Sunday, February 21, 2010

Vander Blue; Not the Only Storyline with the WIAA playoffs approaching

The WIAA boy’s and girl’s basketball playoffs are just a few weeks away, and local conferences are still being decided. In the boy’s Western Six Rivers, Benton is only one half game ahead of River Ridge, with Potosi and Cassville not far behind either. In the girl’s South Central, Westfield and Nekoosa are tied for first. In Big Eight boy’s, Madison East is a game ahead of Madison Memorial, the defending Division 1 state champions, with a final showdown on Thursday. With all the unsure seeding and placement for the WIAA regionals, the local high school basketball fan has plenty to watch for in the final few games in boy’s.

Will Madison Memorial repeat, or will a new champion emerge? Maybe the champion will be Madison East. In Division 2, Southern Badger’s Monroe was state runner-up last year. Will they get back and win for the first time since 2007, or will Madison Edgewood win for the first time since 2002? Maybe Waunakee from the Badger North gets a shot this year? These questions can be repeated for Division 4, with Benton trying to repeat as champions.

On the girl’s side, Middleton and Verona have a shot at making it back to the Kohl Center in Division 1. Undefeated Monroe is a strong contender to win Division 2, while Cuba City is an early favorite to go far in the Division 3 bracket. Potosi was runner-up in Division 4, but the new contender may be the team ahead of them in the Western Six Rivers, River Ridge. These teams provide just a few of the storylines going into the regionals.

In Madison, all eyes will be on Vander Blue and his senior march to getting another championship with the Spartans. Last year he dropped 35 points in the quarterfinals and had a double-double in the championship. He now enters the tournament with Marquette University in his future. How will he respond this year with the extra attention? Memorial’s run may depend on his leadership and if he can make the clutch play when the game is on the line. He has help, but there are many teams capable of winning it all, and Blue may be the ace in the hole to put the Spartans over the top.

In Monroe, the Cheesemakers will need Jamie Armstrong and Ashley Hermanson to lead the team if they want to get back to state. Armstrong and Hermanson were starters for Monroe when they won in 2008, and they were both key in the run bringing the Cheesemakers to the semi-finals last year. They are seniors who played in a championship game, and big pressure situation experience will be a huge plus in this year’s tournament. Monroe needs these two to continue their strong play consistently if they want to play a game at the Kohl Center this year.

The games should be fun to watch down the stretch, and many storylines will fade or begin after the buzzer sounds. If there is one thing we’re sure of, it’s the intensity these teams bring to the court. Whether it’s Armstrong with George Washington University, Blue for Marquette University or Hermanson for the University of Nebraska-Kearney, we are watching future players who may one day play in an NCAA tournament.

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