• Troy Sparks

    by Published on 03-04-2013 09:53 AM     Number of Views: 1350 

    For the first half of the sectional championship game at Homestead, March 2, I thought that De Pere didn't have the size to deal with Germantown senior center Luke Fischer because he's 7 foot and had a six-inch advantage over the Redbirds' tallest starter. Then they gave the Warhawks all they could handle, and it scared Germantown Nation.

    The Warharks won, and they will be one of the usual suspects who are returning to the WIAA Boys State Tournament at the Kohl Center in Madison, March 8-9. But they're not the only familiar ones who are going to show up.

    One team that won't be there and are a fixture it seems about every year is Madison Memorial. I think people get tired of seeing them winning state every other year or don't care about seeing the overconfident Spartans on the Kohl Center floor. The only way they will get in the building is to buy tickets. And thanks to Mukwonago, who beat Memorial in the sectional final Saturday, we won't see them.

    Cuba City and Whitefish Bay Dominican will be there again, and they will play each other in the Division 4 semifinals. Last year, they played in the championship game. I wish that Cuba City coach Jerry Pettigue would hang up his whistle because the game has passed him by after 40-plus years as a coach. The present generation of kids won't jump through hoops like the previuos generations did. If it gives him something to do, then don't expect him to quit anytime soon.

    Lodi is back in Division 3 and will play East Troy in the semis. East Troy better leave for Madison now before the big snowstorm hits their area this week. No use in getting stuck in 10 inches of snow trying to leave town and dealing with delays on the highway.

    I'm glad to see them make it. I thought they had one of the most talented teams in the Whiz Kids Summer League when I watched them play, especially the 6-9 Prahl twins and Nate Dodge. I like Dodge's game when he can shoot from long range or go to the basket. You can tell that he's a competitor, and I sensed that when I watched his AAU team with the twins on it, Fischer and Bronson Koenig.

    Oshkosh North proved that last year's appearance at state was no fluke, but they had nothing to show for it except a loss and a return trip back to Winnebago County. I don't see them beating Germantown unless they slow the pace, which Warhawks coach Steve Showalter doesn't prefer. To him, faster is better and getting ahead and staying ahead is his cup of tea. He doesn't do slow.

    Milwaukee King and Mukwonago will be the game to watch in the nightcap that follows the G-Town vs. Mukwonago contest, around 8:15 p.m. Friday. The Indians faced the stress of playing under their current nickname for a couple of years due to public outcry and now they have to deal with the pressure cooker of the Generals. King is fast, pesky and always outwork their opponents, despite having no starter over 6-3. Ask Germantown what happened to them in the finals and how they barely survived.

    If G-Town and King meet again in the championship game, expect the Generals to apply the same pressure on the Warhawks. But here's the difference between this year and last year's Germantown team: They have more talented guards that are interchangeable and can handle the pressure.

    They have more scoring options besides Fischer. Lamonte Bearden represents a change of pace when he's on the court with his scoring and pushing the ball up. He likes to show off a scoop-shot layup for style every once in a while.

    King don't like stylish players to show them up, so the best way they might take Lamonte Bearden out of the game in the first half is to get him in foul trouble. He can't do anything sitting on the bench, but if Showalter isn't getting good results from backup guards Brian Bearden and Dearionte Hudson, then he'll put Lamonte Bearden back in and hope he avoids further foul trouble.

    Eyes also will be on Koenig and La Crosse Aquinas, who's a Wisconsin recruit, and Onalaska's Matt Thomas, a candidate for state player of the year. If I had a vote, I'd pick Fischer for player of the year because last year he hid behind a handful of senior leadership and went along for the ride to the state title. This year he had to break out and show his dominance under the basket with some new faces on the team while building team chemistry.

    Randolph is Randolph and Drummond is Drummond. Personally, I think that will be a great Division 5 title game to watch if both win on Friday. Green Bay NEW Lutheran (27-0) and Germantown (26-0) are the only undefeated teams in the state tournament field. If the Warhawks win state, their unbeaten streak will stand at 56.

    All the games will be fun to watch, and I plan on taking in some of the key ones up there in the Mad City. I'll give you my analysis of the state tournament when it concludes this weekend.
    by Published on 02-24-2013 12:20 PM     Number of Views: 1112 

    Last week began the start of the WIAA boys basketball playoffs. Now it's the ladies' turn this week. There might be a few surprises along the way as they're usually are. Upset are upsets and expected wins are expected wins.

    My predictions for some of the area teams to make it to state are bold. Not too many people will go out on a limb like me and pick the teams who will match up against each other throughout the playoffs.

