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Persike shot

Lodi sophomore Jack Persike shoots over Poynette senior Kenyon Hayes during the first half of Tuesday night's Capitol North Conference game at Poynette High School during the 2017-18 season. 

BOYS BASKETBALL PREVIEW FOR 2018-19 

CAPITOL NORTH CONFERENCE

2017-2018 STANDINGS

Team, Conf., All

Lodi, 8-2, 14-10

Lakeside Lutheran, 7-3, 19-6

Watertown Luther Prep, 6-4, 16-7

Lake Mills, 6-4, 16-8

Columbus, 3-7, 11-13

Poynette;0-10, 6-17

Top WIAA tournament performances: Lodi — Lost to Edgerton, 61-48, in Division 3 regional final; Lakeside Lutheran — Lost to Greendale Martin Luther, 59-41, in D3 regional final; Watertown Luther Prep — Lost to Laconia, 59-50, in D3 regional final.

RETURNING ALL-CONFERENCE PLAYERS

First team: Cameron Paske, 6-7, sr., Lakeside Lutheran; J.T. Toepfer, 6-0, sr., Lake Mills; Trent Casper, 6-2, sr., Columbus.

Second team: Will DeNoyer, 6-1, sr., Lakeside Lutheran; Jack Persike, 6-1, jr., Lodi; Ben Emler, 6-5, jr., Columbus; Jack Monis, 6-5, sr., Lakeside Lutheran.

Honorable mention: Micah Kieselhorst, 6-4, sr., Watertown Luther Prep.

COACHES’ FAVORITES

1, Lakeside Lutheran; 2, Lake Mills; 3, Columbus.

TEAM CAPSULES

Columbus Cardinals

Coach: Ben Schambow, 10th year (97-116)

Returning starters: Trent Casper, 6-2, sr., F (20 ppg, 7.7rpg); Ben Emler, 6-5, jr., F/C (18 ppg, 7.8 rpg); Adam Zahn, 5-9, sr., G (7.3 ppg, 3.4 apg).

Other returning letterwinners/key players: Sam Kahl, 5-10, sr., G (3.9 ppg); Caden Bieker, 5-9, jr., G (2.7 ppg).

Key fact: Senior Sam Kahl returns to the lineup after missing most of his junior season with an injury.

The lowdown: The Cardinals return the top two scorers in the Capitol North in Trent Casper (20 ppg) and Ben Emler (18 ppg). Casper entered the season closing in on the 1,000-point mark, while Schambow reached 100 coaching victories early in the season. The remaining parts of the lineup will be well-rounded and difficult to guard, as they will be “deeper and more physical than the past couple years,” Schambow said. Columbus looks to contend for a Capitol North title and push past the regional finals with their experience.

Quotable: “We should be able to compete and place high in the Capitol North this year,” Schambow said. “We have experience coming back this year, as well as the top two scorers in conference from last year. We should have a deep bench that will be hungry to earn minutes and play hard.”

Lake Mills L-Cats

Coach: Steve Hicklin, seventh year (115-33 at Lake Mills; 122-70 overall, ninth year)

Returning starters: J.T. Toepfer, 6-0, sr., G (15.2 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 3.9 apg); Matt Johnson, 6-1, jr., G (11.9 ppg, 2.8 rpg); Adam Moen, 6-2, so., G (5.8 ppg, 3.9 rpg).

Other returning letterwinners/key players: Mike Herrington, 6-0, jr., G (5.5 ppg, 1.3 rpg); Charlie Bender, 6-2, so., G (6 ppg, 2.5 rpg); Jaxson Retrum, 6-3, so., F (0.6 ppg, 0.6 rpg); Drew Stoddard, 5-10, so., G.

Key fact: J.T. Toepfer, senior guard, is one of 10 returning letterwinners and will lead this young, but “experienced for their age” team this year, Hicklin said. “J.T. is an extremely high energy player who never stops moving,” Hicklin said. “He’s able to knock down 3s and use screens to get to the basket.”

The lowdown: In addition to Toepfer, junior Matt Johnson is expected to be another leading scorer on the team, as he shot 42% from the 3-point line last year. Johnson is a “deadly outside shooter, who will surprise people with his improved ability off the dribble this season,” Hicklin said. After losing in the regional final last year to Lakeside Lutheran, the team looks to remain competitive and build on their youth from the bench. With a tough out-of-conference schedule posing to be the “most challenging schedule we've had in a long time,” Hicklin said, the L-Cats hope to compete for the conference title.

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Quotable: “For us to get back into championship contention we will need to defend and rebound beyond our years and size,” Hicklin said.

Lakeside Lutheran Warriors

Coach: Kirk DeNoyer, third year (35-14).

Returning starters: Will DeNoyer, 6-1, sr., G (15.2 ppg); Jack Monis, 6-5, sr., F (11.9 ppg 8.5 rpg); Cam Paske, 6-7, sr., F (12.9 ppg 6.5 rpg); Caleb Kuepers, 6-2, sr., G (7.8 ppg).

Other returning letterwinners/key players: Seth Hackbarth, 5-11, sr., G (1.8 ppg, 0.9 rpg); Brevin Jegerlehner, 5-11, sr., G (1.1 ppg, 1 rpg); Caleb Raymond, 6-2, sr., F (2.8 ppg, 1.9 rpg); Matt Davis, 6-1, jr., G; Carter Schneider, 6-0, jr., G; John O'Donnell, 6-3, so., G.

