High school championship recaps return for a third week at Bucky's 5th Quarter, and from a team perspective, the haves are separating themselves from the have-nots. Three UW recruits are fortunate enough to still be playing this late into the season.
Aquinas returns to Kohl Center
Bronson Koenig came out on top in a duel with G-E-T's Tim Wagner last Thursday, scoring 29 points to Wagner's 33 in a 63-47 win by La Crosse Aquinas. Koenig kept his cool as Wagner went off, shooting 10-of-14 himself -- plus five 3-pointers, five assists and four rebounds -- allowing the Blugolds to pull away in the third quarter.
Aquinas (22-4) followed up with another big win on Saturday over Barron, 66-49. Koenig had 14 points and eight assists in the presence of UW assistant Greg Gard.
The win put Aquinas in familiar territory at the Division 3 state tournament this week. After winning the gold ball two years ago, the Blugolds faltered last year due to Koenig's hand injury. But the senior guard has risen to the occasion at this level before, and plans to do it again, along with an athletic supporting cast which includes forward Mike Conway (a future football walk-on at Minnesota).
I highly suggest taking in Koenig's semifinal game on Friday, which is scheduled to start at bright and early at the Kohl Center at 9:05 a.m. Fourth-ranked Aquinas faces a huge task in matching up with Little Chute (25-1), the top-ranked team in Division 3. The experienced and high-powered Mustangs are led by a pair of UW-Green Bay recruits in 6'6" Turner Botz and 6'7" Kenneth Lowe.
If Aquinas advances to the finals along with Whitefish Bay Dominican in Division 4, Wisconsin fans can check out Koenig and 2015 Badger recruiting target Diamond Stone together as part of the Saturday afternoon championship session. It may take a Sam Dekker-like state tourney effort from Koenig for the Blugolds to scale to the top of this loaded field.
Hill, Exeter take home a title
Jordan Hill has been the hardest of Wisconsin's five 2013 recruits to keep up with this year. Primarily because Hill is at a prep school in New Hampshire, but also because the role he plays for Phillips Exeter Academy doesn't come with a lot of glory. Hill is a defensive stopper.
So while I don't know exactly how many points or assists the 6'3" guard averages from game-to-game, I do know he's made history in his post-graduate season and added one more role to his prep resume: champion.
Exeter (25-1) claimed its first-ever Class A championship in the New England Prep School Association playoffs last Sunday with a 58-47 victory over Choate Rosemary Hall. Though Hill has not been a scoring leader throughout the championship campaign, coach Jay Tilton often mentioned the defensive presence Hill has been for Exeter. The coach sounded no different following a title game in which Hill's effort led to a 4-for-15 shooting performance behind the arc by the opposition.
Future Wisconsin guard Jordan Hill was the catalyst; with long arms, a hard-nosed defensive mentality, and quick feet, Hill constantly harassed Choate guards Colin Richey (10 points) and Pete Weston (15 points).
"It starts with Jordan," Tilton pointed out, "every second of the game he has a high motor, he doesn’t take unnecessary chances. To play that hard on the ball—he starts it, and we have great commitment off the ball helping him."
Comparisons have been made to former Badger Michael Flowers, but fans will have to decide for themselves whether Hill has the same do-anything mentality that made Flowers a champion at both the high school and Big Ten level in his day.
Next stop, Madison.
Minnetonka's march begins
The last of the relevant state tournaments to get underway was Minnesota's, where sweet-shooting Riley Dearring has lead Minnetonka to a 21-6 record so far this season. Minnetonka's postseason began Tuesday night with an 84-77 sprint past Minneapolis Southwest in Minnesota's 6AAAA Section.
Dearring sprung for 19 points and 10 rebounds against Southwest. He put a midseason injury behind him and is averaging 22 ppg over his last six outings to help his team nab the No. 2 seed in Minnetonka's section in the largest enrollment division.
The win sets up a huge rematch between the Skippers and third-seeded Hopkins (21-6) on Friday at 7:45 p.m. Hopkins is the same school where Dearring made a splash more than three years ago as a heralded freshman.
Hayes, Whitmer escape in Ohio
Nigel Hayes probably would like to forget parts of Toledo Whitmer's district quarterfinal bout with Holland Springfield last Friday night. Particularly his two missed free throws with 7.8 seconds left while his team clung to a two-point lead. But the important thing is the Panthers preserved a hard-fought 48-46 win anyway and Hayes gets a shot at redemption Thursday evening.
Hayes had nine points and 10 rebounds in the game, in addition to this fine piece of rimwork.
This time, the stage gets bigger. The Division I Toledo district semifinals shift to the University of Toledo campus, where 10th-ranked Whitmer takes on fellow Three Rivers Conference mate Central Catholic. Third-seeded Whitmer swept the Fighting Irish during the regular season, yet Central Catholic is the No. 2 seed.
Bowling Green bows out
At the Ohio Division II district playoff level, Vitto Brown and Bowling Green won again Friday behind 18 points, 14 rebounds and this sweet dribble drive from the Wisconsin-bound big man. With a 52-48 win, the Bobcats toppled Napoleon for the third time this season.
But Bowling Green (14-11) ran into top-seeded Sandusky Perkins (19-5) Wednesday night, which ended Brown's career with a 60-51 loss. His 18 points and 10 rebounds were not enough to overcome Perkins' edge on the glass and huge fourth quarter run.
We hope to catch up with Brown in the next few weeks for an interview, so stay tuned.
Happ's season comes to an end
Rockridge (IL) dropped a 56-52 heartbreaker to hot-shooting Fieldcrest in the sectional semifinals on February 28, bringing Ethan Happ's junior season to an abrupt close. The Rockets fought back to a stalemate after facing a 10-point deficit in the third quarter, but ran out of gas.
Happ scored 25 points in the loss to lead all scorers, adding 10 rebounds and four blocks. Thus concluded a breakout year for Happ in which he averaged 23 points and 10 rebounds, but also was one of 10 juniors added to the Mr. Basketball ballot in Illinois.
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