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New Glarus senior point guard Jaden Kreklow was thrilled and grateful when the Capitol South Conference champion Glarner Knights qualified for the WIAA state boys basketball tournament for the first time in 87 years.

Imagine how he felt when fourth-seeded and fifth-ranked New Glarus dealt top-seeded, top-ranked and defending champion Manitowoc Roncalli its first loss of the season in the WIAA Division 4 semifinal at the Kohl Center, then upended second-seeded and second-ranked Oshkosh Lourdes in the state championship game March 16.

“I knew it was possible,” Kreklow said. “The odds were definitely against us winning. It’s amazing it actually happened. We are a pretty skilled group of guys. We won the state tournament (in Division 4) when we were in eighth grade and won again our senior year. The team that played the best was going to win the tournament, and it was us.”

The Glarner Knights (26-2) became boys basketball state champions for the first time.

“It meant a lot,” Kreklow said. “We did pretty well in our conference, and I was just honored to get to the tournament. It was a really good year. It was a great year of basketball.”

The 5-foot-10 Kreklow and senior guard Zach Feller, Kreklow’s cousin and longtime basketball teammate, completed their prep basketball careers holding the gold ball.

“Zach isn’t in a spring sport either, so ending with the state championship in our last game – not many people get to do that, ending on a win – it’s definitely a great feeling,” Kreklow said.

After returning home for a celebration following the state tournament ceremony at the Kohl Center, Kreklow said youngsters in New Glarus were asking him for his autograph and to pose for photos.

“It was our first state championship in school history,” he said. “It was definitely my time in the spotlight.”

For leading New Glarus to its first state title, Kreklow was selected as the Wisconsin State Journal/WisconsinPrepZone.com All-Area boys basketball player of the year for the 2018-19 season.

Kreklow, who plans to study engineering at UW-Platteville but is uncertain whether he will play basketball in college, led the All-Area first team.

He was a third-team selection on The Associated Press all-state team – the highest pick from the area – and was a first-team choice on the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association’s Division 4 team.

New Glarus boys basketball coach Travis Sysko said Kreklow – who averaged 22.9 points, 3.9 assists and 2.7 steals this season and 18.1 points, 4.2 assists and 1.8 steals during his career -- was the best player to come through New Glarus and one of the best point guards in the state. Oshkosh Lourdes coach Brad Clark called the shifty Kreklow the best guard his team faced all season.

"Jaden has been a huge part of our success over the past four years,” Sysko said. “He is as skilled a player as I've ever coached. He will leave New Glarus as the all-time leader in points and assists, along with all kinds of other recognition (including two-time conference player of the year, two-time all-state, three-time first-team all-conference). But he would tell you that he is most proud of the state championship that this team won because he is as humble as he is good."

Kreklow had 21 points, four rebounds and five assists in the semifinal and 22 points and four assists in the title game. He demonstrated ball-handling wizardry during the state tournament, darting through defenses.

Kreklow said he got stronger and worked on his ball-handling playing AAU basketball for Wisconsin Academy last summer.

“I have a lot of confidence in my ball-handling skills,” Kreklow said. “We went up against great teams with good defenders (at the state tournament). They played man-to-man both games and I was able to get by my man and make things happen.”

Coach of the year

Sun Prairie coach Jeff Boos was named the Wisconsin State Journal/WisconsinPrepZone.com All-Area coach of the year for leading the Cardinals on an improbable return trip to the WIAA Division 1 state tournament, after Sun Prairie qualified for state for the first time last year.

The third-seeded Cardinals (21-7) reached the state title game for the first time, edging second-seeded West Allis Central 62-60 in a semifinal before falling to top-seeded Brookfield Central 69-52 in the championship game.

“It was one of those years – a really, really special year,” said Boos, in his 24th year as Sun Prairie’s coach. “It was a lot of fun. It was a great group of kids to work with.”

Expectations outside the program weren’t high for Sun Prairie’s season. Brothers Jalen and Kobe Johnson had transferred to Glendale Nicolet, the Cardinals had no returning starters from last year’s state semifinalist and injuries and absences sometimes left the roster and lineup in a state of flux this season. Boos credited his assistants and the players for the Cardinals getting back to state.

“I know that they believed,” said Boos, also was named AP state coach of the year. “That helps if they believe in what you are doing. And this team was resilient. They stayed the course and believed in what we did. Some of the guys had to sacrifice. Their roles changed. It was all about the team.”

Sysko and Madison East’s Matt Miota, who directed the Purgolders (22-2) the Big Eight Conference title and a top-ranking in Division 1 during the season, also were considered for All-Area coach of the year.