Key fact: The Warriors have 10 letterwinners, including four starters, returning. That gives the Warriors the most returning experience, Kirk DeNoyer said -- with two four-year starters and a three-year starter. The experience and size also make Lakeside Lutheran the unanimous choice of the coaches to win the league title.

The lowdown: After finishing in second place in the Capitol North last season, Lakeside Lutheran looks to contend for the title this year. The Warriors’ roster features no player shorter than 5-foot-11, with their tallest player being 6-7 senior forward Paske. Their size, however, will lead to some challenges with quicker teams, so Lakeside Lutheran “will need to be able to defend on the perimeter at all positions and shoot the ball consistently to beat the best teams we will face,” Kirk DeNoyer said. All-conference seniors Will DeNoyer and Monis will be leaders of this squad. To have a strong season, Kirk DeNoyer said four-year starter and leading scorer Will DeNoyer needs to be a consistently good shooter this season; three-year starter Paske is strong inside with a nice shooting touch, but must be able to defend smaller players; and four-year starter Monis is a good post scorer and rebounder, but needs to improve his mid-range shot and perimeter defense.

Quotable: Kirk DeNoyer on Caleb Kuepers, who grew 2 inches in the offseason and is the team’s most athletic player: “We need him to be a scorer and a great defender.”

Lodi Blue Devils

Coach: Mitch Hauser, 12th year at Lodi (159-108 at Lodi; 291-176 overall).

Returning starter: Jake Persike, 6-0, jr., G (10.0 ppg, 2.3 rpg).

Other returning letterwinners/key players: Jackson Furniss, 5-11, sr., G (5.8 ppg); Cole Steinhoff, 6-5, sr., C (3.3 ppg, 2.5 rpg); Riley Faust, 6-0, sr., G (2.9 ppg, 4.2 rpg); Max Hamilton, 6-4, sr., F; Owen Jelinek, 6-1, sr., G; Dylan Streeter, 6-3, sr., F.

Key fact: Lodi must replace four starters, including conference player of the year Jackson Kolinski, from a team that won the league title last season.

The lowdown: Point guard Persike, whom Hauser considers a complete player and one of the top returning players in the conference and the area, led the Blue Devils in 3-point field-goal percentage and was second in scoring last season. Steinhoff played a key role off the bench last year and is expected to be a primary inside scorer and rebounder this season. He has improved from his freshman year “as much or more than any player I’ve ever coached,” Hauser said.

Quotable: “Last year’s seniors were a closely knit group that led the team to play at a high level,” Hauser said. “This year’s team looks to build upon that legacy. There are no limits that will be placed upon this team.”

Poynette Pumas

Coach: Cody Odegaard, third year (10-36)

Returning starter: Garrett Bruchs, 6-7, sr., C (7 ppg, 7 rpg).

Other returning letterwinners/key players: Sawyer Moll, 5-9, sr., G (5.6 ppg); Brayden O’Connor, 5-8, jr., G; Colby Savich, 6-2, jr., F (2.6 ppg).

Key fact: The Pumas will rely on their sole returning starter, Garrett Bruchs, playing the post. Last year, he averaged seven points and seven rebounds per game, and was handy with distributing the ball on offense. Bruchs will be expected to use his size and experience again this season. “Garrett is a big asset for us,” Odegaard said.

The lowdown: After going without a victory in conference play last year, the Pumas are hungry for results. Poynette has 10 new players on its roster, so the Pumas’ success will come down to how quick the new additions will be able to adjust to the varsity level competition.

Quotable: “We will have a lot of new faces this season,” Odegaard said. “Our conference is very deep, but I expect us to compete every night. We have to continue to grow and develop individually and as a team for us to reach our goals.”

Watertown Luther Prep Phoenix

Coach: Nate Kieselhorst, 13th year at Watertown Luther Prep (167-103; 204-126 overall in 15 years).

Returning starters: Micah Kieselhorst, 6-4, sr., G/F (12.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 3 apg).

Other returning letterwinners/key players: Luke Schlomer, 6-0, sr., G/F (3.4 ppg, 1.5 rpg); Alex Lawrence, 6-3, sr., G/F (2.8 ppg, 1.2 rpg); Malachi Roeseler, 6-2, sr., G/F (2.1 ppg, 1.0 rpg); Zach Gregorious, 6-5, sr., F (2.0 ppg, 1.9 rpg).

Key fact: Micah Kieselhorst, the only returning starter who shot 55 percent from 3-point range last season, will be asked to be a floor leader and an offensive threat on the perimeter and inside.

The lowdown: The Phoenix must replace four starters from a solid team last season, Nate Kieselhorst expects Schlomer, Lawrence, Roeseler and Gregorious to have breakout seasons and complement the play of Micah Kieselhorst.

Quotable: “Conference should be very competitive from top to bottom,” Nate Kieselhorst said. “Anyone can win on any given night. Hopefully, we should be right in the thick of it. We need to work hard and use our athleticism and unselfish play, along with our depth, to surprise teams.”

-- State Journal staff, including Kelsey Justin, Jon Masson 

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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.