WIAA to review options to determine fate of spring sports
STEVENS POINT – The Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association Board of Control will discuss the membership’s options for the remainder of the spring sports seasons and for summertime regulations at its scheduled meeting on April 21 via video conferencing.
Gov. Tony Evers extended the state’s Stay at Home order until May 26, and ordered all public and private K-12 schools to remain closed for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year in an announcement made Thursday, April 16.
In accordance with Gov. Evers’ new directive, all interscholastic training, practices, scrimmages and contests remain suspended. The WIAA postponed all athletic participation following an executive order issued by the governor on Friday, March 13, that closed all public and private schools on March 18.
The executive staff has discussed the best and worst-case scenarios with the possibility schools may close for the remainder of the school year. Those will be reviewed with guidance from the Board of Control to determine the best course of action.
Last week, the University of Wisconsin-Madison announced it extended the cancellation of campus events through June 30, which eliminates the possibility of conducting the WIAA State Tournaments scheduled at campus venues this spring. Those events impacted were Boys Individual and Team Tennis Tournaments scheduled at Nielsen Tennis Stadium on June 4-6 and June 12-13, respectively; the State Boys Golf Championship at University Ridge on June 15-16; and the State Softball Tournament at Goodman Diamond on June 11-13.
The Stay at Home order and the closure of schools are in response to the information available regarding COVID-19 and efforts to prevent the spread of the disease.
The WIAA, as defined by its Constitution, is a voluntary, unincorporated and nonprofit organization. The membership oversees interscholastic athletic programs for 513 senior high schools and 46 junior high/middle-level schools in its membership. It sponsors State Championship Tournament Series for boys and girls.
Logan Lillehaug is shown with his family as he signs a letter committing to attend the University of St. Thomas with the intention of playing men’s golf. His parents are Rob and Carey Lillehaug, of Frederic. He is part of the Frederic-Luck co-op golf team, which has earned two conference, regional and sectional titles over the last three years and has advanced to state for three straight years. – Photo provided
Abby Jensen, a junior at St. Croix Falls High School, took first place in the 132-pound weight class at the state powerlifting meet in Appleton on March 7. She lifted a total of 676 pounds in the three lifts. Her squat of 286 pounds set a state record for her weight class. Jayda Heilig, a Unity High School junior, competed in the same weight class and made the podium with a fifth-place finish. She lifted a total of 605 pounds. – Photo provided  
BIizzard’s “Burn the Ships!” motto fuels them to 19 victories
Members of the Blizzard Peewee team hold up their trophy in a postgame celebration. - Photo provided
Carter Hilde | Special to the Leader BURNETT COUNTY – “If we are going home, we are going home in their ships.” Fearless leader Hernando Cortez led his troops to overthrow the Aztecs of Mexico, with the phrase “burn the ships” empowering them. The Spanish conquistador would not have a backup plan in case of failure, because success was the only option. Thus, his men burned their ships, and with a successful fight, they returned home in the Aztecs’ ships. Similarly, Blizzard Peewee hockey team coaches Kelly Hopkins, Andy Douglas and Chris Shutt have chosen the motto “Burn the Ships” as their theme this season, and have won 19 games! When asked what the phrase “Burn the ships” meant to them, the coaches responded accordingly. “I heard this quote when I listened to the artists Luke and Joel Smallbone talk about the meaning behind their album, “Burn the Ships,” Hopkins explained, “It means all in, retreat is not an option. Give everything you have each shift and leave past mistakes, burdens, or negative thoughts about oneself behind.” Douglas interprets the phrase as, “total commitment to the team and our season-long goals.” “To me, ‘burn the ships’ means leaving the past behind whether it is good or bad and moving on to prepare for the future,” added Shutt. The hockey players have their own understanding of the phrase and explain how they are motivated by it, along with thoughts on the sport and their future. Bradon Nutter plays defense and has been playing since he was 5. His team has always been there for him and he is proud to keep progressing with his hockey skills. Burn the ships means leaving the past behind and learning from failures. Bradon hopes to be a surgeon; his experiences playing hockey have taught him people skills and how to be part of a team working together to achieve a common goal. Lane Hopkins, nicknamed “Hoppie,” plays defense and has been skating since age 2. The sport and his team help relieve stress and calm his temper. Burn the ships to Lane means letting the past go. Lane wants to be a diesel mechanic; his participation in hockey will help him work with others in the future. Jacob “Jake” Pedersen plays right or left wing. He started skating at age 4 and is encouraged by his teammates. Jake recalls scoring his first goal, naming it his proudest moment. Burn the ships to him means never give up and forget the past. Jacob wants to be a pilot when he grows up. Landyn Randt, aka Rantie, plays center and defense and started skating at age five. He’s comforted knowing his team always has his back and he’s proud to see his teammates working together toward one goal: bringing a banner home from state. “My team has gone to state four years in a row and we did not come through when we needed it, this year we will Burn the Ships,” he said. When Landyn grows up, he wants to be a professional sports athlete; hockey can prepare him for that. Ryder Anderson plays center and started skating at age 2, playing hockey at 4. Ryder’s teammates have been kind and great friends to him; he is proud to be a good passer and back checker. Burn the ships has influenced him to leave bad passes behind and do the best with how the play is going. Ryder plans to be a carpenter, and he says hockey has shown him to be smart and stay in shape. Levi Anderson plays left wing and started playing hockey at age 4. Levi says his teammates work well together, and they always lift up anyone feeling down. Burn the ships to Levi pushes him to try his hardest. He wants to be in the NFL or NHL one day and hockey is teaching him to prepare for his dreams and work his hardest. Aiden Johnson plays wing and started skating at age 2. His team helps cheer up and encourage him, along with every other player that needs it. Aiden is most proud when he gets assists. Burn the ships to Aiden means if he does something bad he should forget about it and move ahead. When Aiden grows up, he plans to be a professional hockey player. Landon Smestad, also known as “Hammie” or “Smesty,” plays right wing and has been since age 3. Landon appreciates his teammates’ encouragement and is proud to have gone to state four times. He believes burn the ships means forgetting about the past and working harder. He wants to be a mechanic and believes hockey has helped him to build strength and coordination. Jenna Lester, known as “Nenna” or “Jenn,” plays center or wing. She started playing last year and scored her first goal with the help of her teammates Landyn and Clayton. She has made a lot of friends through hockey. She said, “Burn the ships means burning the negative things like not thinking you can get a hat trick or in my case a goal.” Jenna wants to play college hockey in Madison and believes she can as she has grown so much already. Clayton Shutt, nicknamed “Shutt,” plays center or left wing and has been since he was 3 years old. His team helps to keep him calm and collected. Clayton appreciates the opportunities hockey has given him to make friends from other schools and spend time being active rather than playing video games. Burn the ships has influenced him to leave