Wisconsin State Journal/WisconsinPrepZone.com

2019 All-Area boys basketball team

FIRST TEAM

Player of the year – Jaden Kreklow, 5-10, sr., point guard, New Glarus: Kreklow, averaging 22.9 points, 3.9 assists and 2.7 steals, led New Glarus (26-2) to its first WIAA Division 4 state championship. He was a first-team all-conference pick and the Capitol South Conference player of the year, a first-team WBCA Division 4 all-state selection and a third-team Associated Press all-state choice.

Anthony Washington, 6-3, jr., guard/forward, Madison East: Washington helped lead Madison East (22-2) to the Big Eight Conference title and to ascend to a Division 1 No. 1 ranking during the season. He averaged 16.9 points, five rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.6 steals and shot 65.1 percent from the field and was a first-team WBCA Division 1 all-state selection, a fourth-team AP all-state pick, a first-team all-conference choice and the Big Eight defensive player of the year.

Caden Nelson, 6-1, sr., point guard, Monona Grove: Nelson, who plans to continue playing at Edgewood College, led the Silver Eagles to the Badger South Conference title. He was a unanimous first-team all-conference pick and the Badger South player of the year, a fourth-team AP all-state selection, a WBCA Division 2 all-state honorable-mention pick, who averaged 22.4 points, 5.6 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 3.0 steals and shot 57.8 percent from the field and 37.6 percent from 3-point range. 

Jason Larson, 6-5, sr., forward, Mount Horeb: Larson, who plans to play basketball at Lake Land College in Mattoon, Illinois, helped lead Mount Horeb (22-4) to the Badger North Conference title (14-0) and a WIAA Division 2 sectional final berth. He was a unanimous first-team all-conference selection in the Badger North, an honorable-mention WBCA Division 2 all-state pick and an AP all-state honorable-mention selection, averaging 16.7 points and 5.2 rebounds.

Austin Westra, 6-6, sr., forward, DeForest: Westra was a first-team all-conference choice and the player of the year in the Badger North, a first-team WBCA Division 2 all-state selection and an AP all-state honorable-mention choice. He averaged 17.3 points, 9.2 rebounds and 2.3 assists for Badger North runner-up DeForest.

SECOND TEAM

Isaac Lindsey, 6-4, jr., guard, Mineral Point

Damontae Thompson, 5-10, sr., point guard, Madison East

Trevon Chislom, 6-6, sr., forward, McFarland

Donneil Gray, 5-10, sr., guard, Madison La Follette

Gunnar Nortman, 6-2, sr., guard, Mount Horeb

THIRD TEAM

Jack Monis, 6-5, sr., forward, Lakeside Lutheran

Malcolm Reed, 6-5, sr., guard/forward, Barneveld

Troy Reeves, 5-11, sr., guard, Madison La Follette

Brock Voigt, 6-5, sr., guard/forward, Sun Prairie

Cade Ellingson, 6-3, sr., guard, Madison Memorial

HONORABLE MENTION

Zach Feller, sr., New Glarus; Cameron Paske, sr., Lakeside Lutheran; Eli Considine, sr., Portage; Will Fuhrmann, jr., Reedsburg; Kade King, sr., Monroe; Adam Hobson, jr., Stoughton; Ethan Victorson, sr., Oregon; Michael Meriggioli, sr., Madison Edgewood; Sulley Geske, jr., Evansville; Wes Berget, jr., Mineral Point;

Micah Kieselhorst, sr., Watertown Luther Prep; J.T. Toepfer, sr., Lake Mills; Trent Casper, sr., Columbus; Clay Caminiti, sr., Wisconsin Heights; Gabe Stewart, sr., Marshall; De’Shawn Barsness, so., Wisconsin Heights; James Monogue, jr., Jefferson; Clayton Jenny, soph., Edgerton; Brett Hirst, jr., Wisconsin Dells, Dylan Anchor, sr., Wisconsin Dells;

Cliff McCray, sr., Madison West; Ben Probst, jr., Madison La Follette; Aaron Leverson, sr., Janesville Craig; Ryan Van Handel, sr., Verona; Sam Close, sr., Middleton; Jack Campion, fr., Milton; Sam Hepp, sr., Monona Grove; Henry Huston, sr., Monona Grove; Cade Meyer, soph., Monroe; Erik Victorson, soph., Oregon;

Cade Ferron, sr., Beaver Dam; Trey Schroeder, jr., DeForest; Bryce Farnsworth, sr., Mount Horeb; Jake Henderson, sr., Sauk Prairie; Will Knatz, sr., Waunakee; Adam Phillips, sr., Dodgeville; Carson Knapp, sr., Deerfield; Cole Ducklow, sr., Johnson Creek; Derek Lindert, fr., Pardeeville.

Bucky!

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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.