Prep boys basketball: Mount Horeb expected to step up to the top of the Badger North mountain
BADGER NORTH CONFERENCE
Team, Conf., All
Waunakee, 13-1, 22-3
Mount Horeb, 10-4, 18-6
DeForest, 8-6, 15-9
Beaver Dam, 8-6, 16-8
Portage, 6-8, 8-15
Sauk Prairie, 6-8, 13-11
Reedsburg, 5-9, 12-12
Top WIAA tournament performances: Waunakee — Lost to Madison East, 76-71, in Division 1 sectional final; Mount Horeb — Lost to Monona Grove, 75-67, in D2 regional final; DeForest — Lost to Stoughton, 56-53, in D2 regional final; Beaver Dam — Lost to Glendale Nicolet, 63-41, in D2 regional final.
RETURNING ALL-CONFERENCE PLAYERS
First team: Austin Westra, 6-5, sr., DeForest.
Second team: Gunnar Nortman, 6-1, sr., Mount Horeb.
Honorable mention: Trey Schroeder, 5-11, jr., DeForest; Jacob Larson, 6-5, sr., Mount Horeb; Dustin Zenz, 5-11, sr., Mount Horeb; Eli Considine, 6-4, sr., Portage; Will Fuhrmann, 6-0, jr., Reedsburg.
1, Mount Horeb; 2, Waunakee; 3, DeForest and Sauk Prairie.
Coach: Darrin Berger, fourth year (23-47)
Returning starters: Joe Stout 6-0, sr., G (1.2 ppg); Caden Blum., 6-5, sr., F (3.1 ppg, 3 rpg).
Other returning letterwinners: Calvin Peterson, 6-2, jr., G (1.9 ppg, 2 rpg); Ryan Gehin, 6-3, sr., F (2.0 ppg, 1.7 rpg); Caden Carpenter, 5-11, sr., G (1.9 ppg); Joe White Eagle, 6-2, jr., G (1 ppg); Zack Kargel, 5-11, sr., G (0.8 ppg).
Key fact: The Thunderbirds welcome two players who did not come out last season: 6-foot senior guard Noah Jackson and 6-6 junior forward Alec Schmelzer. “Both will get minutes,” Berger said, helping to replace the void left by the graduation of the three top scorers from last year.
The lowdown: Balance will be the watchword for the Thunderbirds: Balance in playing time, on the statistics sheet, and in player dynamics. “As a group, we will need several players to pitch in … We will play 10 or more players every game, and look to get our defensive effort back to an acceptable level after struggling on that end last season.” The T-Birds gave up an average of 63 points per game last season.
Quotable: Berger says the Thunderbirds have “the largest group of seniors since I began coaching at Baraboo, and they are a great group of ‘team-first’ kids. … We can play with and beat everyone in our conference if we play together and improve on the defensive side of the ball.”
Beaver Dam Golden Beavers
Coach: Tim Ladron, 11th year (146-94)
Returning starters: Cade Ferron, 6-3, sr., W (6.0 ppg, 2.1 rpg).
Other returning players: Jordan Schwanke, 6-4, sr., F (3.3 ppg, 3.1 rpg); Marshal McGauley, 6-6, sr., F (2.2 ppg, 2.5 rpg); Max Klawitter, 5-10, sr., G (5.8 ppg); Broden Borchert, 6-0, jr., G (4.9 ppg); Nate Abel, 5-11, so., PG (3.6 ppg); Kendric Jimenez, 5-10, sr., G (2.5 ppg); Adam Bird, 6-0, sr., G (1.9 ppg).
Key fact: This will be the Beavers’ first full season in the school’s brand new fieldhouse, which features five basketball courts.
The lowdown: Balance and overall athleticism will be keys to the Golden Beavers’ success in their second year in the Badger North Conference. While the smooth and versatile Ferron is the only returning starter, several other returnees got more than a little varsity experience last year — led by Schwanke and McGauley — and appear ready to settle into more substantial roles this year. Ladron adds that freshmen Brady Helbing and Alex Soto could contribute to what is expected to a fast-paced, pressure attack.
