Wisconsin Basketball Tournament Preview: Rivalries for local schools in WIAA tourney
Rivalries will open the WIAA Division 5 regional tournament on Tuesday.
Niagara (6-16) heads to M&O Conference foe Wausaukee (9-13) for one matchup. The other sends Goodman-Pembine (7-14) to Florence (7-13) in a battle of Northern Lakes Conference opponents. Both regionals start at 7 p.m.
Wausaukee was the scene of Hoogland’s biggest win, a 2013 regional championship game with the host Rangers. Junior Zach Walker came off the bench to score 20 points and the senior-driven Badgers allowed just 11 second-half points in a 49-31 win.
“We’ve won big games there,” said Niagara coach Jim Hoogland, who has reminded his present team about the 2013 Badgers. “That’s (Wausaukee) been a home away from home for us. Sometime we struggle and sometimes we play well down there.”
Although Hoogland was a bit perplexed to beat the Patriots twice this season and get a No. 11 seed while GP claimed No. 9, the Badgers coach likes this road trip.
“We played them close and they were real good ball games,” Hoogland said of 66-52 and 46-34 setbacks to Wausaukee. “It’s a nice short trip for us and we’ll have a lot of fans down there. The boys are real excited about it because we match up well with them. We don’t have to do any crazy scouting because we played them twice. It’ll come down to players and execution.”
“Crazy scouting” would have been trying to prepare for somebody like No. 3 Green Bay NEW Lutheran, No, 12 Valley Christian or No. 14 Sevastopol.
Wausaukee coach Dave Lindbeck expects a “hard fought, physical game with good attendance from both communities.”
“I have a lot of respect for Jim and his program,” said Lindbeck, a West Iron County graduate.
Florence and Goodman-Pembine divided regular-season meetings. The Bobcats won 80-63 in mid-December and the Patriots prevailed 61-57 on February 1.
“I think Goodman-Pembine has been that one team that throughout the season has steadily improved,” said Florence coach Bryan Bomberg. “This is always an exciting time of the year for everyone. We are going to treat it like a new season and fresh start.”
The Florence-GP winner will probably face top-seeded Phelps in the regional semifinals Friday. Niagara-Wausaukee winner has NEW Lutheran or Sevastopol.
“If we are able to get by Florence things don’t get very easy with a likely matchup with Phelps,” said GP coach John Swick. “I don’t want to get too far ahead of things because that is the excitement of tournament time. Anything can happen.
“We need to play a perfect game against Florence and then try to build on that in round two. Our focus will definitely be on the understanding that there is no tomorrow and we have to leave it all on the floor one possession at a time.”
Hoogland has lost in the regular season to Phelps and No. 2 Suring. The Badgers coach cited defense in pegging Suring for his top-seed vote among the coaches.
“Phelps can score but Suring is head and shoulders above defensively,” Hoogland said. “Our region, besides the top two, is very well balanced. Anybody can beat anybody.”
Florence faces Goodman-Pembine
The regular season really challenged the youthful Bobcats, according to Bomberg.
“We played a pretty solid, all around, complete schedule this year with a wide variety of teams that challenged us in all facets of the game,” Bomberg said. “This gave us that opportunity to really grow up in game situations at times.”
Injuries and illness hampered the Bobcats, who locked up the eighth-seed and a home tournament game by beating Niagara with five healthy players.
Noted Hoogland, “Florence was on fire that night.”
“With short numbers this year, we haven’t been able to do a lot of full-court things in practice,” Bomberg said. “From the start of the season, though, I am proud of how the kids battled through. I know we challenged them daily in practice and we will continue to do so.
“We had a handful of injuries and sickness to deal with above and beyond normal circumstances. But, thankfully, that is in the past and we are looking onto the next chapter in tournament play.”
Evan Beaster (19 points per game, 15 rebounds), Riley Hixon (17.9 ppg) and Kaden Schuls (17.1 ppg, 7.2 assists) form the Florence nucleus.
“We’ve had to move a few of the junior varsity players up to help compensate but mostly we have seven true varsity players who round out our roster,” Bomberg said. “I can tell you each player has improved tremendously since the beginning of the year, particularly with their defined roles.”
Bomberg says the Patriots have a “great anchor inside in Hagan Braaten and Wyatt Marcy.”
“Outside of that, I feel their guard play has improved greatly as well,” Bomberg said. “They have done a great job working the ball inside and out and taking care of the ball. When we played down at their place we really struggled getting comfortable as their defensive pressure was extended out on our guards. I expect John to have his guys ready.”
Any extended tournament play would be plus for the young Bobcats, who don’t have a senior on the roster.
“Survive and advance is obviously the goal,” Bomberg said. “However, with having such an inexperienced group, I want us to get quality minutes and quality games to help us grow. The neat thing about hosting and positioning ourselves like we have, we can only go up.
“I know our guys are hungry but staying healthy will be key and how much we are willing to give on the defensive end. I also like the fact that we are naive in a lot of ways to what is ahead. A couple of our freshmen got their feet wet last year in WIAA tournament play so we are not totally blind.”
While Florence enters the postseason with a five-game losing streak, the Patriots have lost the last four.
“I think we have had a very inconsistent season so far,” Swick said. “We’ve had difficulties hitting open shots and as a result have had to play from behind a lot. Then we lost late leads and lost in games we were in control off.”
Swick was disappointed with close losses to Niagara, STAA, Laona-Wabeno, Three Lakes and White Lake. GP had late leads in the Three Lakes and White Lake games.
“We are a senior-dominated team and it’s just time for those guys to step it up and lead us,” Swick said.
Marcy (15.6 ppg) and Braaten (13.3 ppg, 12.2 rebounds) spearhead the Patriots.
“We are very evenly-matched with Florence record-wise,” Swick said. “They are a well coached team and I know Bryan will have them ready to go. We will have our work cut out for us, especially playing in Florence.”
Niagara versus Wausaukee
The Badgers enter the postseason carrying a seven-game losing streak. The Rangers have lost seven of the last nine games.
“I don’t think we quite played up to potential but we have played hard,” said Hoogland, citing turnovers, shooting (less than 30 percent from the floor) and defense. “It’s been a tough year that way. We haven’t played the kind of defense that we need to play.”
Austin Hagerty (13.6 ppg) and Alex Hagerty (12.6 ppg, 8.4 rpg) lead the Badgers. Ben Oratch contributes seven rebounds and 2.4 assists.
Matt Delfosse (14.7 ppg, 11.6 rpg) is a force for the Rangers. Hayden Renikow chips in 10.2 ppg.
“They’re good, solid defensively,” Hoogland said of Wausaukee. “They play very well together. They have a couple quick guards. Delfosse is a good post player so they have a good combination.
“Dave has them playing hard and playing well together. They’ve progressed quite a bit since the beginning of the year.”
Lindbeck says “we have to keep in mind that it is hard to beat a team three times in a season.”
“Keeping focus preparing for Niagara is going to be key,” Lindbeck said. “Jim is a great coach, so he is going to have his team ready. Our last meeting they did a great job shutting down Matt Delfosse and keeping him off the glass. I anticipate a similar strategy.”