the bad games behind. Clayton hopes to skate for the Minnesota Wild and will be well prepared for the next level with his experiences now. Owen Douglas plays right wing and started at age 4. He is proud to know how to skate, and the burn the ships motto has helped him push through tough times. He hopes to play in the NHL, thankful for Blizzard hockey pushing him toward that goal. Kelsey Douglas plays left wing and has since she was 4 years old. She is proud that her team is going to state. Burn the ships has helped her to leave things in the past. Kelsey is unsure what her future entails but is thankful that hockey has taught her to get up, no matter what. Timothy Joel McDonald, known by teammates as “Goalie Monster,” plays in the net. He started playing at age 10. Timothy’s team has helped him cope with losing games with words of encouragement. He is proud of winning the Baldwin tournament 6-5 in OT and getting a shutout. The song “Burn the Ships” by King and Country is very meaningful to Timothy. One line reads, ”Stepping into a new day, we can wash our fears away.” Leaving fear behind is important to Joel. He wants to be a game warden, and hockey has taught him to stay in shape, keep sharp and never to give up. Lewis Anderson, or “Lewy Lewy,” plays goalie or right/left wing. He started hockey at age 9 and is proud to participate in the sport. Coaches describe him as kind and able to see the small details in his team that make a huge difference. Dallis Strehlo started playing hockey three years ago; his position is right wing. Dallis is thankful for his teammates; they help him get to practice and keep everyone positive. Improving more each day, Dallis is proud to have become a great passer. Burn the ships has inspired him to leave the past behind but keep the knowledge and move forward. Hockey has prepared Dallis for the future with long-lasting friendships and an improved work ethic. Grayson Hendricks-Baxter plays defense and started hockey when he was 7 years old. He knows his teammates always have his back, on and off the ice. Grayson says “burn the ships” means, “to put your stuff in the past and to move forward to your next challenge.” He wants to be a mechanic and believes the training in hockey will keep him fit for life. Eva “Eves” Imme plays wing and has been skating since she was 3. Her team helps get her fired up and she is most proud of scoring her first goal. Burn the ships means leaving the past behind. Eva wants to be a rancher when she grows up. Hockey has shown her that anything is possible if you work hard enough. Due to the coronavirus, the state tournament was canceled for our local Blizzard Peewee team, along with so many other huge athletic contests. The lessons learned this winter will remain with the team for years to come. Coach Hopkins says, “It is more important at the end of the day that these players are good humans; I am glad to say they also have incredible character and persistence too.” Burn the ships, Blizzard!
Kosloski’s one-year run as coach ends at WIAA regionals
Rick Kosloski
SIREN – As it turns out, it would have been impossible for Rick Kosloski. Even if the Siren boys basketball team had reached sectional competition and earned a first-round win, the recent cancelation of WIAA state finals would have prevented the interim coach from leading the Dragons to Madison anyway. But’ officially, Kosloski’s one-year run as coach was ended with a 59-49 loss to South Shore in regional competition on Tuesday, March 3. That capped his brief and “challenging” tenure, as he expects Jon Ruud to return as coach for the 2020-2021 season. And, the interim coach said the returning coach helped with the challenges he faced. “I thank Jon Ruud for staying in touch throughout the year,” Kosloski said. “He offered guidance and I tried to help keep this year’s team intact with what he was doing, while trying to implement my own stuff.” The Dragons finished with a 6-16 overall record and it started with a difficult stretch. They lost their first six games before getting a win on Dec. 27, in their last game of 2019, over Prairie Farm. Kosloski said the team was adapting to a different defensive philosophy and strategy though those early games, which may have been evident. “We weren’t a man-to-man defense and hadn’t been in several years,” he said. “But this year, we did that all year.” Another apparent change to the team during the preseason and early in the season were the regular meetings held at the start of each practice. Kosloski said this was partially to cover the day’s objectives and also to get regular updates. Since he doesn’t teach or work at the school prior to practice, Kosloski got his daily news from the players. “I wanted to know if anything going on, in or away from school, that I should know about,” he said. “I’m a coach only, so I don’t work with the school during the day and I wanted to stay up to date on everyone.” Kosloski also was adjusting to a quicker game pace, transitioning from coaching staff for girls basketball to calling the shots for varsity boys basketball. While he said the boys game was quicker, the season’s second win wasn’t as expedient. After a three-game skid to start 2020, Siren earned its first back-to-back wins of the season. The Dragons won home games against Frederic and Washburn, then only a loss to eventual Lakeland West champ Unity interrupted a five-game streak. Siren closed January with Glenwood City and Grantsburg after its loss to the Eagles, though a five-game skid preceded the season’s final win, over Clayton. Kosloski said he quickly identified a potential error he made that possibly could have benefited the Dragons, if identified. “One thing we got away from, which could have hurt us at the end, was conditioning,” he said. “We didn’t have enough conditioning late and maybe I’m a little too soft on that. “And I learned it’s difficult to keep practices from being redundant, but tried to look for things that were new and maybe drew excitement to try keeping their interest, so it didn’t become so boring.” An added bonus for Kosloski was the opportunity to coach his nephew Nathan, a senior, and son Brady, a junior, in their final season together on the Siren roster. “I thank the school for extending the opportunity and the staff that agreed to help,” he said. “It was a new experience and I think we’ve worked to try changing the culture of basketball, to some degree, in Siren.”
No completion to state tournaments; no state trophies
Financial rug pulled out from under WIAA
STEVENS POINT – Some schools were prevented from putting a state-title trophy on display.
But without completion of the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association state finals for girls and boys basketball, the losses by programs, players and their families are hypothetical. They may have reached their given division’s championship game, then again they may also have been trounced in the opening round and relegated to a quiet ride home.
However, the losses for WIAA are definite.
The recent proclamation to scrap the boys and girls state basketball finals, due to concerns about spreading the coronavirus, essentially pulled a financial rug out from under WIAA. The nonprofit organization that essentially organizes and supervises high school athletics in Wisconsin relies heavily upon income from these state finals in order to operate and, based strictly on the books, this virus couldn’t have arrived in a worse time.
"(State finals income) is a large percentage of the (WIAA) budget,” communications director Todd Clark said. "It’s 80-85% of our revenue, and boys basketball is by far the biggest sport as far as revenue for our operating budget.”
The possibility of postponing, if not canceling, the state finals became a realistic scenario early last week as confirmed cases of coronavirus began to rise in the United States. By midweek, word from Madison forced WIAA’s hand, at least regarding boys basketball.
WIAA was notified by University of Wisconsin - Madison that the Kohl Center, which hosts both the high school boys basketball state finals and home games for UW-Madison basketball and hockey, would not be available for the playoff games, scheduled to start this weekend.
