This is the third week of an eight-part series the SWNews4U.com Southwest Wisconsin Boys and Girls Basketball Dream Tournaments.
The Dream Tournaments are fictional tournaments imagined by sports editors in the Morris Newspapers of Wisconsin group featuring the greatest area boys and girls high school basketball teams of the past 50 years.
Last week we introduced the second half of the boys’ bracket, the tournament premise and selection criteria, and the team capsules of teams in the North and East regions.
This week we introduce the girls’ Dream Tournament bracket and team capsules for 34 teams in the West and South regions.
Next week we will unveil remaining 34 team capsules for the North and East regions of the SWNews4U.com Girls Basketball Dream Tournament bracket.
Beginning the week of May 6, we will start publishing fictional results of first round matchups from both the boys’ and girls’ Dream Tournaments.
A 68-team March Madness-style high school basketball tournament (for both boys and girls), consisting of the greatest teams in Southwest Wisconsin history, aptly named the SWNews4U.com Southwest Wisconsin Dream Tournament.
HOW DOES THE TOURNAMENT WORK?
A three-man selection committee, consisting of myself (The Platteville Journal and Fennimore Times sports editor), A.J. Gates (Lancaster’s Herald Independent sports editor and Tri-County Press) and Tom Gunnell (Darlington’s Republican Journal sports editor and Tri-Country Press), researched hundreds of area boys and girls teams to create a preliminary list.
We were aided in the research with help from Richland Observer sports editor Erik Olson, and the Dodgeville Chronicle’s Mike and Pat Reilly, as well as a host of area coaches and former players. We whittled the lists down 68 for each tournament. We couldn’t pick just 64 teams, 68 was hard enough!
Any team from the current SWC, SWAL, Six Rivers West, Six Rivers East and the Ridge & Valley conferences was eligible for selection. We tried to choose the most deserving teams from each school’s history. We are aware we may have missed a few. We apologize in advance.
We settled on 1960 as the starting point for the boys’ tourney simply because the last half decade seemed like a nice even number. There are a couple of pretty classic local teams from the 1960s you may or may not heard about that have to be included in any all-time bracket. Going back any further than the early 60s proved very difficult to research.
We picked 1976 as the first year of eligibility for the girls because that was the first year of the WIAA girls state basketball tournament. Information on non-state qualifying girls’ teams from the 1970s and 1980s proved scarce.
THE RULES OF SELECTION
All state tournament qualifiers automatically made our tournament field.
However, we limited dynasties of consecutive state appearances by the same school to a single entry, to make room for other teams. For example, Sam Okey’s four straight state tournament appearances with Cassville from 1992–95 is represented by the 1995 Comets, his senior year. But the 1991 Comets, with Mike Uppena and Chad Infield, who was a three-year teammate of Okey, are also entered in the tournament as a separate entry.
The 1989 and 1991 Cuba City boys’ teams, and 1993 and 1995 Dodgeville boys’ teams, were also lumped together as a single entry for each dynasty. We are trying to avoid a situation where Okey (Wisconsin’s 1995 Mr. Basketball) or Cuba City’s Greg Timmerman, future Wisconsin Badger and 1992 Mr. Basketball, would face off against themselves. We chose ’91 Cuba City (state champion) and ’93 Dodgeville (beginning of the three-year run)
Next, each high school in our coverage area is represented by at least one team. Think about the Cuba City boys’ program like the ACC and Cassville like the Big 10, and Dodgeville like the run-and-gun Pac 10. All three schools are getting multiple entries (like those conference), but all three schools also have historical teams deserving entry in this field, but get bumped by greater teams from their own school’s legacy.
Schools with less than stellar basketball history deserve their one shinning moment too, like single-entry D1 college conferences such as the Ivy League, Missouri Valley, Horizon League or the Mid-American Conference.
Admittedly, there is no foolproof way to seed a bracket that features 61 regional champions, 37 state qualifiers and 12 state championship teams. It really is splitting hairs when it comes to that kind of success. But here’s how we did it.
We broke down the list of qualifying teams into groups based on their WIAA tournament finishes. Then, we seeded those smaller groups based on objective opinion while looking at overall record, conference titles, multiple years of success with the same core of players, level of conference and playoff opponents played, and star players.
The first 35 spots in our bracket are filled by the 35 state qualifiers (seeds 1 through 8 in each region). The 19 state championship teams in the girls’ tournament filled the top 19 spots in the bracket (seeds 1 through 5 in each region). Then, the nine state runners-up come next, followed by the other eight state semifinalist teams.
