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Badger North girls basketball preview: Future Badger Maty Wilke leads Beaver Dam on another run

Badger North girls basketball preview: Future Badger Maty Wilke leads Beaver Dam on another run

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2019-2020 STANDINGS

Team: Conference, Overall

Beaver Dam: 14-0, 23-3

DeForest: 12-2, 21-4

Waunakee: 10-4, 19-6

Reedsburg: 8-6, 15-9

Mount Horeb: 5-9, 12-12

Sauk Prairie: 5-9, 13-11

Baraboo: 1-13, 3-20

Portage: 1-13, 2-21

ALL-CONFERENCE RETURNEES

First team: Maty Wilke, sr., Beaver Dam (Player of the Year); Natalie Jens, sr., Beaver Dam; Julia Magnuson, sr., Mount Horeb; Trenna Cherney, jr., Reedsburg; Mahra Wieman, jr., Reedsburg; Naomi Breunig, sr., Sauk Prairie; Elena Maier, sr., Waunakee.

Honorable mention: Taylor Pfaff, so., Baraboo; Paige Hodgson, sr., Beaver Dam; Jaelyn Derlein, so., DeForest; Natalie Compe, sr., DeForest; Grace Vesperman, jr., Mount Horeb; Macie Wieman, jr., Reedsburg; Melissa Dietz, jr., Reedsburg; Lauren Meudt, jr., Waunakee.

COACHES’ PICKS

1, Beaver Dam; 2, Reedsburg; 3, DeForest and Waunakee.

TEAM-BY-TEAM CAPSULES

Baraboo Thunderbirds

Coach: Michael Behl, 8th year (55-109).

Season status: The Badger Conference elected not to conduct conference winter sports competitions, but Baraboo has elected to play and is organizing its own non-conference schedule.

Returning starters: Taylor Pfaff, 5-7, so., G (12.6 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 2.0 apg); Maya White Eagle, 5-6, sr., G (transfer from Madison Memorial; averaged 8.9 ppg, 53 steals last year).

Other returnees: Nathasha Hess, 5-10, sr., F (0.5 ppg, 1.8 rpg); Emma Fluette, 5-7, jr., G (1.0 ppg); Claire Bildsten, 5-7, jr., F (.4 ppg, 2.4 rpg); Jayden Ross, 5-6, so., G (1.8 ppg, 2.9 rpg); Madison Strampe, 5-7, so., G (0.3 ppg, 1.5 rpg).

Key fact: Baraboo loses four starters from a season ago but welcomes back junior McKenzie Gruner, who took a year off to focus on volleyball, and Maya White Eagle, who transferred from Madison Memorial. White Eagle, termed “a scholarship-level player” by Behl, averaged 8.9 ppg, 2,5 rpg, 1.5 apg and 2.1 steals per game and earned All-Big Eight Conference honorable mention last year.

The lowdown: Following a 3-20 season, Behl says that the theme for the season will be using last season’s struggles as motivation to be better. Though they have lost four seniors, they will have more experience going into the year having added Maya WhiteEagle, who played the last three seasons at Madison Memorial, and McKenzie Gruner, who earned playing time as a freshman. Coach Behl likes their ability to get the rim, shoot from the outside and get in passing lanes with their length but the new group of players doesn’t have much experience playing with each other.

Beaver Dam Golden Beavers

Coach: Tim Chase, 16th year at Beaver Dam (269-97).

Season status: The Badger Conference elected not to sponsor conference winter sports, but Beaver Dam has elected to play and is organizing its own non-conference schedule.

Returning starters: Maty Wilke, 5-10, sr., G, (16.7 ppg, 8 rpg, 4.8 apg); Natalie Jens 5-7, sr., G (13.7 ppg, 3 rpg, 2.3 apg); Paige Hodgson, 6-3, sr, F (5.4 ppg, 4.8 rpg).

Other returnees: Avery Stonewall, 5-9, sr., F (5 ppg, 4 rpg); Kylie Wittnebel, 6-0, so., F (4.1 ppg, 3.3 rpg); Paige Yagodinski, 5-11, sr., F (3.2 ppg, 2.2 rpg).

Key fact: Three girls on the current Golden Beavers roster have signed to play in college: Maty Wilke (University of Wisconsin), Natalie Jens (Minnesota State-Moorehead) and Paige Hodgson (Northern Kentucky).

The lowdown: Seeking what would be a fifth consecutive trip to the WIAA Division 2 state tournament and fourth straight championship, Beaver Dam’s pipeline continues to crank out talented young players that learn from the upperclassmen. As there is no conference race this season, the Golden Beavers will be unable to compete for a 12th consecutive conference championship, including what would have been a fourth straight Badger North title after relocating from the defunct Wisconsin Little Ten. Beaver Dam has never lost a Badger North league game.

DeForest Norskies

Coach: Jerry Schwenn, sixth year at DeForest (78-44).