UW-Green Bay, the host site for the girls basketball state finals, followed suit before the end of the week, also deciding to close its doors for an undetermined amount of time in an effort to prevent spreading the virus. Therefore, multiple days of potential revenue from two different sites were effectively lost for WIAA.
According to Clark, financial and emergency planning by WIAA should prevent these cancelations from becoming catastrophic for the nonprofit.
"From what I understand, there’s always a reserve (fund) with state athletic associations,” he said. "We’ve been pretty good about not overspending and, from reports we’ve heard, there isn’t financial jeopardy even though most of the operating budget is derived from (state final) ticket sales.
"But we’re still busy trying to figure out the entire impact.”
Clark and other WIAA employees had little time between confirmation of cancellations and the end of the week to research state athletics history, but he doesn’t recall another instance of such postseason scheduling chaos during his time.
"We think the last time something like this has happened in Wisconsin was during World War II,” he said. "Some sports had rations and were cutting down on miles traveled. That year, they took results from sectionals to determine state champions.”
While that won’t be the case in this instance, WIAA and school administrations statewide now shift focus to spring sports, which are likely to have at least a delayed start. Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers announced a mandatory temporary close to K-12 schools Wednesday, March 18, if not earlier. This, just two weeks before the scheduled start of spring sports like baseball and softball.
"We’re continuing to talk to health officials and the situation seems to be ever-evolving,” Clark said.
Unity’s state title hopes dashed with cancellation
Jaxon Flaherty winds his way through Cameron defenders in the WIAA sectional game last Thursday, March 12. - Photos by Joshua Cramlet
But season produced conference title and a 22-3 overall record
AMERY – The news was disappointing to Shaun Fisher for several reasons.
Unity’s boys basketball coach had the Lakeland West’s top player in his senior season, had a sectional matchup he expected to be an interesting game, and the team was on the verge of making a rare state-final appearance for the program.
Instead, the Eagles and Lakeland West Player of the Year Jaxon Flaherty had their hopes dashed with the cancellation of remaining postseason games as concern over the coronavirus continued to build.
"It was pretty disappointing to hear,” Fisher said. "My initial response was favoring postponing the games rather than canceling them, but it became easier to understand with events since then.”
Just hours before WIAA confirmed the cancellation of remaining playoff games for winter sports, the Eagles believed they’d extended their season with a 59-42 win over Cameron on Thursday, March 12, to follow their regional championship.
Flaherty scored a game-high 23 points for the Eagles, providing first-half scoring that allowed the team a lead entering halftime. He scored 15 points in the first half, including nine from 3-point range. Ian Payne’s four first-half 3-pointers for Cameron were the lone factor keeping Unity’s lead from being double digits entering the break.
"We could have easily been up by 11 points going into the half,” Fisher said. "(Cameron) hit a half-courter with two seconds left (in the half), but we were still up by eight and in the second half our defense was stifling.”
Unity limited Cameron to just 17 second-half points, which Flaherty and Zach Collins nearly matched on their own. Flaherty added eight points in the second half while Collins scored nine of his 11 points after halftime. The defensive effort gave the Eagles an honor in addition to a playoff win.
"We held Cameron to under 50 points both times we faced them this season and those are the only two games they were held under 50,” Fisher said. "Our defense was pretty good all year.”
Dan Sorensen added 10 points for the Eagles and Jake Bloom had eight. The win moved Unity a game closer to the state finals and would have led to a matchup with Luther on Saturday, if not for Friday’s confirmation of postseason cancellation.
"That would have been a competitive game and the teams would have been matched up well,” Fisher said. "It’s one of the hard things to process for the players.”
Instead, the Eagles must be satisfied with the Lakeland West title they earned with a 10-2 in-conference record, a 22-3 overall record and a regional championship. Unity ended the season with a 19-game winning streak that started in mid-December and included three playoff wins.
Cards’ journey to state title ends abruptly due to COVID-19
Carsen Eley goes up against the Northwood defender, Logan Henning, on this shot under the basket. The Northwood defense ran out of steam late in the game.
Luck defeated Northwood in WIAA sectionals in final game
of season

HAYWARD – A second-half recovery allowed the Luck boys basketball team to continue its playoff path as of Thursday night, March 12.
In what finished as the final night of postseason play for the 2019-2020 season due to WIAA’s cancellation due to coronavirus concerns, the Cardinals overcame a slim halftime deficit by nearly doubling Northwood’s second-half point total in a 63-44 sectional win at Hayward. Levi Jensen had a game-high 24 points, scoring 17 after halftime.
Jensen’s first three points were scored early in the first half to end a 4-0 Evergreens run to start the game, and he later he scored from short range to give the Cardinals their final lead of the first half, at 16-15. Northwood eventually took a 21-20 lead into the break, but Luck reclaimed the advantage early in the second half.
The Cardinals scored the first six points of the second half and soon after had a 6-0 run that put them up 33-27. The Evergreens trailed for the remainder. With a 39-34 lead and less than eight minutes remaining in regulation, Jensen sank 3-pointers on back-to-back trips to give the Cardinals an 11-point lead.
Jensen and Gage Johansen had additional 3-pointers soon after and Carsen Eley sank four attempts at the free-throw line in a 13-2 Luck run to put the Cardinals up by double digits for the remainder. Northwood’s reliance on long-range shooting, in addition to Luck’s scoring, made the difference down the stretch; the Evergreens were 1-for-8 from 3-point range in the final 10 minutes.
Luck also held an advantage at the free-throw line, going 16-for-25 while Northwood was just 6-for-14.
Johansen finished with 11 points, 14 rebounds and six assists for Luck; Eley had 11 points and Ben Smith added 10. Joshua Daleiden and Collin Krmpotich had 11 points each for Northwood.
The Cardinals finished the season with a 21-5 overall record and would have advanced to within a game of the state final, had the postseason not been canceled due to concerns over the spread of coronavirus.
Did conspiracy, not coronavirus, spoil state titles for Luck and Unity?
Troy A. Bruzewski | For The Leader
MADISON – Extreme disappointment can be countered with humor and fact.
The boys basketball teams from Luck and Unity may both have been on a path to Madison for the WIAA state finals, if not for coronavirus concerns forcing the cancellation of remaining playoff games in winter sports. The Eagles could have been Division 4 champions while the Cardinals may have done the same in Division 5 – which presents a unique business opportunity for both schools.
Rather than just wondering what could have been, they can put it in print. I suggest both schools rush to a local screen printer or search for one online and create the artwork for "The Would-Have-Been Champions” T-shirts to be produced in all sizes. After all, nobody can prove either team wouldn’t have been hoisting their given division’s state title, which is a fact to match the humor desperately needed in the situation.
But I wouldn’t stop there.
As a person who believes that Lee Harvey Oswald and a magical gun didn’t break the laws of physics and common sense in Dealey Plaza, that firefighters and police recognize the sound of explosions and that amateur pilots can’t pull off Chuck Yeager-like maneuvers in jumbo jets despite never having been in the cockpit of one before, I say let future generations enjoy a new conspiracy plot.
