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PREP BOYS BASKETBALL | CONFERENCE PREVIEW

High school boys basketball conference favorites, contenders and things to know

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A new season offers new opportunities for the boys basketball teams in the Madison area.

Familiar faces will strive to continue to excel as coaches and players, while other players will burst onto the scene or fill valuable roles.

As the season begins, here are things to know about the area’s conferences this season:

Big Eight Conference

Who’s in it: Beloit Memorial, Janesville Craig, Janesville Parker, Madison East, Madison La Follette, Madison Memorial, Madison West, Middleton, Sun Prairie East, Sun Prairie West, Verona.

Favorites: Middleton and Madison La Follette. Middleton, which reached the sectional semifinal round a year ago, has depth and height. Coach Kevin Bavery’s super-sized team is led by 6-foot-5 guard Gavyn Hurley, a Winona State commit who was the Big Eight Player of the Year last year. The Cardinals were ranked fourth in Division 1 in the Wisconsin Basketball Yearbook preseason poll. … Defending conference champion Madison La Follette returns a talented group, led by senior guard Arhman Lewis, who’s committed to NCAA Division II Augustana of South Dakota, and junior guard Quinton Lomack. Power forward Reak Riak offers an inside presence. Torrance Holmes replaced Curtrel Robinson as coach for the Lancers, who were ranked eighth in Division 1 in the Wisconsin Basketball Yearbook preseason poll.

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Madison La Follette's Arhman Lewis drives to the basket against Sun Prairie's Ben Olson (14) and Jonathan Weah during a WIAA Division 1 sectional semifinal last season. The Lancers are the defending Big Eight champions.

Contenders: Madison Memorial, Madison East, Sun Prairie West. Madison Memorial showed promise for longtime coach Steve Collins (445-122 in 24 seasons) with a young group last year and the Spartans, a preseason honorable mention choice in Division 1, hope to take further steps this year led by 6-6 junior Sam Mickelson, who averaged 20 points and nine rebounds per game last year, and 6-4 senior guard Braylen Blue (11 ppg, 5 rpg). … Madison East comes off a third-place conference finish and coach Matt Miota expects junior point guard Camron Henderson to lead the way for the Purgolders, who should have length, depth and quickness. … Chris Davis Sr., who had been an assistant to Miota at Madison East, will direct the new Sun Prairie West roster, which includes his son, sophomore guard Chris Davis Jr. (who transferred from Madison East), senior guard Darius Chestnut and junior forward Ean Ackley.

Things to know: While Madison West seeks to climb the conference ladder, Robinson takes over at Verona after a successful run as coach at La Follette. Robinson has solid building blocks in sophomore Andrew Murphy and senior Gavin Farrell. … At Sun Prairie East, Steve Maselter replaces longtime coach Jeff Boos, who stepped down last summer after the Cardinals made a run to a Division 1 sectional final last year.

Badger East Conference

Who’s in it: Beaver Dam, DeForest, Fort Atkinson, Milton, Monona Grove, Stoughton, Watertown, Waunakee.

Favorite: Waunakee. The Warriors lost key players, including first-team all-conference performer Andrew Keller and second-teamer Joey Fuhremann, from last year’s team that finished 18-7 overall and right behind DeForest and Milton in the Badger East. But the Warriors’ program is perennially solid and other league coaches favor coach Dana MacKenzie’s squad to be a leader in the Badger East this season. The Warriors likely will receive contributions from the school’s talented football program, potentially from players who saw action last year (that included Robert Booker II, Shea DuCharme and Garett Lenzendorf).

Contenders: DeForest, Milton, Stoughton. DeForest edged Milton in last year’s Badger East title game, but both teams will need to retool after losing key players to graduation. That included the top guards in the conference in Max Weisbrod of DeForest (who was the conference player of the year) and Jack Campion of Milton. Eric Stewart is in his first season as DeForest’s coach. Senior guards Brody Hartig, honorable mention all-conference last year, and Alex Van Ooyen figure to lead the Norskies, who were 23-5 and advanced to a WIAA Division 2 sectional semifinal last year. Senior forward James Hodge, and sophomore forward Jackson Accuardi will be threats inside. … Brogan McIntyre, a 6-foot-5 senior who was second-team all-conference, should pace Milton. … The Badger East all-conference teams were senior-laden last year. That could mean Stoughton, led by juniors Ty Fernholz (second team all-conference) and Sawyer Schipper (honorable mention), will be in the mix. Fernholz also was an honorable mention choice on the WBCA Division 2 All-State team.

Madison La Follette's Camron Yahnke drove for the potential winning layup, but misses and then his putback came too late at the end of regulation -- although La Follette fans stormed the court. Sun Prairie then won in overtime 85-80 in a WIAA Division 1 sectional semifinal March 2022 in Waunakee. 

Things to know: Beaver Dam lost a significant chunk — including guards Brady Helbing and Tyler Bunkoske — from last year’s team that reached the Division 2 sectional semifinal against Glendale Nicolet. Junior forwards Jack Jens and Camron Mendoza and junior guard JT Kaul are among top returning players. … Monona Grove looks to bounce back from a 6-20 season with a more athletic group that coach Dan Zweifel described as young and hungry. Senior forward Max Weise, junior guard Emmett Toijala and junior forward Isaiah Erb are among players expected to contribute. Weise tied the program record with six made 3-pointers in a game last season, Zweifel said. … Watertown has a new coach in Chad Hayes, replacing Jim O’Leary.

Badger West Conference

Who’s in it: Baraboo, Madison Edgewood, Monroe, Mount Horeb, Oregon, Portage, Reedsburg, Sauk Prairie.

