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Girls basketball preview: Beaver Dam is loaded again atop the talent-rich Badger North Conference
GIRLS BASKETBALL PREVIEW | BADGER NORTH CONFERENCE

Girls basketball preview: Beaver Dam is loaded again atop the talent-rich Badger North Conference

From the Prep girls basketball preview: Capsule preview of area conferences and teams series
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BADGER NORTH CONFERENCE

2018-2019 STANDINGS

Team: Conference W-L, Overall W-L

Beaver Dam: 14-0, 27-1

Reedsburg: 10-4, 16-7

DeForest: 10-4, 17-8

Waunakee: 9-5, 14-10

Portage: 5-9, 9-14

Baraboo: 4-10, 5-18

Mount Horeb: 3-11, 6-17

Sauk Prairie: 1-13, 4-18

Top WIAA tournament performances: Beaver Dam won the WIAA Division 2 championship, 65-46 over Monroe; Reedsburg lost to Monroe, 71-54; in D2 sectional semifinal.

RETURNING ALL-CONFERENCE PLAYERS

First team: Matyson Wilke, jr., Beaver Dam (unanimous); Trenna Cherney, so., Reedsburg; Jada Donaldson, sr., Beaver Dam; Elena Maier, jr., Waunakee.

Honorable mention: Carley Burchardt, sr., Beaver Dam; Natalie Jens, jr., Beaver Dam; Grace Roth, jr., DeForest; Megan Mickelson, sr., DeForest; Sam Schaeffer, sr., DeForest; Maggie Trautsch, sr., DeForest; Julia Magnuson, jr., Mount Horeb; Mahra Wieman, so., Reedsburg.

COACHES’ FAVORITES

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


TEAM CAPSULES

Baraboo Thunderbirds

Coach: Michael Behl, fourth year (52-89).

Returning starters: None.

Other returning letterwinners (3): Autumn Klemm, 5-9, jr., F (0.6 points per game, 0.6 rebounds per game); CeCe Oettinger, 5-1, jr., G (0.5 ppg, 1.0 rpg); Carly Moon, 5-7, jr., G (1.4 ppg, 0.2 rpg).

Key fact: The Thunderbirds lost all five starters to graduation. Point guard Alexis Johnson is now playing at UW-Whitewater, and Grace Stuckey is on the women’s crew team at the University of Wisconsin.

The lowdown: Baraboo, sixth in the talent-packed Badger North last year, graduated all five of its starters, and Behl says the T-Birds will have to rely on “three seniors who played mostly on the JV last year, and a few juniors who are ready to make an impact.” Autumn Klemm appeared in 17 varsity games, Ce Ce Oettinger played in 19 and Carly Moon played in 21, but none saw more than limited action. Moon shot better than 40 percent from 3-point range last year; the speedy Oettinger will be a top defensive threat and the athletic Klemm is expected to focus on inside defense and offense and rebounding. McKenzie Gruner, a 6-1 sophomore forward who saw action in 12 varsity games (0.5 ppg, 1.3 rpg), will provide more inside punch.

Quotable: “I know this (having to replace five starters) is not the formula for a successful season in terms of wins and losses, especially in our conference, but I feel like this group can learn how to play at this level and grow as a team,” Behl said. “Our goal is to be playing our best basketball by late February.”


Beaver Dam Golden Beavers

Coach: Timothy Chase, 15th year (252-94).

Returning starters (2): Matyson Wilke, 5-10, jr., G (13.8 ppg); Jada Donaldson, 5-6, sr., G (7.3 ppg).

Other returning letterwinners (7): Natalie Jens, 5-6, jr., G (8.7 ppg); Carley Burchardt, 5-7, sr., G (5.3 ppg); Paige Hodgson, 6-2, jr., F (3.5 ppg); Avery Stonewall, 5-10, jr., PF (2.1 ppg); Grace Madeiros, 5-4, sr., G (1.6 ppg); Anna Streblow, 5-7, sr., G (0.4 ppg); Paige Yagodinski, 5-9, jr., SF (0.3 ppg).