The legend of these two teams could grow larger than the accomplishment of a state title itself, particularly if the shady aspects are based on facts. And since school is out for a few weeks, this can double as a history lesson. So let’s ponder the grandiose possibilities before many of you start searching YouTube for documentaries on the following subjects because the potential stories are much better and more entertaining than detailing an airborne virus. Each subject certainly has a documentary on it, since they’re all real things admitted to by our government.
The HAARP System
How do we know the government didn’t fire up the HAARP System to create wind currents that would more-rapidly deliver the coronavirus to the United States, in order to prevent Luck and/or Unity from winning a state title? This collection of high-power transmitters in Alaska is supposedly used to study the ionosphere, but many investigators claim HAARP could be used for weather modification and allege it was in operation days before a tsunami hit Haiti in 2010.
We are through the looking glass here, people.
This top-secret CIA operation exposed both willing and unwilling subjects to psychoactive drugs to study the potential for mind control, among other things. Nearly 100 locations in the United States and Canada were involved in the project whose participants included a man named Theodore Kaczynski, who years later became known as the Unabomber. The project came to public knowledge in the 1970s and was supposedly halted, but can we be sure it isn’t still active and that agents used its tactics to convince WIAA to cancel the remaining playoff games, rather than playing them in an empty gymnasium and broadcasting them online?
Project Rainbow
The general point to this secret project was to explore the possibility of creating time tunnels and wormholes, which then could lead to time travel. Maybe someone in 1930 could move years into the future to learn about Adolf Hitler, then return to 1930 and help prevent World War II. Then again, maybe a Luck or Unity rival from the future traveled back in time to halt their potential title run.
Dulce Base
This location in New Mexico is an alleged site of an underground fortress city occupied by both aliens and humans, who conduct experiments on kidnapped and unwilling humans. It’s also supposedly a portal for aliens to expediently travel to other points on the planet or the universe. Legend says then-president Jimmy Carter learned of this secret project and ordered military factions to invade and destroy the base, leading to the "Dulce Wars.” Can we be certain that a player or players from Luck or Unity wouldn’t have followed an official state title with a vacation to New Mexico, where they accidentally discovered this base is still operational?
There are so many more potential conspiracies that can’t be covered at the moment. I’m about to go speak to the two gentlemen in suits and sunglasses, sitting in an SUV with tinted windows and no license plates, parked on the street nearby.
Luck, Unity move on to sectional games
Luck goes on to play in the WIAA division 5 sectional championship game after edging out contender Northwoods Thursday, March 12. Luck edged Northwood 63-44 and will go on to participate in Saturday, March 14, sectional game against McDonnell Central Catholic. Unity will go on to play in the WIAA division 4 sectional championship game after topping Cameron Thursday, March 12. Unity defeated Cameron 59-42 and will participate in the sectional game against Luther on Saturday.
Chryst talks 2020 roster ahead of Badgers football's spring practices
Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst gestures during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Madison. Wisconsin will head into spring practice with plenty of questions as the Badgers attempt to replace their top play makers from a team that reached the Rose Bowl last season. - Andy Manis/AP Photo
Head Coach Paul Chryst says he's “excited to see if we can make the most out of this spring”| Megan Hart
Spring practices start Tuesday for the University of Wisconsin Badgers football team.
Head coach Paul Chryst told reporters Monday the team would begin with drills. He said transitioning into full practices will allow the players to make the most of its 15 spring sessions, the maximum number allowed by the NCAA. The Badgers' final spring practice will be held April 18 at Camp Randall Stadium, which will be open to the public.
Chryst said the offseason has four distinct phases: winter conditioning, spring football, summer conditioning and fall camp. The team put in a lot of work in the weight room this winter, he said. His focus is on player development this spring, he added.
During Monday's news conference, Chryst discussed several position groups. There will be plenty of snaps to go around when it comes to quarterbacks, he said. There is expected to be competition for the position this year.
Returning starter Jack Coan will be a senior next season. Last year, he recorded the second-highest quarterback rating in school history behind Russell Wilson's 2011 mark. Wilson is now starting quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks.
Graham Mertz, who will be a sophomore, was a four-star recruit coming out of high school. He received offers to play at other top programs including the University of Alabama and Clemson University. He’s also likely to contend for the starting job.
Chryst said all four quarterbacks on Wisconsin’s roster do a good job of pushing each other.
"They've done a really good job of being competitive and kind of balancing that with being good teammates for each other," he said.
The Badgers lost key players at other skill positions to the NFL Draft. Jonathan Taylor, one of the most prolific rushers in college football history, appeared at the NFL Combine where he ran the fastest 40-yard dash of any running back. Wideout Quintez Cephus, who led the Badgers in receiving yards last season, also declared for the NFL.
Chryst said Monday he’s comfortable with the playmakers he’s taking into the upcoming season.
"Each year plays out differently, but I like the group," he said.
Wisconsin is returning many of its starters on defense. Chryst singled out linebacker Jack Sanborn and defensive lineman Isaiahh Loudermilk and Garrett Rand as possible leaders of the experienced squad.
The Badgers will open their 2020 campaign in Madison against the Indiana Hoosiers on Sept. 4. It'll be the first time since 1982 they faced a Big Ten opponent in the first game of the year, according to Sports Illustrated.
"That's what's awesome about playing in the Big Ten, each week's big and it's going to start right from the get go," Chryst said.
Blizzard Hockey TO STATE
The Blizzard hockey team will travel to Altoona for the state tournament this weekend. Their first game is at 11:30 a.m. against the Milwaukee Blaze. They are all in and ready to see what they can accomplish together. Pictured top (L to R): Lane Hopkins, Grayson Hendricks-Baxter, Landon Smestad, Aidan Johnson, Dallis Strehlo, Lewis Anderson, Clayton Shutt and Eva Imme. Front: Coach Kelly Hopkins, coach Chris Shutt, Levi Anderson, Ryder Anderson, Bradon Nutter, Jenna Lester, Jacob Pedersen, Tim (Joel) McDonald, Kelsey Douglas, Owen Douglas, coach Andy Douglas and Landyn Randt. Not pictured is team manager Stephanie Randt. – Photo provided
Peterson earns pair of top-25 performances at WIAA  gymnastics finals
Her third and final trip to state
WISCONSIN RAPIDS – Jeni Petersen closed her third and final trip to the WIAA Division 2 gymnastics state finals with a pair of top-25 event finishes on Saturday, March 7.
Petersen, a senior, qualified for three events in Saturday’s finale and was one spot away from adding a third top-25 finish, though she’d hope to challenge for a top spot as she concluded her time with the Grantsburg girls co-op team.