Quotable: “(We could be) really hard to guard because I think we’ve got six or seven guys who can average seven to 12 (points) per night — but any of those guys can go for 20 a night,” Ladron said.
Coach: Craig Weisbrod, 21st year (206-209 at DeForest; 269-244 overall)
Returning starters: Austin Westra, 6-6, sr., F (16.7 ppg, 7.7 rpg); Trey Schroeder, 6-1, jr., PG (10 ppg, 4 apg); Cody Riggs, 6-3, sr., G (8.6 ppg, 5.5 rpg).
Other returning letterwinners: Jaiden Magli, 5-11, jr., G (1.9 ppg, 2 apg); Jack Bogan, 6-6, sr., C (2.1 ppg, 2 rpg); Cade Ludeman, 6-2, sr., W (1.5 ppg); Joe Scalissi, 6-1, sr., W (0.7 ppg).
Key fact: The Norskies made the only state tournament appearance in school history in 2012.
The lowdown: The Norskies return three starters and four rotation players from last year’s squad. They have a lot of scoring returning, mainly from 6-foot-6, first team all-conference forward Austin Westra (16.7 ppg), and second team all-conference point guard Trey Schroeder (10 ppg). DeForest will be deep in guard rotation and also has another 6-foot-6 center in Jack Bogan. After losing at the buzzer to Stoughton in a WIAA Division 2 regional final, the Norskies look to bounce back and battle for the top spot in the Badger North. Weisbrod hopes that his team will “get hot at the end of the year and play our best basketball for the playoffs.”
Quotable: “To be successful we have to come together as a team and continue to improve throughout the season,” Weisbrod said.
Mount Horeb Vikings
Coach: Todd Nesheim, 11th year (153-90 at Mount Horeb and overall)
Returning starters: Jason Larson, 6-5, sr., F (11.9 ppg, 4.5 rpg); Dustin Zenz, 5-11, sr., PG (9.1 ppg, 3.3 rpg); Gunnar Nortman, 6-2, sr., G (11.8 ppg, 4.7 rpg); Bryce Farnsworth, 6-5, sr., F/G (8.3 ppg, 3.5 rpg).
Other returning letterwinners: Owen Ziegler, 6-1, jr., G (4.6 ppg, 1.3 rpg); Logan Rasmussen, 5-10, sr., G (1.1 ppg, 0.7 rpg).
Key fact: With four of five returning starters, Mount Horeb is the conference favorite and will look to earn another WIAA Division 2 state tournament berth this year.
The lowdown: After disappointing loss in the regional final to Monona Grove last year, the Vikings will return 80% of their high-firing offense for the 2018-2019 season. But, “lacking a true big man both in terms of height and strength” may test the team, said Nesheim, “so we will see how much that hinders us, especially in tournament play.” Mount Horeb will look to make a deep state tournament run, just like they did back in 2015 when they won the state title. Even with all their returning experience, Nesheim surprisingly favors Waunakee as the conference favorite this year.
Quotable: Nesheim had a lot of good things to say about his returning starters. One example would be what he said about returning senior and all-conference guard Nortman: “He’s really explosive and great off the dribble.”
Coach: Ron Olson, sixth year (49-68)
Returning starters: Eli Considine, 6-4, sr., F (13.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg).
Other returning letterwinners: Connor Levander, 5-8, sr., G (2.0 ppg); Matthew Miles, 6-3, jr., P (1.8 ppg).
Key fact: Five of the top seven scorers — accounting for 34.6 points of last year’s 51.5 points per game — were lost to graduation.
The lowdown: The five top scorers lost to graduation combined for 34.6 points per game last season, creating quite a scoring vacuum that Olson is scrambling to fill. Considine will be looked upon as the team leader, counting upon his ability to both drive to the basket and take the perimiter shot. But the Warriors must develop other scoring threats if they plan to move up in the conference standings. Levander will be the main ballhandler, Miles will see his role as a post player expand. Varsity newcomers who could make an impact are 5-10 junior forward Kendal Thompson and 6-3 junior forward Logan Breunig.
Quotable: “We lost a lot of scoring last year … and somehow we have to find a way to make that up,” Olson said.