The 11 sectional finalists come next, followed by 15 sectional semifinalists. The last seven slots in the tournament go to at-large teams that didn’t make it out of regional competition.
The directional region names don’t really mean anything. They are just a way to label each bracket.
HOW WILL WINNERS BE DETERMINED?
There will be a vote between the selection committee members. So, fill out your bracket. Make your predictions and stay tuned in the coming weeks to see how it all plays out. Come on this journey over the next eight weeks and relive some of the greatest prep basketball teams this area has ever produced.
For more coverage and team capsules of all girls teams in the West and South regions, get your copy of this week Platteville Journal, Herald Independent, Republican Journal, Fennimore Times, Tri-County Press or Richland Observer.
Below are the top seeds in each region
1) 2007 Cuba City2007 Division 3 state champion
Coach: Jeff Pustina
Record: 27-0, 14-0 SWAL champion
Tournament run: The Cubans rolled to their third straight WIAA Division 3 state championship crown by besting Wisconsin Heights 87-25, Orfordville Parkview 83-39, and Mineral Point in regionals, Lancaster 61-44 and Markesan 54-26 at sectionals, then previously unbeaten Oostburg 51-42, in a state semifinal game, before routing Amherst 70-28 to win the 2007 title.
Tami Gleason (Sr) 16.7 ppg, 6 rpg, 3 apg, two-time SWAL Player of the Year, 1st-team All-SWAL, AP 2nd-team All-State, WBCA D3 1st-team All-State, WBCA D3 All-Star, WIAA All-Tournament team, went on to play D2 volleyball at UW–Parkside
Briana Kaiser (Jr) 13 ppg, 3 rpg, 2.3 spg, 1st-team All-SWAL, went on to play D3 volleyball at UW–Platteville
Molly Moor (Sr) 9 ppg, 2 apg, 1st-team All-SWAL, 2006 All-Tournament selection, WBCA All-Star
Kaitlyn Pustina (Sr) 8.7 ppg, 2 spg, 1st-team All-SWAL, AP honorable mention All-State, WBCA All-Star
Brianna Droessler (Jr) 6 ppg, honorable mention SWAL
Kelsey Pustina (Jr) 5.3 ppg, 3 spg, honorable mention SWAL
Dynasty Note: Coach Pustina, Gleason, Moor and Kaitlyn Pustina led the Cubans to a 80-1 overall record during a three-year span that saw them capture three straight WIAA Division 3 state championships and three straight SWAL titles with 14-0 marks. Liz Wisdom was a starter and All-SWAL player on the 2005 and 2006 championship teams and later played at UW–Platteville. Pustina’s Cubans went 27-0 in 2005 and defeated Wausau Newman Catholic 48-37, in the 2005 title game, then went 26-1 in 2006 and topped Ozaukee 56-52 for the 2006 title contest.
1) 2014 Barneveld2014 Division 5 state champion
Coach: Jim Myers
Record: 28-0, 12-0 Six Rivers East champion
Tournament run: The Golden Eagles defeated Benton 62-32, Ithaca 64-30, Belmont 52-18 and Gilmanton 69-31 to advance to state, then routed Owen-Withee 71-53 in a state semifinal game. Barneveld completed an undefeated season and avenged a loss from a year earlier by edging Wisconsin Rapids Assumption 36-34 in the D5 championship game. The Royals defeated the Eagles in the 2013 title game by a score of 39-35.
Hannah Whitish (So) 17.1 ppg, 1st-team All-SRE, was named the 2016 Wisconsin Miss Basketball, two-time SRE Player of the Year, 1st-team All-SRE, four-time WBCA D5 All-State selection, 2016 WBCA D5 All-Star, went on to play college ball at the University of Nebraska.
Rachel Slaney (Jr) 15 ppg, 1st-team All-SRE, three-time WBCA All-State selection, 2015 WBCA D5 All-Star, went on to play junior college basketball at Madison College, then D1 basketball at Cleveland State
Mia Whitish (Fr) 6.3 ppg, 2nd-team All-SRE, 2017 WBCA D5 All-Star
Hailey Kleppe (Sr) 4 ppg, honorable mention All-SRE
Maggie Oimoen (Jr) 7.3 ppg, went on to play D3 college basketball at Ripon College where she was a three-time 1st-team all-conference selection
McKenzie Sporle (Sr) 7.1 ppg
Dynasty Note: The Golden Eagles posted a 109-4 overall record during a four-year span, including a 46-0 SRE record en route to four straight league titles. The Eagles matched up against Assumption in four consecutive WIAA Division 5 state title games with the Golden Eagles winning back-to-back gold balls under Myers in 2014 and 2015, while finishing with silver balls in 2013 under Myers and in 2016 under Doug Pickarts, who took over the program after Myers jumped over to coach his son, Matthew, on Barneveld boys’ team. University of Nebraska standout Hannah Whitish appeared on all four state teams, while Slaney starred on the ’13, ’14 and ’15 teams, and Mia Whitish started on the ’14, ’15 and ’16 teams.
