antonio Curro is the National Recruiting Editor for NY2LASPORTS.COM, GENERATIONNEXBASKETBALL.COM and 414HOOPS.COM. He is also a national consultant for ESPNU and the HOOPSCOOP.