Coach: Josh Rupnow, fourth year (27-44)
Returning starters: Will Fuhrmann, 6-0, jr., PG (11.8 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 4.8 apg, 1.7 spg); Jacob Dregney, 6-0, sr., G (3.1 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 1.4 apg, 1.1 spg); Max Tully, 6-2, jr., G (5.5 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 2.8 apg).
Other returning letterwinners: Wyatt Molitor, 6-3, sr., F (1.6 ppg, 1.3 rpg); Carter Daniels, 6-2, jr., G (6.5 ppg, 4.4 rpg).
Key fact: The Beavers haven’t qualified for the state tournament since 1975, but are looking to finally make a reappearance this year.
The lowdown: With more starters returning than have left, Reedsburg is in a good position this season. Unfortunately the path to the championship will not be easy as they lack the physical size to dominate in the paint. Coach Rupnow hopes the team will be able to make up for the deficit with their “speed and quickness”. The team is composed of primarily juniors and seniors, except for returning sophomore Zach Bestor. The Beavers finished .500 overall last year and won one tournament game before falling to Monona Grove.
Quotable: “Our team has a lot of talent but little size, so we will need to be scrappy and fight for everything. We must rebound the basketball in order to win against the bigger teams in the conference,” Rupnow said.
Sauk Prairie Eagles
Coach: Sean McGann, first year
Returning starters: Jack Henderson, 6-6, sr., C (6.7 ppg).
Other returning letterwinners: Spencer Breunig, 6-5, sr., F (6.1 ppg); Trevor Spray, 6-7, jr., F (5.3 ppg); Tucker Holloway, 6-1, sr., G; Parker Breunig, 6-0, jr., G (4.9 ppg); Ben German, 5-11, jr., PG (2.7 ppg); Jacob Vieth, 6-3, sr., G (4.4 ppg); Garrett Hertzfeldt, 6-1, jr., F (1.6 ppg).
Key fact: This will be the 24-year-old McGann’s first stint as a head coach after serving last year as an assistant to five-year coach Levi Massey. McGann is familiar with the Badger North Conference as a 2002 graduate of Baraboo High School (where he scored more than 1,000 career points and averaged 22.5 ppg as a senior). McGann also played at UW-Stevens Point.
The lowdown: After finishing last season tied for fifth in the conference, Sauk Prairie is an unproven team with potential. The potential comes in the form of eight returning players, seven of whom stand 6 feet or taller, hinting at improvements in rebounding and inside defense. Henderson is the only returning starter, but will be joined by Spencer Breunig and Spray to create a formidable three-pronged inside attack that should exceed the combined 18.1 ppg it provided last season. There is some experience at the guard spots, and even some experience coming off the bench.
Quotable: “For our team to be successful, we will need great senior leadership in preparing our young guys to be able to not only play, but also make an impact on games, “ McGann said.
Coach: Dana MacKenzie, 16th year (246-115)
Returning starters: None.
Returning players: Josh Cash, 6-5, sr., F (6.2 rpg, 6.3 rpg); Will Knatz, 6-6, sr., F (3.2 ppg); Zach Deering, 6-5, sr., F (3.1 ppg); Trey Fancher, 6-4, sr., F (2.3 ppg, 3.5 rpg); Josh Block, 6-2, sr., G (2.4 ppg).
Key fact: The Warriors made back-to-back appearances in the WIAA Division 2 state tournament in 2016 and 2017, earning runner-up honors in 2016.
The lowdown: A new era has begun at Waunakee, with the graduation losses of Mitch Listau (now at NCAA Division I Belmont University) and Mason Steffen (now at Minnesota-Duluth). The other three starters also are gone from last year’s team, which went 22-3 and lost a Division 1 sectional semifinal to Madison East. There is still a lot of good news in the Waunakee camp, though: Five returning players saw action as reserves last year, and the Warriors have enviable size, length and team depth. Deering has gotten out of the gate fast, averaging 20 ppg, and Knatz and Cash also have reached double digits in early play. However, the Warriors lost their Badger North opener to Reedsburg last week.