1) 2019 Black Hawk2019 Division 5 state champion
Coach: Michael Flanagan
Record: 28-0, 12-0 SRE champion
Tournament run: The #1-ranked Warriors defeated North Crawford 100-17, Iowa-Grant 68-31 and Kickapoo 59-15 in regional play, then River Ridge 58-27 and Independence 70-39 at sectionals before routing Fall River 71-39 in a D5 sectional semifinal contest. Black Hawk claimed the first state championship title in program history after taking down previously unbeaten Clayton 51-36 in the WIAA D5 state final.
Natalie Leuzinger (Jr) 18.3 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 2.7 spg, 2.2 apg, four-time SRE Player of the Year, three-time WBCA D5 first-team All-State, WBCA D5 All-Star, finished her career as Black Hawk’s all-time leading scorer, will continue her career as a preferred walk-on at Wisconsin
Bailey Butler (So) 17.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 4.1 spg, 4.6 apg, two-time SRE co-Player of the Year, four-time 1st-team All-SRE, three-time WBCA D5 1st-team All-State, 2020 WBCA D5 All-Star, is a D1 UW-Green Bay recruit
Hannah Butler (Jr) 14.8 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 3.9 spg, 3.2 apg, four-time 1st-team All-SRE, two-time WBCA D5 1st-team All-State, 2020 SRE tri-Player of the Year, finished her career third on the Black Hawk scoring list, will continue her career at D3 UW–Platteville
Maddy Huschitt (Jr) 5.8 ppg, 2.4 spg, 1.8 apg, honorable mention SRE
Kaylee Marty (So) 6.4 ppg, 1.8 spg, honorable mention SRE
Dynasty Note: Coach Flanagan Leuzinger and the Butler sisters led the Lady Warriors to an 82-1 overall mark, a 36-0 SRE record, three conference titles and three D4 state tournament appearances over a three-season span from 2018-20. The Warriors (28-1, 12-0) fell to Bangor 39-29, in the 2018 state title game for their only loss of the season. In 2020, the only thing to stop the #1-ranked and unbeaten Warriors (26-0, 12-0) was the cancelation of the tournament due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
1) 2015 Cuba City2015 Division 4 state champion
Coach: Jeff Pustina
Record: 28-0, 14-0 SWAL champion
Tournament run: The Cubans wrapped up a string of three straight appearances at the WIAA Division 4 State Tournament by winning their second straight gold ball with a 56-43 victory over Fall Creek to finish off a perfect season under Coach Pustina. Cuba City defeated Lancaster 79-33 and Mineral Point 75-47 in regional play, then Cambridge 60-42 and La Crosse Aquinas 70-44 in sectionals, and Fond du Lac St. Mary’s Springs 62-56 in the D4 state semifinals to reach the title game.
Jessi Marti (Jr) 15.3 ppg, two-time SWAL Player of the Year, 1st-team All-SWAL, WBCA D4 1st-team All-State, 2016 WBCA D4 All-Star went on to play college ball at Northern University (S.D.).
Mollie Wedige (Sr) 13.9 ppg, 1st-team All-SWAL pick, WBCA D4 All-State honorable mention, WBCA D4 All-Star
Chloe Pustina (Sr) 11.1 ppg, 4.5 apg, 1st-team All-SWAL, WBCA D4 1st-team All-State, WBCA D4 All-Star, went on to play college ball at UW-Oshkosh.
Shay Lierman (Sr) 1st-team All-SWAL pick; 9.8 ppg
Kaitlyn Kaiser (Jr) 1st-team All-SWAL pick; 6.4 ppg
Dynasty Note: Coach Pustina’s Cubans posted an 80-3 overall mark, including 42-0 in league play en route to three straight SWAL titles over the three-year span with a 25-2 record in 2013 and a 27-1 record in 2014. Marti, Wedige, Pustina, Lierman and Kaiser were all starters for the Cubans during this three-year run. In 2013, eventual champion Algoma defeated the Cubans 62-39 in a state semifinal game. The Cubans returned the next season to avenge that loss with a 49-28 triumph in the 2014 state final. Pustina and Wedige were also starters as freshmen, helping the 2012 Cubans (23-3, 13-1) win a share of the SWAL title and reach the D3 sectional finals.