Season status: The Badger Conference elected not to sponsor winter sports conference competition, though schools are free to build their own non-conference schedule. Due to Public Health Madison Dane County restrictions, DeForest’s season has been delayed.

Returning starters: Grace Roth, 6-0, sr., F (13.2 ppg in 2018-2019); Jaelyn Derlein, 5-7, so., G (8.3 ppg, 2./0 rpg).

Other returnees: Natalie Compe, 5-7, sr., G (4.7 ppg, 2.2 rpg); Morgan Hahn, 5-9, sr., F (3.0 ppg, 2.9 rpg); Kendall Rauls, 5-2, sr., G (0.9 ppg, 0.9 rpg); Maya Pickhardt, 5-8, jr., F/G (3.4 ppg, 2.7 rpg); Jocelyn Pickhardt, 5-8, jr., G (1.3 ppg).

Key fact: Roth was DeForest’s No. 2 scorer during the first half of last season, but left the team in midseason after a move out of state. She’s back for her senior year. Also back is Jocelyn Pickhardt, a junior who missed much of last season with an anterior cruciate ligament injury in her knee.

The lowdown: DeForest would have been the class of most of the state’s other Division 2-sized conferences, but the Norskies share the Badger North with three-time defending state champion Beaver Dam. Last year’s Norskies made plenty of noise on their own, beating every team except Beaver Dam twice in league play and advancing to a sectional semifinal before falling to Oregon. But Schwenn said this year’s team has “certainly way more questions than answers at this point.” About 70 percent of the Norskies’ scoring and rebounding was lost to graduation. Still, Grace Roth is a proven impact player, and Schwenn says Natalie Compe is one of the area’s best defenders and Derlein will be expected to step into a larger role. Top varsity newcomers include junior Avery Schaeffer, sophomores Maci Bartels, Aspin Kelliher and Anna Szepieniec, and freshman Rylan Oberg.

Mount Horeb Vikings

Coach: Tom Lesar, 14th year (238-221).

Season status: The Badger Conference elected not to conduct conference winter sports competitions. Mount Horeb, which is in Dane County, must delay when it can play games inside the county. Mount Horeb had approved small-group practices, but the Nov. 18 Public Health Madison & Dane County order halted them.

Returning starters: Julia Magnuson, 6-1, sr., F (14.8 ppg, 10 rpg); Grace Vesperman, 5-7, jr., G (6.5 ppg, 2 apg, 2 spg); Emma Anderson, 5-10, sr., G/F (6.0 ppg, 4 rpg, 2 apg); Emily Wallace, 5-5, sr., G (4.1 ppg, 2.0 apg).

Other returnees: Leah Leibfried, 6-0, jr., F (2.5 ppg); Olivia Burke, 5-7, sr., G (2.5 ppg); Zoey Parker, sr., (2.7 ppg); Addie Bies, 5-11, sr., F (2.3 ppg); Anna Ollendick, 5-7, sr., G (3.7 ppg); Myesha Thompson, so. (2.2 ppg).

Key fact: With only two key players lost to graduation, the Vikings return 15 experienced players who were as busy as they were allowed to be over the summer working on their skills and strength.

The lowdown: “We are moving in the right direction,” Lesar said. “With four returning starters and 11 letterwinners, I’m hopeful we continue to improve as a program.” Magnuson was last year’s leading scorer and rebounder and the Vikings’ most experienced player. “She needs to provide our team with an interior rim protector and get us rebounds,” Lesar said, adding that Vesperman “sets our tone defensively with her aggressive style of play.” On offense, Lesar hopes his group can find a consistent scoring groove “and avoid long scoring droughts in games.”

Portage Warriors

Coach: Jessica Howe, fourth year (19-50).

Season status: The Badger Conference elected not to conduct conference winter sports competitions, but Portage has elected to play and is organizing its own non-conference schedule.

Returning starters: Emma Kreuziger, sr., F (4.5 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 0.7 apg).

Other returnees: Genna Garrigan, sr., G (3.4 ppg, 2.3 rpg, .8 apg); Callie Krueger, sr., G (1.4 ppg, Payton Woodhouse, Cameran Ratz, Alli Kallungi, Vanessa Coppernoll, Gretchen Georgeson, Lily Schwantz.

Key fact: Coach Jessica Howe has at times taken a “read-and-react” approach to how her Warriors have run their offense, but this year, with improved ballhandling, she said she has returned Portage to a more motion-oriented approach.

The lowdown: Offense was a challenge in the Warriors’ first game, against three-time defending state champion Beaver Dam, as Portage committed 39 turnovers and fell behind 53-0, with 49 of the points coming off turnovers. But Howe believes her team’s increased athleticism will eventually produce a more fluid, free-flowing attack that gets results. Emma Kreuziger led the team in rebounds last year and is the top returning scorer. Garrigan made 15 3-point baskets last year and the rest of the lineup offers size on the inside and speed on the perimeter.

Reedsburg Beavers

Coach: Mark Simon, 15th year (225-110).