Favorite: Oregon. The Panthers, under coach Chris Siebert’s direction, caught fire in midseason and advanced to a Division 2 sectional final last season. The Panthers had eight seniors, including Ryne Panzer and Deaken Bush, graduate. Oregon likely will revolve around 6-5 senior forward Casey Schoenecker (9.9 points, six rebounds per game) and senior guard Evan Miles.

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Westosha Central's Kenny Garth, right, and Oregon's Casey Schoenecker go up for a rebound during a March 12 WIAA Division 2 boys basketball sectional final at Watertown High School.

Contenders: Madison Edgewood, Sauk Prairie, Mount Horeb. Reggie Patterson, who had been the Verona coach, takes over for longtime coach Chris Zwettler. The Crusaders will be led by 6-2 senior guard Al Deang, a second-team all-conference choice last year, and 6-0 senior guard Mateo Jimenez, an honorable mention selection. … Sauk Prairie coach Sean McGann’s team brings back experience and depth and has four players who averaged between 9.7 and 8.6 points per game in Devin Kerska, Corbin Wardrop, Carson Brickl and Connor Breunig. … Mount Horeb coach Todd Nesheim believes his team could make a push for the title because of its solid guard play and potential for improved shooting from last season. Rocco Richie, a 6-2 senior, and 6-foot senior Zach Peter lead the way.

Things to know: Monroe was the conference champion last season, but lost conference player of the year Carson Leuzinger and J.T. Seagreaves to graduation. … Portage coach Darrin Berger welcomes mostly a new rotation that he expects to be competitive due to its length and defensive ability. Senior guard Kyan Reichhoff averaged 11.5 points and 5.3 rebounds last year. The roster is bolstered by a group that had success at the Junior Varsity level, Berger said. ... Baraboo coach Tyler Fish believes his team will bring toughness, size and athleticism to the court, led by senior guard Drew Mistele and junior guard Luke Vittengl, senior forward Derek Gehin and junior guard Toby Lefevre. Reedsburg and Baraboo both are looking for bounce-back seasons.

Capitol North Conference

Who’s in it: Columbus, Lake Mills, Lakeside Lutheran, Lodi, Poynette, Watertown Luther Prep.

Favorite: Columbus. The Cardinals reached the Division 3 sectional final last year, falling to eventual state champion Hartland Lake Country Lutheran 61-56. Jeffrey Downing takes over as coach, replacing Ben Schambow. First-team all-conference selection A.J. Uttech, a 6-2 senior who averaged 15.6 points, returns, along with 6-3 senior Nathan Cotter and 6-5 Nolan Stauffacher. Columbus and Lodi tied atop the league last year and Downing anticipates the Cardinals will be buoyed by their leadership, athleticism, strength and size this year.

Contenders: Lodi, Lake Mills, Lakeside Lutheran. Lodi lost several players to graduation, including conference player of the year Brady Ring. Senior guard Jaden Gallagher and 6-4 senior forward/guard Brian Meitzner lead returning players creating good depth. Coach Ben Leistico said Meitzner demonstrates excellent footwork inside and also can step out to shoot from the 3-point arc. … Columbus and Lodi should be in title contention with Lakeside Lutheran, led by first-team all-conference performer and Citadel commit Levi Birkholz, and Lake Mills, which had a first-team pick in A.J. Bender last year.

Things to know: Senior forward Aiden Klosky, who averaged 15.1 points and 7.5 rebounds while earning second-team all-conference honors last year, leads Poynette. Pumas coach Cody Odegaard believes he has a good core that can attack defenses from multiple areas of the floor. That includes juniors Brett Hackbart, Liam Napralla and Chase Hansen and senior guard Kameryn Colstad.

Trailways South Conference

Who’s in it: Madison Abundant Life/St. Ambrose, Deerfield, Johnson Creek, Madison Country Day, Palmyra-Eagle, Orfordville Parkview, Williams Bay.

Favorite: Deerfield.

Contenders: Madison Abundant Life/St. Ambrose, Williams Bay, Johnson Creek. Abundant Life/St. Ambrose started two freshmen and two sophomores and finished 16-9 last year, continuing to make great strides after going winless five years ago. With more experience and size this season, coach Mike Thies believes the sky’s the limit for the group, led by senior forward Jonathan Loomans and junior center J.D. Davison (who averaged 11 rebounds and 3 blocked shots per game).

Things to know: While Deerfield looks to repeat after finishing 12-0 last season, Madison Country Day will seek to move up from the bottom of the standings.

Others

McFarland, led by coach Jeff Meinholdt, appears primed to make noise in the Rock Valley Conference and the postseason with a team featuring 6-2 senior guards Dadon Gillen (first-team all-conference last year) and Deven Kulp (first team), 6-5 senior forward Aidan Chislom (second team), 6-1 junior guard Andrew Kelley (honorable mention) and 5-11 junior guard Kyle Kussow (honorable mention).

Gillen (16.4 points per game), Kulp and Chislom combined for almost 43 points and 19 rebounds per game. The Spartans, ranked seventh in Division 2 in the Wisconsin Basketball Yearbook preseason poll, have a potent transition game and play aggressively on the offensive end, Meinholdt said.

Editor’s note: The Wisconsin State Journal’s high school coverage area includes the following schools: Madison Memorial, Middleton, Verona, Madison La Follette, Sun Prairie East, Sun Prairie West, Madison West, Madison East, DeForest, Waunakee, Mount Horeb, Stoughton, Monona Grove, Oregon, Madison Edgewood, McFarland, Madison Abundant Life, Madison Country Day, St. Ambrose, Lodi and Sauk Prairie.

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Jon Masson covers high school sports for the Wisconsin State Journal. He has covered a variety of sports — including the Green Bay Packers and Wisconsin men's and women's basketball and volleyball — since he first came to the State Journal in 1999.

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