"Jeni was a bit disappointed,” Grantsburg coach Kathy Lund said. "It was not one of her better meets.”
Petersen’s best finish was at the uneven bars. Her score of 8.033 put her 18th in the final standings while Whitefish Bay’s Addie Gallun won the event with a 9.383 – one of just two scores over 9.0. Petersen’s score left her a half point from a top-10 finish.
In the floor exercise, Petersen placed 23rd with an 8.467. Mount Horeb’s Drea O’Connell won the event with a 9.567.
Petersen also qualified in the all-around, which granted her entrance to the final’s other two events. She had an 8.133 in the vault, which would have put her 31st in event scoring and her 7.183 at the balance beam, which would have been good for 36th. Gallun won the vault with a 9.533 and O’Connell won the balance beam with a 9.33.
Petersen’s all-around score was 31.816 and put her 26th in the final standings; Gallun also won this event, with a 37.550. This state-final appearance for Petersen still meant she is one of the few Grantsburg competitors to make multiple appearances at Wisconsin Rapids.
"She ended her gymnastics career with three trips to state (and) earned second-team all-state on the floor exercise,” Lund said. "I’m extremely proud of all her accomplishments.”
Saints fall basket shy of sectional title
Emily McCurdy drives to the basket against an Arcadia defender in the WIAA sectional final last Saturday, March 7, at Baldwin-Woodville.
Arcadia stops postseason run with 52-49 win
BALDWIN – Olivia Miron and a second-half defensive effort put the St. Croix Falls girls basketball team in the sectional final, but the Saints fell a basket shy from a potential sectional title.
St. Croix Falls went to Amery for Thursday’s semifinal and earned a 53-39 win over Northwestern to advance to Saturday’s final at Baldwin-Woodville, where Arcadia stopped the Saints postseason run with a 52-49 win.
Miron scored a game-high 19 points for the Saints in their win over Northwestern, though first-half scoring distribution provided a lead entering halftime. Both Olivia and Kaylee Miron had six points in the first half while Lucia Neuman and Emily McCurdy provided long-range shooting, each making a 3-pointer and scoring seven first-half points.
Karsyn Jones helped keep the Tigers within striking distance by scoring 10 of the team’s 23 first-half points, including a pair of 3-pointers. St. Croix Falls took a three-point lead into the break and built upon the advantage with Olivia Miron’s scoring, along with more points at the free-throw line.
She had 13 second-half points while teammates accounted for eight makes at the line. The Saints finished 15-for-30 at the free-throw line, which was enough to maintain a late lead.
Neuman and McCurdy finished with nine points each; Kaylee Miron had seven. Jones led Northwestern with 14 points but just three other Tigers had more than one make from the floor and none of those had more than two.
The win gave the Saints a sectional final matchup with Arcadia on Saturday at Baldwin-Woodville, and a second-half comeback fell short in the loss.
Ellie Hoesley presented challenges for St. Croix Falls at the defensive end in the first half, scoring 13 points, including nine off 3-pointers. Though the Saints got three total 3-pointers from Brianna McCurdy and Olivia Miron, they still trailed 30-21 entering halftime.
"The primary focus was not letting (Hoesley) get a shot off in the second half,” St. Croix Falls coach Angie Maternowsky said.
The Saints accomplished that by holding Hoesley scoreless in the second half and allowing them to close the gap. Kaylee Miron scored all 13 of her points in the second half for St. Croix Falls while the defense caused a bit more difficulty for Arcadia.
"We were able in the last five minutes to create a few more turnovers,” Maternowsky said.
But just as in the first half, the Saints were unable to get the lead in the second half. The Raiders weren’t efficient at the free-throw line but did just enough to keep the late lead. They finished 12-for-26 at the line overall, but even a missed free throw in the final seconds couldn’t help the Saints get the final possession.
Arcadia got the rebound off a missed attempt that could have provided a chance for a last-second game-tying 3-pointer for St. Croix Falls, but that was denied with the Raiders rebound.
Emily McCurdy finished with 12 points for the Saints; Brianna McCurdy and Olivia Miron had 10 points each. The Saints finished the season with a 24-2 overall record.
Eagles advance; next opponent: Cameron
Unity’s Jaxon Flaherty. - Photo by Eugene Sikorski
Extend win streak to 19 with playoff victories
AMERY – Another repeat win on Thursday gives the Unity boys basketball team a shot at a sectional title.
The Eagles remained unbeaten in 2020 and extended their win streak to 19 games by claiming two WIAA regional games last week, including a second win over Cumberland for the regional title.
On Friday, Unity crushed Ladysmith in a 60-34 playoff opener with Cullen Feist scoring a game-high 23 points. But the Eagles defense was the main contributor to the lopsided win.
Unity held Ladysmith to just 13 points in the first half and only one Lumberjack to sink more than one shot from the floor. Feist nearly matched Ladysmith’s first-half total, scoring 11 points before halftime.
Jaxon Flaherty joined Feist in second-half scoring to help the Eagles maintain a double-digit lead through the second half. Flaherty sank a pair of 3-pointers and scored 13 of his 16 points in the second half while Feist scored another 12.
Peyton Rogers led the Lumberjacks with 15 points, sinking three of the team’s six 3-pointers in the game.
Unity drew a regional final rematch against Cumberland, which didn’t fare any better this time around. The Eagles defeated Cumberland 67-51 in late January and this time won 52-31 to win the regional title.
The Beavers relied heavily on long-range shooting in the first half, scoring 12 of their 18 first-half points from the 3-point line. However, Jaxon Flaherty and the Eagles matched their four 3-pointers and added more scoring depth.
Flaherty had 10 first-half points, including two 3-pointers, while Dan Sorensen added six points and Jake Bloom and Zach Collins each sank a 3-pointer. The Eagles took a 28-18 lead into the break and kept adding to it in the second half.
Unity allowed just three Cumberland players to score in the second half and limited the team to 13 points. Bloom and Sorensen had eight points each in the second half; Sorensen finished with a team-high 14 points, Bloom had 12 and Flaherty finished with 10.
Jack Martens led the Beavers with 11 points and Noah Schradle added 10. They were two of the three Cumberland players who managed more than one make from the floor.
"We played very well as a team and fought hard to earn the regional championship,” Unity coach Shaun Fisher said. "We are very proud of our players and fans for a fun weekend of basketball.”
The Eagles earned a sectional opener against Cameron, which they defeated 85-46 in mid-January. Unity improved to 21-3 overall on the season. Thursday’s game is scheduled for a 7 p.m. start at Amery.
Cardinals head to sectional championship Thursday
Levi Jensen (photo at left) took his turn cutting down the net after the Luck Cardinals defeated Birchwood to earn a sectional matchup with Northwood this Thursday, March 12. At right, Gage Johansen waits for an opening. - Photos by Seth Mack
Face Northwood at Hayward in a 7 p.m. game

LUCK – The competition technically was closing in on the Luck boys basketball team by week’s end.