Season status: The Badger Conference elected not to sponsor conference winter sports, and while Reedsburg has decided to field a team and organize a non-conference schedule, athletic director Bryan Yager has rescheduled the Beavers’ first two games from the last week of November to the first half of December.

Returning starters: Mahra Wieman, 5-10, jr., G (20 ppg); Trenna Cherney, 5-10, jr., F (14.5 ppg, 10 apg); Melissa Dietz, 5-9, jr., W (8.2 ppg); Macie Wieman, 5-10, jr., G (3.7 ppg, 6 apg); Grace Benish, 5-10, jr., G (6.2 ppg).

Other key returnees: McKenzie Bestor, 5-6, jr., G (5.8 ppg); Ruby Olsen, 5-8, so., W (2.9 ppg); Payton Cunningham, 5-6, jr., G (2.2 ppg); Ava Stieve, 5-7, jr., G (1.8 ppg); Cassidy Klitzke, 5-5, jr., G (1.2 ppg); Ella Halvensleben, 5-6, jr., G (0.7 ppg).

Key fact: Not only do the Beavers return every player from last year’s roster, none of them are seniors this year. Last year’s team went 15-9, in what is arguably the state’s strongest Division 2 conference, with a roster of 10 sophomores and four freshmen.

The lowdown: Veteran coach Mark Simon has emphasized smart defense and team-oriented offense as he has built a consistent winning program in Reedsburg. His current crew is no exception — and he’s been able to get many of them considerable playing time and experience since they were freshmen. That’s certainly true of the Wieman sisters, as Mahra led the team in scoring and Macie broke the school single-season record with 147 assists. Overall, last year’s team broke school records in points per game (58.2), total points (1,420), field-goal shooting (42.2 percent), 3-point baskets (125) and assists (420). Trenna Cherney was a two-time All-Badger North pick last year, and Mahra Wieman earned all-state honorable mention. Cherney has 657 career points and Mahra Wieman 659. Macie Wieman and Melissa Dietz earned all-league honorable mention last year.

Sauk Prairie Eagles

Coach: Aaron Andres, first year with girls program (21st year coaching overall).

Season status: The Badger Conference elected not to sponsor conference winter sports, but Sauk Prairie has elected to organize a non-conference schedule.

Returning starters: Naomi Breunig, 5-10, sr., W (18.0 ppg); Olivia Breunig, 5-9, sr., W (8.0 ppg).

Other returnees: Maggie Hartwig (7.0 ppg); Kassia Marquardt (5.4 ppg); Olivia Paukner (5.8 ppg); Makenzie Breunig (5.1 ppg); Faith Holler (3.3 ppg); Annika Braund (4.9 ppg); Kaya Wilson (3.8 ppg); Marissa Howard; Alexis Klemm.

Key fact: Aaron Andres, an assistant principal and former Eagles boys basketball coach (also a Sauk Prairie graduate), stepped in on an interim basis in mid-October. He replaces three-year coach Amber Fiene, who stepped down in July due to personal reasons connected to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The lowdown: Sauk Prairie returns 10 letterwinners, nine of whom averaged at least 3.3 points per game last year. But the player to watch will be Naomi Breunig, who recently signed with NCAA Division II Winona State University. Her scoring and passing will be a key, along with the athleticism and shooting of Olivia Breunig. Kassia Marquardt, Olivia Paukner, Makenzie Breunig, Faith Holler and Marissa Howard provide length, defense and shooting, and Maggie Hartwig, Annie Braund, Alexis Klemm and Kaya Wilson contribute length and athleticism. Freshman guard McKayla Paukner is expected to contribute this season. “This conference is loaded with great teams,” Andres said. “Our goal is to compete better against the teams that beat us last year and continue to improve from Day One to the last day of the season.”

Waunakee Warriors

Coach: Marcus Richter, 2nd year (19-6)

Season status: The Badger Conference elected not to have a conference winter sports season, and Waunakee’s school board is not allowing the team to play in any games at this time.

Returning starters: Elena Maier, 5-9, sr., G (14.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg); Lauren Statz, 5-9, sr., G (4.7 ppg, 2.8 rpg); Kailee Meeker, 5-10, sr., G (9.2 ppg, 3.2 rpg).

Other returnees: Lauren Meudt, 5-9, jr., G (6.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg); Ashley Sawicki, 6-2, jr., F (4.1 ppg, 4.5 rpg); Kylee Grabarski, 5-6, jr., G (3.2 ppg).

Key fact: Elena Maier, a Kent State commit, suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her knee during the offseason but could very well break the 1,000 point mark. She is just 149 points short and could reach the milestone if the team is allowed to compete this winter.

The lowdown: The team lost a few seniors from a year ago but returned much of their core and were going to have “high expectations after making it to sectionals last season,” coach Richter said. “We felt as if we could have fit in right behind Beaver Dam in the Badger North Conference, and could have been one of the better teams Waunakee has had in recent years,” Richter added.

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