    I see De Pere and Kimberly squaring off in the Ashwaubenon sectional finals. The Cardinals won the Division 1 state title last year and are a good bet to win their second in a row. The Verona vs. Madison La Follette matchup at Sun Prairie should be a good one. The winner of that game gets the winner of top-seed Mukwonago and Janesville Parker. I predict a Parker-Verona final at Middleton.

    In the Sheboygan South sectional, Sussex Hamilton should beat Arrowhead in the regional finals at home. Germantown's up-tempo basketball might run Waukesha West off the court to set up a date with their crosstown rivals in the Chargers in the sectional semis at Kettle Moraine. I pick Hamilton to make it to state.
    My favorite to win the sectional final game between Superior and Oshkosh North at D.C. Everest is North.

    The drama will unfold in the West Allis Central sectional. An Oak Creek vs. Franklin border battle matchup in the sectional semifinal at Greenfield is on the horizon and it will be intense. This will be as close to a Hatfield and McCoy feud as any in the area. South 27th St. is the dividing line between the cities of Oak Creek and Franklin. They never liked each other and unfortunately they never will.

    A Milwaukee Riverside and Brookfield Central battle should be interesting in the regionals. Milwaukee King and DSHA will be another one to watch in the regional finals. The odd thing about the King/DHSA matchup is that Shaq Fowler and Arike Ogunbowale are good friends. They won an under-13 national title together. They hang out together and go to Marquette women's games.

    All the pleasantries between Fowler and Ogunbowale take a back seat on game day in a packed DSHA gymnasium that seats maybe 500. It will be standing room only, trust me. Once the game starts, the friendship is off and the game face is on, along with some pushing, bumping and who knows what else. DSHA has depth and should win the game. Riverside and Oak Creek will play for the trip to state at Central.

    In the Division 2 sectional at Brookfield Central, Pius and New Berlin Eisenhower should meet with the winner punching their ticket to Madison. An East Troy and Kettle Moraine Lutheran final at Arrowhead should be fun to watch.

    The playoffs for girls basketball starts this Tuesday. The tournament will be at the Resch Center in Ashwaubenon for the first time instead of Madison.
    by Published on 02-17-2013 09:56 AM     Number of Views: 1563 

    All the games of the boys regular basketball season are complete, and now it's time for the "second season." This one, like every year, is always different because if your team wins, it's on to the next game. If your team loses, then the season is over.

    And so it goes for the WIAA playoffs, which starts this week. In the first full week of March, five champions in five divisions will be crowned. There will be some jubilation and some sadness and crying on the bench because there will be plenty of that.

    I don't put any weight on the area or state rankings around this time of the year, especialy since March Madness starts two weeks early in the state of Wisconsin. The boys start the postseason this week and the girls will get it on next week.

    Let us go to my predictions of how things will shake out in some of the sectionals. The hot sectional to keep an eye on out of the four in Division 1 is, well, I will save that for last. In the Homestead sectional, I see Sussex Hamilton, Sheboygan North, Germantown and De Pere being the final four teams there. Germantown and De Pere have a pretty good chance to meeting again like they did last year. The Cardinals haven't forgotten the defeat that the Warhawks put on them in Manitowoc.

    Sheboygan North could be the surprise team that would upset De Pere because it looks like they would meet in the semifinals. That is, if both teams run the tables and get past the regional rounds. On the other side, Germantown and Sussex could square off in a rematch from last year when they met at Waukesha North. The Warhawks have been the top dog in the area and the state rankings, and they have a more balanced team.

    I feel sorry for the Chargers. Outside of their guards, they have no size in the post. They certainly don't have a 7-footer on their team as Germantown boasts. If they meet, the pressure of Germantown will be too much to handle, which could result in a 50-point blowout loss. I'm just saying.

    I think Sun Prairie, Mukwonago, Madison Memorial or Madison LaFollette will be one of the final four teams in the Sun Prairie sectional. It would be nice for the Cardinals to play the game in their own gym with the short trip to Madison on the line if they win.

    Madison LaFollette appeared to have fallen off the face of the earth. I haven't heard much from them at state since the 1980s when Rick Olson led them to a state title. Madison Memorial is always there at state and has won the championship almost every other year. Mukwonago is the darkhorse team with an outside chance to go to Madison.

    Oshkosh North got a taste of the state experience last year. They liked it so much that I can see them returning to Madison this year. Appleton North should be one the favorites along with Superior and Neenah to punch their ticket to Mad Town. Superior would have preferred to play a little closer if the state tournament was in Green Bay. But since the boys tournament will remain in Madison, they will have to travel a lot further. If they win the Stevens Point sectional, then the trip will be worth it.

