GAME OF THE WEEK (March 10–March 16)
WIAA D4 BOYS BASKETBALL SECTIONAL SEMIFINAL: Darlington (19–5) vs. Cuba City (17–7), at Verona, Thursday, March 10, 7 p.m., WGLR (97.7 FM), www.wglr.com, (93.7 FM)
Regional basketball championships are expected at Cuba City, a near annual occurrence for both boys and girls programs. Conversely, Darlington is a football school, producing 11 state finals appearances — including three straight since 2013 — and four state titles since 1987. But after winning the school’s first regional basketball title in 20 years, the Redbirds will face their conference rival Cuba City in a WIAA Division 4 Sectional semifinal at Verona, tonight at 7 p.m. Darlington vs. Cuba City Part III is this week’s McDonald’s Swnews4u.com Game of the Week.
The third-seeded Redbirds knocked off the second-seeded Deerfield Demons 64–51 in a D4 regional championship game Saturday night to claim Darlington’s first boys basketball regional crown since 1996.
“It’s been a long time personally for me since I’ve been to sectionals and a long time for the program,” said Darlington head coach Mike Hopkins, who last took the Redbirds to sectionals as a coach in 1990. “I’m happy for the kids experience this. We had a road game [Saturday], but I think we had just as many, if not more, fans in Deerfield. The school is the heart of every community. As I told them before their first playoff game, this is why you did a lot of traveling in the summer, going to tournaments in the Dells and playing seeking in the the Stoughton league to face tougher competition. It’s paid off for us.”
Cuba City earned this year’s sectional berth the hard way, going on the road and pulling off a 44–40 upset of SWAL champion Iowa–Grant Saturday night. Sophomore Blake Robson scored a game-high 17 points to lead the fourth-seeded Cubans to the four-point victory that snapped the Panthers’ 22–game winning streak. Iowa–Grant swept Cuba City during the regular season to win the conference title, but the Cubans avenged those earlier losses Saturday night by limiting I–G senior point guard Brayden Johnson to just eight points. The senior scored 32 and 19 points in the team’s first two meetings.
“It was a great team win. We knew playing on their home floor that they were going to be a tough competitor,” said Cuba City head coach Jerry Petitgoue, who has led the Cubans to the regional final game each of the last nine years. “I was happy to come out of there with a victory.”
“Having a great friendship with Coach Petitgoue, I know he’s a competitor and so am I. We’ve had enough battles with one another,” said Hopkins. “We can’t take them for granted. It’s a whole new night and a whole new game. He always has something he hasn’t shown us yet, so we will be expecting something a little bit different.”
The Cubans and Redbirds split their regular season series with Cuba City winning the first meeting 55–48 on Jan. 3, before Darlington dominated the second meeting at home 69–45 on Jan. 22.
They have tremendous basketball team and they are at full health,” added Petitgoue. “It’s going to take a Herculean effort to beat them, but we’ll go out and give it our best shot. That’s why they play the games.”
After missing most of the season with an injury suffered during Darlington’s state championship football game, junior Hunter Johnson was cleared to return to the court for the start of regional play. He played sparingly in Friday’s win over Cambridge, but Johnson gave the Redbirds a spark of the bench, scoring seven points in Saturday’s regional final when starters Josh Soper and Chad Golackson got in early foul trouble. Johnson was a first-team All-SWAL selection a year ago as a sophomore.
Tonight’s winner advances to the sectional final game in Baraboo on Saturday to face either third-ranked Melrose–Mindoro (24–0) or La Crosse Aquinas (13–10). Tip-off is set for 1 p.m.
OTHER AREA GAMES OF NOTE THIS WEEK
WIAA D3 BOYS BASKETBALL SECTIONAL SEMIFINAL: Prairie du Chien (22–2) vs Lodi (17–7), at Richland Center, Thursday, March 10, 7 p.m., WQPC (94.3 FM)
The Blackhawks, champions of the Southwest Wisconsin Conference, defeated River Valley 72–55 in a regional semifinal Friday night to open the postseason (after a first-round bye), then defeated Wisconsin Dells 55–40 on Saturday night to win the regional title. Sophomore Chase Sagedahl scored a game-high 15 points in the regional championship. The third-seeded Blue Devils won its regional title with a pair of victories of SWC teams, beating Platteville 62–49 in Friday’s regional semifinal before upsetting second-seeded Dodgeville 60–59 for the regional title. Thursday’s winner will either Evansville (22–3) or East Troy (19–5) in the Waunakee Sectional final Saturday night at 7 p.m.