Key fact: The Golden Beavers won the WIAA Division 2 title last year, their third consecutive title. They are the fifth program to win three straight WIAA championships

The lowdown: Beaver Dam loses three Badger North All-Conference members to graduation, but bring back Matyson Wilke and Jada Donaldson — both all-conference selections as well. The Golden Beavers will rely on having last year’s role players step into crucial roles this year. Donaldson has committed to UW-Milwaukee and Wilke has offers from eight Big Ten schools and others, including UW and Marquette.

Quotable: “(We’re) just hoping to compete each and every night. A lot of questions losing such a quality senior class,” Chase said.


DeForest Norskies

Coach: Jerry Schwenn, fifth year.

Returning starters (3): Grace Roth, 6-0, jr., F (9.5 ppg, 5.2 rpg); Megan Mickelson, 5-11, sr., F (8.1 ppg, 3.9 rpg); Maggie Trautsch, 5-10, sr., G (6.5 ppg, 1.9 rpg).

Other returning letterwinners (9): Sam Schaeffer, 5-8, sr., G (5.0 ppg); Taylor Tschumper, 5-10, sr., F (3.8 ppg); Moran Hahn, 5-9, jr., F (3.8 ppg); Alyssa Laufenberg, 5-7, sr., G (3.7 ppg); Natalie Compe, 5-7, jr., G (3.5 ppg); Sydney Hahn, 5-6, sr., G (3.0 ppg); Brooke Buhr, 5-7, sr., G (2.3 ppg); Alyson Benkert, 5-10, sr., F (2.0 ppg); Tahlia Hardiman, 5-8, sr., F (1.0 ppg).

Key fact: Returning 12 letterwinners, the Norskies retain 70 percent of their scoring and rebounding from a year ago. They lost in a WIAA sectional semifinal to eventual state runner-up Monroe.

The lowdown: DeForest welcomes back an enormous amount of varsity experience, highlighted by Roth, who is receiving Division I and II interest as a junior. Replacing the 15 points per game from graduated senior Aleah Grundahl will fall on the shoulders of Roth and Trautsch. However, improving their ability to score in the post is a serious challenge.

Quotable: “(Grace) Roth has always had a scorer’s mentality, but has improved as a shooter. We expect her to be more of an inside-out player,” Schwenn said.


Mount Horeb Vikings

Coach: Tom Lesar, 13th year (226-209).

Returning starters (5): Julia Magnuson, 6-0, jr., F (10.7 ppg, 7.3 rpg); Kenzie Coulthard, 5-8, sr., G (8.9 ppg, 4.3 rpg); Emma Anderson, 5-10, so., F (6.6 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 1.8 apg); Olivia Burke, 5-7, so., G (2.5 ppg, 2.7 rpg); Emily Wallace, 5-5, so., G (2.5 ppg, 1.8 rpg).

Other returning letterwinners (5): Liv Yanna, 5-8, sr., G (4.4 ppg); Grace Vesperman, 5-6, so., G (2.7 ppg); Anna Ollendick, 5-7, jr., G (2.4 ppg); Catherine Strange, 5-8, sr., F (1.8 ppg); Leah Leibfried, 6-0, so., F (0.7 ppg).

Key fact: Head coach Tom Lesar returns to coach the Vikings after two previous stints. The program returns all its starters and key role players from a year ago.

The lowdown: Mount Horeb finished with three conference wins last year in a brutal Badger North. While the Vikings may not be able to stay step-to-step with the likes of Beaver Dam or Reedsburg in the conference race, the crew — led by junior Julia Magnuson — has plans to make a step up by upending some conference foes along the way.

Quotable: “Mount Horeb will be improved and should surprise with their returning experience,” Lesar said.


Portage Warriors

Coach: Jessica Howe, third year (17-29).

Returning starters (2): Brianna Brandner, 5-7, sr., G (4.4 ppg); Katelyn Belleau, 5-5, sr., G (3.6 ppg).

Other returning letterwinners (3): Hilary Nelson, sr.; Genna Garrigan, jr.; Emma Kreuziger, fr.

Key fact: The Warriors’ top scorer last year, honorable mention All-Badger North Conference guard McKena Yelk (13.9 ppg), has opted not to play basketball this season.