    And last, but not least, the toughest sectional in Division 1, the Racine Horlick sectional. Oh boy, where do I start on this one? This sectional is one where it's a dog-eat-dog world. Whoever survives this sectional will be bruised up and probably end up limping to Madison.

    Either Milwaukee Hamilton, Racine Case, Milwaukee Vincent, Brookfield Central or Milwaukee King will take this sectional. I say that because I saw all these teams in the regular season. Case had a rough time against the Generals when they met in a Thanksgiving weekend game, but the Eagles came back strong and will be ready for the co-City champions this time if they meet in the sectional finals.

    Hamilton wants a piece of King to avenge their loss to them last week, denying the Wildcats a share of the conference title with Milwaukee Washington. But bygones can't be bygones. Both of those teams have players who know each other off the court and Jim Gosz and Tom Diener, the coaches, certainly aren't going out for dinner before the playoffs. They're both intense bench generals and are usually at each others throat as they have been for years.

    The Vikings, under Marquis Hines, aren't playoff ready, so the conversation with them being in the sectional semifinals stops right here. Star senior Deonte Burton was hesitant to score at times when his coach wanted him to take over the game. He wanted to pass the ball to his teammates more. He will need to take over. Without his farewell party before he moves on to Marquette, Vincent doesn't have a wing or a prayer and are a longshot to make state.

    If either of those teams play Brookfield Central, they will have to be ready for a slower game where the final score may be in the 40 to 50-point range. They play a 1-3-1 zone, and if whoever they play doesn't have penetrating guards that will break the zone or consistent outside shooters, then it will play into the hands of the Lancers.

    In Division 2, four City schools will make it interesting in the West Allis Central sectional. Morse-Marshall, Bay View, Bradley Tech and Washington were in the upper division. Enrollment among the playoff qualifiers pushed them down a division. There is an outside chance that one of those schools could backdoor their way to Madison.

    The bracket setup in Division 1 allows only one City school to qualify for state from the Horlick sectional. Another City school could emerge from the WAC sectional. I think New Berlin Eisenhower, Wisconsin Lutheran, Catholic Memorial and Pius will also have a say of who will represent the area in Madison.

    Either Onalaska or Rhinelander, in my opinion, will make it to state in the Marshfield sectional. I see a Waunakee and Stoughton matchup in the Janesville Craig sectional with a visit to the Kohl Center on the line. Seymour and Pulaski are the favorites to square up in the Fond du Lac sectional final.

    The teams I'll look out for as the favorites in Division 3-5 are Racine St. Catherines, Whitefish Bay Dominican, Burlington, Kaukauna, LaCrosse Aquinas and Cuba City. Fasten your seatbelts because the road to Madison starts Feb. 19.
    by Published on 02-08-2013 11:15 PM     Number of Views: 3090 

    Determined to find a way and a will to win, Milwaukee Washington fought back from a huge deficit to survive a close game at home, Feb. 8, against Milwaukee South. The Cardinals made the Purgolders sweat in the 74-71 final.

    The win by Washington plus wins by Vincent, King and Hamilton didn't change the position of the City Conference leaderboard. All four teams have a 9-1 conference record, which still makes it a four-way tie for the top spot.

    South (7-4) was looking for the upset and had the momentum in the first half. They had the crowd stunned on parent and alumni night and got star player Jamaar McKay in early foul trouble with two fouls at the 2 minute mark of the first quarter. McKay stayed in the game. The Purgolders trailed 24-18 after one quarter.

    Watching Washington for the first time this season left the impression that they had no business beating Vincent or winning eight in a row before the South game or giving Hamilton their only loss of the season. Something changed after their 3-7 start.

    The Cardinals had a 10-point lead in the second quarter and kept the Purgolders guessing with their quickness and fast break points, but they also had only eight available players and played seven. Give credit to Washington coach Freddie Riley for motivating his team in the locker room after trailing at the half 42-35.

    It didn't look as if Washington would dig themselves from that hole when McKay and Marvin Wynn picked up their third and fourth fouls, respectively in the third quarter. The Purgolders used an aggressive half-court trap to force defensive turnovers and chipped away at South's lead.

    After a three-point shot in the left corner by Washington's Nate Hubbard-Cole at the buzzer to end the third quarter, the Purgolders had a 57-55 advantage and their fans behind them chanting "Wash House!"