After the Cardinals defeated Lac Courte Oreilles by 79 points in the postseason opener, their next two opponents both came within 50 points, though they posed little resistance in Luck’s path to a regional title.
The Cardinals also thrashed their regional semifinal and final opponents, Washburn and Birchwood, to advance to sectional competition this week. Following their 106-27 win on Tuesday, March 3, they defeated Washburn 80-48 and Birchwood 94-48 to earn a sectional matchup with Northwood this Thursday, March 12.
Luck scored 65 points in the first half of their playoff-opener win over the Eagles, who got 22 of their 27 points from Tyson Rademacher. But, Ben Smith scored 22 for the Cardinals to lead their six players who reached double-digit point totals.
The Cardinals scored the first 10 points of the game and later in the half went on a 28-0 run to take control of the game. They entered halftime with a 49-point lead, then scored the first 11 points of the second half.
Gage Johansen had 19 points, 15 rebounds and 14 assists for Luck; Levi Jensen had 18 points; Chris Murphy had 17 points and seven rebounds; Brayden Eder had 11 points; and Riley Runnels had 10 points and eight rebounds.
Washburn represented more of a challenge to the Cardinals in Friday’s regional semifinal, but still were essentially defeated before halftime. Jensen scored a game-high 21 points and added nine rebounds to lead five Luck scorers in double digits.
The Cardinals started the game with three consecutive 3-pointers and were approaching a 20-point lead near the midway point of the first half. They ended the half with a 14-3 run to take a 58-24 lead into the break.
Smith finished with 15 points for Luck; Johansen had 13 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds; Carsen Eley had 13 points and eight assists; while Runnels had 12 points.
Jensen nearly led the Cardinals to another 100-point total in Saturday’s regional final, scoring a game-high 30 points in the lopsided win over Birchwood.
Luck scored the first nine points of the game and held a 20-point lead before the Bobcats had their second basket of the game. Eley sank a 3-pointer late in the first half to give the Cardinals a 40-point lead entering the break.
Johansen finished with 24 points, 19 rebounds and 10 assists for the Cardinals; Runnels had 13 points and Wyatt Jensen had 11 points with six rebounds. Matthew Marcinske led Birchwood with 27 points, though the rest of the roster accounted for just 21 points.
The Cardinals enter the sectional with a nine-game win streak and a 20-5 overall record. Northwood is 16-8 on the season and won its regional final 68-66 over Mellen. Thursday’s game is scheduled for a 7 p.m. start at Hayward.
Unity, Luck, Northwood boys advance; Clear Lake girls head to state
NORTHWEST WISCONSIN - The Unity and Luck boys remain alive in the WIAA Boys Basketball tournament after posting victories Saturday in sectional play.
Unity defeated Cumberland 52-31 at home in a Division 4 game, Saturday, March 7. They will play Cameron this Thursday, March 12, at Amery at 7 p.m.
Luck defeated Birchwood 94-48 at home and Northwood upset Mellen 68-66, at Mellen, on Saturday in Division 5 play. Luck will play Northwood this Thursday at Hayward at 7 p.m.
St. Croix Falls lost to Bloomer in a close game, 66-64, on Saturday.
In girls WIAA playoff action Thursday, March 5, St. Croix Falls lost to Arcadia by a score of 52-49 in Division 3, and Unity lost to Melrose-Mondiro by a score of 82-40 in Division 4.
In Division 5, the Clear Lake girls (26-0) are advancing to the state final in Green Bay after defeating Northwood, 54-38, on Saturday, March 7. They are scheduled to play Bangor (25-1) at approximately 11 a.m. at the Resch Center. WXOW.com plans to webcast the game. The Division 5 championship game is scheduled for Saturday, March 14, at 11:05 a.m.
St. Croix Falls, Unity, Clear Lake and Northwood girls advance
NORTHWEST WISCONSIN - The St. Croix Falls, Unity, Clear Lake and Northwood girls basketball teams posted victories in WIAA tournament action Thursday evening, March 5, and will advance to sectional finals this Saturday, March 7.
St. Croix Falls defeated Northwestern 53-39 in Division 3 action. They will play Arcadia on Saturday in Baldwin-Woodville at 4 p.m.
Unity defeated Colfax 52-40 and will face Melrose Mindoro in the Division 4 sectional final on Saturday at Colfax.  The game begins at 7 p.m.In Division 5, Northwood defeated Mellen, 62-43 and will face off against Clear Lake, who defeated Loyal 46-29, in the sectional title game Saturday, March 7, at 1 p.m. at Superior.
Winners of the sectional games will advance to the state title games in each division Friday, March 13. 
Kullan Parks of the St. Croix Falls Saints boys basketball team made his 600th career rebound this season. He was congratulated by coach Chad Hall (left) and assistant coach Tory Greenquist. - Photo by Sharon Wampfler
Two milestones for Gage Johansen
LUCK – The most recent basketball player at Luck High School to achieve the two milestones of both 1,000 high school career points and 500 high school career rebounds was Gage Johansen. Gage is the son of Kyle and Heather (Olson) Johansen. Gage is the third in a line of cousins to achieve this milestone at Luck High School. Brennan Olson, son of Karen and Brian Olson, got his 1,000 points and 500 rebounds recognition in 2009. Brennan went on to study and play hoops at Augustana University. He is currently studying medicine at the Oregon Health and Science University in Portland. Noah Mortel, son of Gary and Jessica (Olson) Mortel, racked up his 1,000th point and 500th rebound in 2016. Noah went on to study and play football at the University of North Dakota. Noah will be a 2020 graduate of UND. Brennan is the grandson and Noah and Gage are great-grandsons of Virginia and Irving Olson, (both deceased), of Atlas. Noah Mortel attended the Siren-at-Luck basketball game on Friday, Feb. 14, and presented his cousin Gage with his 500 career rebounds trophy ball.   Gage has made a commitment to play baseball at Century College in White Bear Lake, Minnesota.
Unity heads into playoffs with 16-game win streak
Frederic’s Adam Dreier goes up for a shot against Shell Lake earlier in the season. The Vikings lost in first-round WIAA tournament action Tuesday, March 3, with a loss to Northwood. - Photo by Larry Samson
Teams wind up regular season play
BALSAM LAKE – The Unity boys basketball team took a 16-game winning streak and a Lakeland West title into the postseason this week. 
The streak included eight conference wins that gave the Eagles a one-game advantage over Luck in the final standings; it also included a pair of lopsided wins last week. 
On Thursday, Feb. 27, the Eagles hosted Clear Lake for a 54-37 win, avenging a season-opening loss to the Warriors. Cullen Feist scored a team-high 13 points, including nine in the first half for Unity. 