WIAA D5 BOYS BASKETBALL SECTIONAL SEMIFINAL: Hillsboro (24–1) vs Bangor (22–3), at La Crosse Central, Thursday, March 10, 7 p.m.
The Tigers and Cardinals are all too familiar with each other. A year ago Bangor swept Hillsboro during the regular season to win the Scenic Bluffs Conference title, but the Cardinals were upset in a regional final, clearing the way for the junior-laded Tigers to make a run to the WIAA Division 5 state championship team. This year Hillsboro is the team to beat in Division 5. Led by seniors Max Stockwell and Joe Helgerson, both four-year varsity players, the Tigers are ranked number one in D5, having won 24 of 25 games since last year’s state championship game loss to Milwaukee Young Coggs Prep, including a pair of conference victories over Bangor. Hillsboro won at Bangor 74–64 on Jan. 15, then held on for a 64–61 home win over the Cardinals on Feb. 18. Hillsboro won its second straight regional title with a 67–55 win over Alma/Pepin Saturday night. Bangor advanced to the sectional semifinal with an 87–85 win over Blair–Taylor on Saturday. The winner of Thursday night’s game will face either Seneca (23–2) or Barneveld (21–4) in a sectional final game at La Crosse Logan Saturday at 7 p.m.
WIAA D5 BOYS BASKETBALL SECTIONAL SEMIFINAL: Seneca (23–2) vs Barneveld (21–4), at Reedsburg, Thursday, March 10, 7 p.m., www.south78radio.com, WQPC (94.3 FM)
The champions of the Ridge & Valley meet the champions of the Six Rivers East in this sectional semifinal. The top-seeded Indians defeated 2015 sectional finalist Shullsburg 64–54 Saturday night to win the regional title. The second-seeded Golden Eagles beat Wauzeka–Steuben 86–25, Potosi 78–57 and sixth-seeded Southwestern 68–52 to win its regional title. The winner of Thursday night’s game will face either top-ranked Hillsboro (24–1) or Bangor (22–3) in Saturday’s sectional final at La Crosse Logan at 7 p.m.
WIAA D4 GIRLS BASKETBALL STATE SEMIFINAL: Mineral Point (24–2, ranked 3rd in D4) vs. Eau Claire Regis (22–2, ranked 8th in D4), at Resch Center, Green Bay, Thursday, March 10, 6:35 p.m., Super Hits 106, www.superhits106.com
The Pointers will be making their first-ever appearance in the State Tournament after beating Wisconsin Heights 58–54 in the final of the Baraboo Sectional on Saturday. But first, Mineral Point had to survive a potential game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer to defeat Southwestern Wisconsin Activities League rival Cuba City 57–55 in a sectional semifinal at Monroe last Thursday night. Senior center Jessica Schultz, who finished with 12 points in Thursday’s win, gave the Pointers the lead for good at 56–55 on a basket with 34 seconds left. Senior Clara Chambers then made 1 of 2 from the line and Emily Wiederholt’s potential game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer missed the mark. Chambers scored a game-high 18 points in Saturday’s regional final win. Schultz added 16. Regis is appearing at State for the sixth time and for the second time in the last three years. The Lady Ramblers finished atop the standings in the Western Division of the Cloverbelt Conference this season. Regis downed Phillips 80-44 in the Durand Sectional final. The winner of Thursday’s State semifinal will face either Marathon (23–3) or Kenosha St. Joseph Academy (24–2) in Saturday’s D4 title game at 12:45 p.m.
WIAA D4 GIRLS BASKETBALL STATE SEMIFINAL: Barneveld (27–0, ranked 1st in D5) vs. Clayton (26–1, ranked 8th in D5), at Resch Center, Green Bay, Friday, March 11, 9:05 a.m., www.south78radio.com
Senior star Hannah Whitish, a Nebraska recruit, hit six 3-pointers and scored a game-high 34 points to lead Barneveld to a 66–34 victory over Hillsboro in the final of the Richland Center Sectional on Saturday night. The two-time defending champion Golden Eagles qualified for the State Tournament for the fourth consecutive season and for the 11th time overall. The Golden Eagles have now won six State titles, capturing the crown in 1995, 1998, 1999, 2005, 2014 and again last season. In addition, they have runner-up finishes in 2007 and 2013. Barneveld routed Potosi 67–30 in Thursday’s sectional semifinal at Mineral Point. Clayton will make its second State Tournament appearance. They qualified this season following a 61-47 triumph over Bayfield in the Spooner Sectional final. The Bears are the champions in the Central Division of the Lakeland Conference. The winner of Friday’s semifinal will face either Wisconsin Rapids Assumption (23–4) or Fall River (22–4) in Saturday’s D5 championship game at 11:05 a.m.