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Boys basketball preview: Here's how the rest of the Badger East stacks up against Max Weisbrod, DeForest

Boys basketball preview: Here's how the rest of the Badger East stacks up against Max Weisbrod, DeForest

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Head Basketball Coach Craig Weisbrod leads drills during practice at DeForest Area High School in DeForest, Wis., Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021. KAYLA WOLF, STATE JOURNAL

DeForest has a lot going for it.

The Norskies made the state semifinal last year, they return their top four scorers from that run and one of those players happens to be Northern Michigan recruit Max Weisbrod.

So it should be no surprise their Badger East Conference rivals this year pegged the Norskies as one of the preseason favorites, with challengers Milton and Waunakee in the mix as well. 

The Badger East half of the restructured Badger conferences, which went from North and South to East and West. This year's East conference consists of Deforest, Waunakee, Beaver Dam and Watertown in the North pod and Milton, Stoughton, Fort Atkinson and Monona Grove and the South pod.

Here's a look at the new conference, which tips off play Tuesday night.

The contenders

The Norskies won regional and sectional titles before falling in the state semifinal to Kimberly. DeForest returns each of its top four scorers from a team that went 16-6 in the regular season, highlighted by senior all-state selection Max Weisbrod (18.2 points per game), a Northern Michigan commit. The next three leading scorers are Nolan Hawk (12.1 ppg), Deven Magli (9.7) and Josh Jansen (7.4).

Challenging them will be Waunakee and Milton, which each lost single-digit games in their playoff openers.

Milton (13-5) has back top returning scorer in guard Jack Campion (22.6 ppg), as well as key returning pieces in forwards Tommy Widner (9 ppg, 3 rebounds per game) and Brogan McIntyre (6 ppg, 5 rpg). If surrounding players settle into their roles, the Red Hawks could go a step further.

Waunakee (14-6) brings back key forwards Andrew Keller (12.6 ppg, Iowa State football verbal commit) and Joey Fuhremann (7.8 ppg). The Warriors lost a few of their top scorers from last year's squad that had a nine-game win streak late in the season. Aidan Driscoll (4.3 ppg) and Jack Dotzler (5.7) earned valuable playing time and will now be asked to embrace bigger roles.

The dark horses

Beaver Dam (17-8) fell three points shy of a victory in the regional finals last season. The Golden Beavers must replace leading scorer and rebounder Nate Abel (26.4 ppg, 5 rpg) but have a group of senior guards who have played a combined 246 varsity games. This includes Tyler Bunkoske (12.6 ppg, 3.6 rpg), Brady Helbing (10 ppg, 5 assists per game), Alex Soto (7.5 ppg, 3.6 rpg) and Evan Sharkey (3.1 ppg, 3.6 rpg). Despite this, coaches projected Beaver Dam to finish anywhere from middle of the pack to the bottom of the conference.

Fort Atkinson (9-6) lost its playoff opener by three points but returns its top three scorers in forward Drew Evans (12.4 ppg), guard Carson Baker (11.7 ppg) and guard Cade Cosson (7.1 ppg). Fielding a large junior class, coach Mike Hintz said the Blackhawks' experience, interior scoring and team chemistry stand out as early strengths, but they'll need to work on rebounding, turnovers and transition defense. Opposing coaches had Fort as a middle-of-the-pack team in the conference.

Stoughton (4-6) must make up for the loss of its own all-state player in Cael McGee (20.3 ppg). The Vikings will turn to the Fernholz brothers, Luke (12.7 ppg) and Ty (9 ppg), their two leading returning scorers to anchor the team. 

The rest

Both Watertown and Monona Grove have their work cut out for them in improving from last season.

The Silver Eagles (5-8) lost by 19 in their regional final. Of their top three scorers last year, only Jordan Hibner (12.4 ppg) returns. They will look to their group of seniors with limited varsity experience to step up.

The Goslings (7-11) lost by 10 in the playoff opener. Bringing back Oliver Meyers (14.4 ppg) and Nathan Gapinski (12.8 ppg) is a big plus, but scoring depth could continue to be a problem after the team’s third and fourth scorers graduated. 

Can't-miss games

DeForest vs. Monroe, Dec. 10: Divided into opposite halves of the Badger conferences, these squads are both looked at as legitimate competitors for the East and West titles, respectively. This early season clash will serve as a measuring-stick game for both sides.

DeForest vs. Waunakee, Jan. 11: This game will likely be the most entertaining intra-pod matchup this season in the Badger East. Any chance to see future collegiate talents like Weisbrod (basketball) and Keller (football) clash with conference stacks on the line is worth the price of admission. 

Milton vs. Waunakee, Jan. 13: The Warriors could do themselves a lot of favors in this three-day stretch if they can beat DeForest and Milton. This could be the most important stretch of their season to determine conference supremacy.



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