The Eagles held a 25-19 lead at halftime but outscored Clear Lake 29-18 in the second half with help from free throws. Unity made 15 of its 19 attempts at the line in the game and Clear Lake attempted just four, making three of those. 
Jaxon Flaherty had 12 points for Unity, Zach Collins added 10 and Jake Bloom had eight. 
In Friday’s regular-season finale, the Eagles held Osceola to 15 points in the first half of a 50-38 win. 
Flaherty scored a game-high 17 points for Unity and Dan Sorensen added 12. Flaherty accounted for two of the team’s three 3-pointers and seven of their 11 makes at the free-throw line. 
Feist and Collins added six points each for the Eagles, who ended the regular season with a 19-3 overall record. Their record garnered a first-round bye in the playoffs and they will host a semifinal game later this week. 
"We did a nice job finishing the regular season against some quality teams,” Unity coach Shaun Fisher said. "We are working hard to be prepared for a fun playoff push in a challenging bracket.”
Siren 73, Clayton 21
SIREN – Riley Churchill scored a game-high 28 points for the Dragons in their win on Thursday. 
Nathan Kosloski added 21 points and joined Churchill with 14 points in the first half. Chad Songetay added seven points for the Dragons, who drew a first-round playoff game against South Shore. 
Siren ended the regular season with a 6-15 overall record. 
Grantsburg 53, Northwood 37
GRANTSBURG – Austin Wedin scored a game-high 16 points for the Pirates in their win to conclude the regular season on Thursday, Feb. 27. 
Wedin scored 12 points from 3-point range while Jared Van Watermeulen scored all 11 of his points in the first half. Carson Knutson had 10 points and Gus Bergman added eight for the Pirates, who entered the postseason with a 13-9 overall record. 
Frederic 73, Cornell 27
FREDERIC – The Vikings ended their regular season with their highest-scoring game of the season on Thursday. 
Adam Dreier scored a game-high 26 points and added 10 rebounds for Frederic; he was 10-for-11 from the floor and 6-for-7 at the free-throw line. The Vikings took a 35-14 lead into halftime and continued adding to their advantage in the second half. 
Logan Lillehaug had 16 points for the Vikings, who had 11 players score in the game. 
Frederic ended the regular season with a 6-16 overall record. 
Luck 89, Shell Lake 60
LUCK – Levi Jensen and Gage Johansen had over 20 points each for the Cardinals in their win on Thursday. 
Jensen finished with a game-high 25 points and had 11 assists with nine rebounds. He made four of his seven 3-point attempts and was 5-for-7 from the floor. Johansen had 22 points with 11 rebounds and eight assists, making six of his 14 3-point attempts and adding five steals. 
Carsen Eley had 16 points and Riley Runnels added 10 to give Luck four double-digit scorers in the game.
SCF 89, Turtle Lake 47
ST. CROIX FALLS – The Saints scored 51 first-half points in their win on Thursday. 
Kullan Parks scored a team-high 21 points and added 11 rebounds while Declan Greenquist and Alex Mysicka had 17 points each. 
St. Croix Falls went 11-for-23 from 3-point range while Turtle Lake made just four of its 26 long-range attempts. Brendan Strenke led all scorers with 23 for Turtle Lake, though the rest of their roster managed just 24 points. 
Payton Christenson had 13 points for the Saints and Dayo Oye had 10. 
St. Croix Falls ended the regular season with a 17-5 overall record. 
Webster 67, Prairie Farm 42
WEBSTER – The Tigers finished the regular season with a 10-12 overall record after their win on Thursday. The win stopped a three-game losing streak prior to the start of postseason play. 
Luck 88, New Auburn 43
NEW AUBURN – The Cardinals surpassed the 80-point plateau for the second time in as many days on Friday, Feb. 28. 
Levi Jensen and Carsen Eley had 22 points each for Luck while Gage Johansen added 19 points and team-high totals in rebounds, 10, and assists, 8. Jensen had nine rebounds and five steals while Eley had five assists. 
Luck took a 20-point lead into the break and added to their lead by holding New Auburn to just 14 second-half points. 
Ben Smith and Wyatt Jensen had eight points each for Luck, which ended the regular season with a 17-5 overall record. 
Petersen has five top-5 finishes at state gymnastics
Jeni Petersen (second from left) placed second in the floor exercise at state finals with a score of 9.35.
State finals begin Friday at Wisconsin Rapids
RIVER FALLS – For the third time in as many tries, Jeni Petersen is representing the Grantsburg gymnastics team in the state finals. 
Petersen, a senior, secured her spot in the season finale with her performance in the sectional at River Falls on Saturday. She had top-five finishes in three categories to lead Grantsburg to a fifth-place finish in the team standings. 
Grantsburg totaled 125.55 points while the GMC co-op topped the team standings with 136.95. River Falls, 135.475, West Salem, 134.525, and Menomonie, 128.675, completed the top five. 
Petersen’s best finish was a runner-up spot in the floor exercise with a 9.35. River Falls’ Autumn Tiede won the event with a 9.6; Alli Peterson added a 15th-place finish for Grantsburg with an 8.45. 
Petersen had a fourth-place finish at the uneven bars with an 8.5, with West Salem’s Ella Krause leading the way with an 8.9. Amy Harmon tied for 17th with a 7.7 for Grantsburg; Khylie Young-Garayt was 23rd with a 7.4.
The first two top-five finishes for Petersen boosted her all-around score to 34.15, putting her fifth; Tiede also led this event’s scoring with a 35.85. Young-Garayt had a 14th-place finish with a 31.35 and Peterson was 18th with a 30.4. 
Petersen also led Grantsburg at the balance beam, though she missed a top-10 finish by a tenth of a point. She placed 11th with an 8.3, with GMC’s Abby Miller winning the event with an 8.9. Young-Garayt was 21st with a 7.475. 
Young-Garayt did earn a top-10 finish in the vault, tying for 10th with an 8.425. Peterson was 18th with an 8.2 and Petersen was 26th with an 8.0. 
Petersen, therefore, qualified for state competition in three events after qualifying in just one event her first two trips to the state final. 
"This was a very exciting meet,” Grantsburg coach Kathy Lund said. "Going into this meet, our goal was not to worry about a score. (The) sectional is a big meet and scoring would be tight.”
The two-day state finals begin at the Lincoln High School field house in Wisconsin Rapids this Friday, March 6, at 1 p.m. and conclude on Saturday, with events starting at 10:30 a.m.
Unity girls capture WIAA regional title
Unity’s Sydney Bader pulls down a rebound. - File photo by Eugene Sikorski
Face Chetek-Weyerhaeuser this Thursday in ectional play
BALSAM LAKE – Regional competition wasn’t near competitive for the Unity girls basketball team. 