The lowdown: The loss of Yelk will present an early challenge as the Warriors scramble to make up the lost scoring, as No. 2 scorer MacKenzie Roth also was lost to graduation. Belleau, the strongest defensive player in the group, has played since her sophomore season and will be counted upon to step into a leadership role.

Quotable: “We brought some girls up last year that were able to see minutes on the court, and we’re not changing something,” Howe said. “That continuity gives the girls confidence because they’ve already seen it.”


Reedsburg Beavers

Coach: Mark Simon, 14th year (210-101).

Returning starters (1): Trenna Cherney, 5-10, so., F (13 ppg, 7 rpg).

Other returning letterwinners (3): Mahra Wieman, 5-10, so., G (12 ppg); Macie Wieman, 5-9, so., G (5 ppg); McKenzie Bestor, 5-6, so, G; Grace Benish, 5-10, so., G; Melissa Dietz.

Key fact: Mahra Wieman could have had even more production as a freshman last season, but she battled injuries that slowed her progress.

The lowdown: Simon has built a successful program in a talent-packed Badger North Conference, developing players’ skills over the long haul and preaching defense and basketball IQ as keys to success. After losing four starters to graduation, two of whom are playing in the WIAC this year, it’s time for Chenney and the Wiemans to step up and steer the program to another successful year. The talent is certainly there, and the Beavers’ defense and rebounding is helped by five players who stand 5-9 or taller.


Sauk Prairie Eagles

Coach: Amber Fiene, third year (13-31).

Returning starters (2): Naomi Breunig, 5-10, jr., G (9.2 ppg, 4.7 rpg); Olivia Breunig, 5-9, jr., G (10.5ppg, 3.6 rpg).

Other returning letterwinners (5): Ella Schad, 5-10, sr., G (5.9 ppg); Kassia Marquardt, 5-8, so., G (4.5 ppg); Makenzie Breunig, 5-7, so., F (3.4 ppg); Madi Pertzborn, 5-10, sr., F (2.5 ppg); Lauren Wideen, 5-11, sr., F.

Key fact: Sauk Prairie finished last in the Badger North and lost six letterwinners from the year before, including Riley Breunig who received a Big North Honorable Mention nod last season.

The lowdown: The Badger North doesn’t get much easier this year, but the Eagles hope to surprise some teams with their energy and the offense provided from Naomi and Olivia Breunig. Last year, the pair combined for 19.7 points per game. They will need their bench from a year ago to grow up quickly to supplement the loss of three starting seniors.

Quotable: “You can expect to see a high-energy team that plays full court run and jump,” Fiene said. “We have changed our systems and have a competitive, hard-working group this year.”


Waunakee Warriors

Coach: Marcus Richter, first year.

Returning starters (1): Elena Maier, 5-7, jr.,G (12.9 ppg).

Other returning letterwinners (6): Melanie Watson, 5-10, sr., F (6.9 ppg); Anne Dotzler, 5-5., sr., G (1.3 ppg); Brooke Ehle, 5-8, G (2.8 ppg); Caitlyn Lynch, 5-8, sr., F (1.2 ppg); Kailee Meeker, 5-8, jr., G (1.5ppg) ; Lauren Statz, 5-9, jr., G (2.6 ppg).

Key fact: First-year head coach Marcus Richter will welcome four new starters to his lineup, as the Warriors lost Kacie Murray, Caitlyn Kesilewski, Kiana Schmitt and Maddie Farnsworth to graduation. Farnsworth is now playing soccer at Butler University in Indiana.

The lowdown: Waunakee, 9-5 in the loaded Badger North last season, lost four starters and four other letterwinners from last year. With a new head coach and rotation, Richter believes his team “should be right in the thick of the Badger Conference race.” Richter will rely on three senior guards and his biggest star from last season, junior guard Elena Maier, who averaged 12.9 points per game. The Warriors also will count on senior forward Melanie Watson, who was an honorable mention all-conference pick in 2018-2019.

Quotable: “We have a deep group of girls who all love to be in the gym working on their game,” Richter said. “In order for our team to reach some of our goals, we will need some girls to step into more leadership roles.”

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