Top-seeded Brodhead and Iowa recruit Carly Mohns are the favorite, having steamrolled through the Rock Valley Conference while earning quality wins over Madison La Follette, Southwest Conference leader Dodgeville and SWAL power Cuba City.
Rock Valley North titlist Whitewater lost a thrilling 62-59 overtime decision at Brodhead on Jan. 30 and can’t be overlooked. Whippets’ standout Brooke Trewyn matched Mohns for game-high honors with 24 points in that meeting and averages 16 ppg. Sarah Schumacher and Myriama Smith-Traore also average in double digits for a unit that also has beaten Stoughton, Wilmot and Clinton handily.
Whitewater coach Judy Harms said her team is battle tested after overcoming several roadblocks this year.
“The Whippets are full strength and eager to keep the season going,” Harms said. “There are a ton of excellent and well-coached teams in our regional bracket, and the key to us playing well will be to continue solid teamwork. I’m looking for our returning players to lead the way in keeping our composure as tournament draws closer with games against tough opponents.
“All season long I’ve been emphasizing to do the things ‘we’ do well, and the entire key to our season will come from within,” Harms added. “We obviously would rather be sitting in Brodhead’s position, however, we’ve had to overcome some early-season injuries and fight sickness … to get to the point we are today. With all that being said, we are fortunate to have received the No. 2 seed, realizing the road to success will not come easy. There are going to be many excellent teams disappointed, and hopefully we are not one of them.”
Rock Valley South champion Brodhead, which went 12-0 against teams in this bracket, awaits the winner of Tuesday’s battle between eighth-seeded Turner and ninth-seeded Edgerton.
Clinton has been the second-best team in the RVC South. The Cougars earned the No. 5 seed and entertain 12th seed Palmyra-Eagle. The winner then travels to fourth-seeded Marshall.
Clinton coach Mike Powers said his team’s tough final 10 days have prepared his squad for what lies ahead.
“We have had some games that have been really good for us. Playing McFarland and Jefferson this last week were both playoff type games for us,” Powers said of road losses by a combined 12 points. “And while we did not pull out those games, the girls learned that they can come back from any deficit and have a chance to win in the last seconds. We were down 22 against McFarland and cut the lead to 2 with about a minute to play and were down 18 against Jefferson and tied the game with 45 seconds to go. Those two games, more than anything, will prepare us for our tough regional.”
Powers said remaining healthy would be important.
“Playing together and with the mindset that there is no tomorrow, so you leave everything on the floor and hold nothing back,” Powers said of the approach. “This is the most brutal regional anyone can remember. To have the top five teams have an average of 1.8 losses between them is unheard of. The top five seeds are all currently ranked in the top 10 in the state or have been for most of the year. So that means that three of those teams will not make it past the regional championship game and at least one of them will be done after the regional semifinal game. There are just some crazy-good teams in this region of the state.”
Whitewater was named the No. 2 seed after splitting the season series with highly touted Division 2 foe McFarland. The Whippets face seven seed Evansville or 10th seed Big Foot.
Meanwhile, East Troy has struggled after going a combined 71-9 during its magnificent three-year run. However, the Trojans grabbed a second seed in a six-team bracket of the Whitefish Bay Sectional.
East Troy meets either third-seeded Milwaukee North or sixth-seeded Tenor/Veritas. St. Thomas More is the top seed.
Kerry Storbakken’s Janesville Craig squad played its way to the top seed in the bottom half of the Sun Prairie Sectional. The Cougars will play the winner of Tuesday’s match-up between eighth-seeded Kenosha Indian Trail and ninth-seeded Muskego.
Craig, the only league team to knock off front-running Middleton (Alison Hughes and Delaney Schoenenberger combined for 42 points), secured third place in the Big Eight Conference standings when it completed a season sweep of cross-town rival Janesville Parker.
Storbakken couldn’t be much happier with his team’s play down the stretch.
“We have been playing our best basketball the last month of the season,” he said. “We
have won our last seven games, including wins over the sixth-ranked team in the state, Middleton, Madison La Follette and at Janesville Parker. Middleton and La Follette had beaten us earlier in the season, so it was great to beat them the second time through the conference.
“We are a young team, with only one senior, and we have very good team chemistry,” Storbakken added. “Keys to our success will be playing solid defense and rebounding, as well as taking care of the basketball to maximize every possession. It will be nice to have a chance to play two more games on our home court, where we are 10-1 and have played very well.”
However, he knows that there are no givens in playoff basketball.
“Mukwonago, Lake Geneva Badger and Kenosha Tremper are very good teams in our half of the sectional,” he said. “We can play with all of those teams if we play with a high level of confidence, with intensity and enthusiasm.”
Badger has battled Wilmot and Waterford for supremacy in the Southern Lakes most of the year and earned the No. 3 seed. The Badgers open against sixth-seeded Beloit Memorial, which brings up the rear in the Big Eight. Badger reached double digits in wins for the fourth straight year and has registered at least 16 victories for a third consecutive season.
The Badger-Beloit winner takes on No. 2 Mukwonago or seventh-seeded Kenosha Bradford.
Area teams Milton, Delavan-Darien and Elkhorn will compete in the 11-team southern bracket of the Janesville Craig Sectional, which features a group of Southern Lakes entrants led by Wilmot and Rock Valley North contender McFarland.
The Elks are the ninth seed and face eighth-seeded conference foe Burlington on Tuesday for the right to face top-seeded league rival Wilmot in Friday’s second round. The Elks and Demons split their season series, both winning at home, by a combined 10 points.
Meanwhile, the Red Hawks got the 10th seed and travel to seventh-seeded Delavan-Darien on Tuesday, with the winner visiting second-seeded Waterford on Friday. The Comets held off Milton’s 15-8 fourth-quarter rally to pull out a 37-36 road decision on Dec. 10 in their nonconference match-up.
Williams Bay and Faith Christian also face stiff climbs in their eight-team regional of the Watertown Sectional, which features Six Rivers East squads Black Hawk, Albany and Argyle.
Faith Christian is the fifth seed and visits fourth-seeded Juda, with the winner visiting top-seeded Black Hawk. On the other side, Williams Bay sits at No. 7 and travels to second-seeded Monticello.