Now the Eagles will see if sectional competition can pose a challenge. 
They finished the regular season with a nine-game winning streak and extended their roll with consecutive wins over Boyceville and Ladysmith, earning their first regional title in over 30 years. 
Unity earned a first-round bye for the postseason and began with a 65-25 rout over Boyceville in the Friday, Feb. 28, semifinal. Raegan Sorensen and Sierra Swanson had 18 points each for the Eagles, who scored 17 more points in the first half than Boyceville did in the game. 
Sorensen led the way with 13 points in the first half, matching the Bulldogs team total in the first half. Swanson added 12 points and Myah Nelson had 10 before halftime. Unity took a 42-13 lead into the break and was able to cruise in the second. 
The Eagles finished the game 13-for-18 at the free-throw line while Boyceville made just six of its 18 attempts in the game. 
Nelson had 14 points in the game for Unity; Madison Strange had nine and Sidney Bader added six. Only two Bulldogs had more than one make from the floor in the game and none of their players reached double-digit points. Kady Grombow led the team with eight points, six of those coming on 3-pointers. 
Another lopsided decision benefited the Eagles on Saturday, with a 69-32 win over Ladysmith in the regional championship game. Sorensen scored a game-high 22 points, leading the Eagles to a large first-half lead despite the efforts of Ladysmith’s top two scorers. 
Raemalee Smith scored 10 first-half points for the Lumberjacks while Emma Dieckman added eight, including six points from 3-point range. However, they were the lone two Ladysmith scorers in the first half and their total wasn’t nearly enough to keep pace with Unity. 
Sorensen had 13 points in the first half and Nelson added eight, giving the Eagles a 37-18 lead entering the break. The advantage increased in the second half with Unity holding Ladysmith to just 14 second-half points. 
The Eagles finished with a substantial advantage at the free-throw line, making 14 of their 25 attempts compared to Ladysmith’s 2-for-2 total. 
Swanson finished with 15 points for Unity; Strange had 10 and Nelson had nine. Smith led the Lumberjacks with 16 points and Dieckman had 11, though the rest of Ladysmith’s roster totaled just five points. 
Unity goes to Chetek-Weyerhaeuser this Thursday, March 5, for the sectional opener against Colfax. The matchup features two teams with 20-plus wins this season; the Eagles enter with a 20-3 overall record while the Vikings are 21-3. Unity coach Joe Tilton isn’t expecting another blowout victory. 
"Colfax is a very good, disciplined and well-coached team,” Tilton said. "We will have to play well to give ourselves a chance at the end.”
The game is scheduled for a 7 p.m. start.
Saint girls win second straight regional title
Members of the St. Croix Falls girls basketball team pose with their WIAA regional championship trophy. Shown (L to R) back row: Coach Angie Maternowsky, Kadence Soper, Jordan Lee, Olivia Miron, Emma Cooper, Bryanna Raddatz, Azalea Edwards, Sidrah Edwards, Julia Kloos, Emily McCurdy, Raelynn Kruger and coach Adam Kovar. Front: Lucia Neuman, Ashley Funk, Kaylee Miron, Brianna McCurdy, Sierra Braund, Sydnei Larson and Paige Hansen. - Photo courtesy Bryan Raddatz
Continue in playoffs Thursday versus No. 2 seed Northwestern
ST. CROIX FALLS – A small hiccup at the end of the regular season didn’t reappear in regional play for the St. Croix Falls girls basketball team. 
The Saints won their first 21 games leading to a regular-season finale with Clear Lake, which ended as a streak-stopping loss at home. But a new winning streak was started in postseason play as the Saints earned consecutive wins over Baldwin-Woodville and Barron to claim their second consecutive regional title. 
"We had scouted and were well-prepared for both teams,” St. Croix Falls coach Angie Maternowsky said. 
In their postseason opener on Friday, the Saints outscored Baldwin-Woodville 38-19 in the second half of a 63-43 win. It was the second win of the season over the Blackhawks and nearly by an identical score; St. Croix Falls earned a 66-34 win in early December. 
Olivia Miron scored a game-high 21 points for the Saints, though Emily McCurdy led the way early. McCurdy scored 10 of her 14 points in the first half, but the Blackhawks remained close and trailed by just one point, 25-24, entering halftime. 
St. Croix Falls found breathing room in the second half with Miron scoring 15 points, helping turn a close game into a runaway win. McCurdy finished with 14 points for the Saints and Lucia Neuman added eight. The Saints were 9-for-12 at the free-throw line and totaled 63 points without sinking a 3-pointer. 
Saturday’s regional title game had another familiar opponent along with a familiar result. The Saints defeated Barron 46-23 in their first matchup in early January and followed it with a 62-32 rout to claim the regional title. 
The Saints scored more points in the first half, 34, than the Bears had in the game, 32, and this time had the long-distance shooting. They sank four first-half 3-pointers and had five in the game, along with 15 total makes at the free-throw line. 
McCurdy led St. Croix Falls with 14 points and 12 of those were scored in the first half, where she sank two of the team’s 3-pointers. Neuman had 12 points and Miron added 11. The Saints held a 24-point lead entering halftime and added to their lead in the second half, despite five 3-pointers from Barron after halftime. 
Brianna McCurdy finished with eight points for St. Croix Falls and Kaylee Miron had seven. 
The win earned St. Croix Falls a sectional opener this Thursday, March 5, against an unfamiliar team.
"We had played Baldwin-Woodville early in the season and we played Barron just after the holiday break,” Maternowsky said. "It is exciting to play new teams (and) to be playing Northwestern … they are a very athletic team.”
Thursday’s game is scheduled for a 7 p.m. start at Amery.
Frederic senior Hannah Schmidt entered Frederic’s Feb. 25 playoff game against Mercer with 999 career points over her four seasons, and maybe never has an early-game free throw drawn such a reaction for the Vikings. Schmidt reached the four-figure realm by drawing a foul and going to the free-throw line for another pair of attempts, the second of which was converted and garnered the appropriate reaction for Frederic fans. “The crowd went wild when (Schmidt) hit the free throw in the first half,” Frederic athletic director Ethan Bergstrom said. That single point put Schmidt in a select group that included just three other players, two of whom were in attendance to welcome their club’s newest member. Sisters Amy Fossum and Cassie McKenzie congratulated the senior, who still had work remaining after the free throw. Schmidt was a first-team pick in the Lakeland West’s all-conference selections for her junior year and challenged Unity’s Raegan Sorensen in voting for top player. Schmidt also was an honorable mention in her sophomore season, when teammate Kalyn Miller-Robertson representing Frederic’s lone first-team selection. Schmidt averaged nearly 15 points per game for the 2019-2020 season and also led the team in rebounding at more than nine per game. She is shown with her proud parents, Troy and Becky Schmidt. - Photos courtesy Cecilia Pardun
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