    After Deonta Williams' three cut the Washington lead to 69-67 for South, the Cardinals got the ball back but lost it out of bounds. McKay came to the rescue with a layup from an out of bounds baseball pass from the sideline opposite the South bench to make it 71-69 and got a key rebound off a missed shot by the Cardinals. McKay didn't disappoint with his 24 points in the game to get the threee-point win.

    With a week of action to go, things will get interesting for the City title. Washington plays at Bay View and at home against Milwaukee North. King plays at Hamilton before closing out the regular season at home against Milwaukee Pulaski. Vincent will play Career Tech and Ed (formally Milwaukee Custer) at home and against Hamilton on the road. Hamilton's last two home games will be the toughest as they play King and Vincent.

    The City title could go down to the wire. If all four teams win the rest of their conference games, then Washington should win the City for the first time in four years. A loss in the final two league games by the Purgolders and that could be all she wrote. That would open the door for Vincent, Hamilton or King to win the league title.
    by Published on 02-07-2013 04:00 PM     Number of Views: 2414 

    While basketball observers of the City Conference are keeping an eye on the title race that will go down to Hamilton, Vincent, King or Washington, do not forget about Milwaukee South.

    You might disregard them as another south side school that hardly anyone takes seriously. You should take notice and don't sleep on them. If you don't take them seriously, they could sneak up and break that four-way logjam between Washington, Hamilton, Vincent and King. Those four teams have 8-1 conference records entering this weekend.

    The Cardinals are trying to play the spoiler's role when they play the Purgolders at Washington Friday. They won't contend for the conference championship because they are 7-3 in conference play. But what they can do is make it hard for Washington to take the City away from the three other heavyweights.

    The Purgolders snuck up on everybody and played good ball up to this point. Unfortunately, they didn't play on Tuesday. King, Hamilton and Vincent won their games a couple of days ago to catch up at 8-1 and make this anybody's race.

    It should be noted that Washington beat the Wildcats by eight points at home and sneaked by with a 1-point win at Vincent. They don't play the Generals this season. Don't be fooled by their 11-7 overall record. A tough non-conference schedule prepared for the Purgolders for this moment and may carry them well into the postseason.

    But first, they have to shake this pesky South team, who's second in the conference, at least for now, because there's a four-way tie for first. It would take a great effort by the undersized Cardinals to shock the city and crush the title hopes of the Purgolders in front of a packed house.
    by Published on 02-02-2013 11:27 PM
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    MILWAUKEE - Before the Marquette women's home game against their rivals to the south in DePaul, some of the former players ...
    by Published on 01-30-2013 10:52 PM     Number of Views: 2431 

    MILWAUKEE - Right there, in the palm of their hands, the Marquette women played well enough for half of the game at home, Jan. 30, at the Al McGuire Center, against visiting Rutgers. Unfortunately in the second half, pulling off the upset wasn't in the cards.

    A relentless push by the Golden Eagles in the first half put the Scarlet Knights in an unfamiliar situation. They found themselves playing from behind and went into the locker room down 29-28.

    Unfortunately for Marquette, when it rained, it poured. Seconds before halftime, reserve forward Courtney Thomas' right knee buckled. She fell to the floor, and the expression on her face indicated that she was in pain.

    Whatever the Golden Eagles forgot to do in the second half that worked in the first 20 minutes of the game was left behind the closed locker room doors. Just think, the Scarlet Knights would have been toast if Marquette would have kept the tempo going.

    The beat went on for Marquette, despite losing Thomas for possibly the season. That was another casualty to their already three-person injury corps, which include Gabi Minix, Ashley Santos and Apiew Ojulu. The absence of Thomas could wither the team down to nine healthy players. Eight, if you leave out little-used guard Margeaux Dupuy, who's healthy but barely gets in the game.

    The Golden Eagles were down to eight available players anyway after they sophomore center Chelsie Butler fouled out with 7 minutes 51 seconds in the game and the Scarlet Knights leading 48-39.

    In the end, it was too much speed, physical strength and depth from Rutgers that did in Marquette. The 72-54 defeat evened the Golden Eagles record to 10-10 overall and 2-5 in the Big East. The schedule in the final nine regular season games won't do them any justice.

    After a home contest against DePaul this Saturday, Marquette will hit the road with trips to Connecticut, Villanova and Cincinnati. Many people will pencil in a Marquette loss to Notre Dame and St. Johns at home on Feb. 17 and 20, respectfully, and against the Bearcats on March 4.

    That upset sure would have been the highlight of Marquette's up and down season. They are now 0-11 against Rutgers since joining the conference. There won't be too many more opportunities to try to beat Rutgers, and the Golden Eagles would be glad when the Scarlet Knights finally join the Big Ten Conference.
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