NCAA playoffs: Where hoops shine and football flops

With March Madness busting out all over, the University of Wisconsin basketball team picked a bad time to get cold.

Or did it?

The Badgers fell out of first place in the Big Ten after losing 4 of their last 5 games – but despite that, all is not lost in the conference title hunt. Should they fail to catch first-place Purdue, there is always the mulligan known as the postseason conference tournament, winner of which can also lay claim as league champ.

Even in the unlikely event that the bottom totally falls out and the L’s keep coming over the next two weeks, their 22 wins are enough to ensure a spot in the NCAA postseason tournament for the 19th straight season.

For good teams looking to reverse some late-season slumping, the NCAA tournament is the ultimate do-over. Wisconsin will join 67 other teams in the hunt for college basketball’s crown jewel, which this year ends with the Final Four in Phoenix.


Mosinee buries Hawks in regional upset

Leader Photo by Chris Caporale Shawano Community High School senior Tyrell Hesse dribbles past Mosinee’s Ethan Rindfleisch in the second half of Shawano’s 59-53 loss Tuesday. Hesse pulled down five rebounds and scored four points in the WIAA Division 2 regional quarterfinal.

Leader Photo by Chris Caporale Shawano Community High School junior Cole Nelson looks to push the ball up the court early in Tuesday’s 59-53 home loss to Mosinee in the WIAA Division 2 regional quarterfinals. Nelson scored six points to go with a team-high five rebounds and two assists.

Mosinee’s Oliver Barnes banked in a 3-pointer with 3:36 remaining to give the Indians a six-point lead that they would not relinquish in an upset victory over Shawano on Tuesday.

Shawano junior Cole Nelson cut the deficit to one on a 3-pointer with just under a minute remaining, but Barnes made a layup as the Hawks went to their full-court press, and then four made free throws as Mosinee sealed the 59-53 WIAA Division 2 regional quarterfinal road win.

“I thought Mosinee, a very senior-laden team, did an excellent job of understanding the one-and-done kind of philosophy of the state tournament,” Shawano head coach Dave Ambrosius said. “If you have one bad night, you can be going home.”

Mosinee senior Nick Bolanda recorded a game-high 26 points, including 21 in the first half.

When the teams met on Feb. 18 — a 59-45 Hawks victory, Bolanda was in foul trouble the majority of the game and finished with just six points.


Bonduel’s Banker returns to state podium

Leader Photo by Chris Caporale Bonduel High School junior Jacob Banker, top, finished his season with a 7-0 victory over Boyceville’s Justin Malean to take fifth place in the WIAA Division 3 state tournament Saturday.

Leader Photo by Chris Caporale Bonduel High School junior Jacob Banker dropped his third match in as many weeks to Coleman’s Jordan Blanchard at the state tournament. Banker rebounded to win his fifth-place match; Blanchard took third.

The third time wasn’t the charm for Bonduel junior Jacob Banker, who got his third shot at Coleman’s Jordan Blanchard in the consolation semifinals Saturday at the WIAA Division 3 state wrestling tournament in Madison.

Blanchard, who had won meetings in the regional and sectional title matches, earned a 12-1 major decision over Banker, who had to settle for fifth place at 170 pounds.

The previous two meetings both went into overtime.

“I think the biggest difference in that match is we had the senior vs. a junior … and he definitely wanted to go out on top,” Bonduel head coach Chris Rank said. “I think it meant a little more to Jordan Blanchard than maybe Jacob this year.”


Peplinski, Potrykus reach state podium

Leader Photo by Chris Caporale Wittenberg-Birnamwood High School senior Stetson Potrykus wrestles against Central Wisconsin Conference foe Brandon Peckham for fifth place at 152 pounds in the WIAA Division 3 state tournament. Potrykus won, 3-1, to finish in fifth place.

Leader Photo by Chris Caporale Wittenberg-Birnamwood High School senior Alex Peplinski tries to escape the grip of Boyceville’s James Palmer in the title match at 182 pounds of the WIAA Division 3 state tournament Saturday. Peplinski lost, 6-1, finishing second.

Two Wittenberg-Birnamwood seniors ended their seasons and high school careers on the podium Saturday at the WIAA Division 3 state tournament in Madison.

Alex Peplinski finished as the state runner-up at 182 pounds, and Stetson Potrykus took fifth place at 152 pounds.

“I’m pretty proud of them,” Wittenberg-Birnamwood head coach Troy Ostrowski said.

Ostrowski called Peplinski and champion James Palmer (44-1), of Boyceville, a step above the rest of the class in Madison.

Both wrestlers dominated their opponents en route to the title match. Peplinski had two pins in under two minutes each, and Palmer had a major decision and a pin in 1 minute and 20 seconds.

When the two squared off in the championship match, Palmer got a takedown and nearfall to jump out to a 4-0 lead in the first period. From there, Peplinski (44-5), a three-time state qualifier, was only outwrestled 2-1.


High School Highlights


Wabeno/Laona 66

Bonduel 53

Freshman guard Cole Letter hit four 3-pointers and posted a team-high 17 points as Bonduel lost its WIAA Division 4 regional quarterfinal Tuesday.

Junior Bryce Weier, who was a perfect 5 for 5 from the free-throw line, chipped in 16 points for the Bears (5-18, 3-11 Central Wisconsin Conference-8).

Sophomore Parker Bohm added 10 points for Bonduel.

Gresham 76

Three Lakes 34

Seniors Ray Creapeau, with eight assists, four steals and four rebounds, and Derek Bowman, with nine rebounds and six assists, helped Gresham win its WIAA Division 5 regional quarterfinal at home Tuesday.

Senior Neal Cerveny posted a game-high 23 points for the Wildcats (20-3, 17-1 Central Wisconsin Conference-10).

Junior Drew Haffner added 22 points for Gresham.

Witt-Birn 70

Menominee Indian 62


Peplinski advances to 182-pound title match

Photo by Mary Langenfeld Bonduel High School junior Jacob Banker competes in the WIAA Division 3 state wrestling tournament quarterfinals at the Kohl Center on Friday. He lost to Brady Peat, of Iowa-Grant Highland, in a 6-1 decision but later beat Daniel Kocourek, of Reedsville, in the wrestlebacks, 4-2, to secure a spot on the podium at 170 pounds.

Photo by Mary Langenfeld Alex Peplinski, of Wittenberg-Birnamwood High School, competes in the WIAA Division 3 state wrestling tournament quarterfinals at the Kohl Center on Friday. He pinned Stephen Schostok, of Kenosha Christian Life, in their 182-pound match in 1 minute and 35 seconds.

All three local wrestlers who competed Thursday at the WIAA Division 3 state meet in Madison secured positions in the top six Friday and are guaranteed at least a medal.

Bonduel junior Jacob Banker and Wittenberg-Birnamwood’s Stetson Potrykus and Alex Peplinski will be standing on the podium at the end of the tourney Saturday.

“That’s obviously the No. 1 goal when we get to the state tournament — to place,” Bonduel head coach Chris Rank.

Peplinski (44-4), a three-time state qualifier, advanced to the state title match at 182 pounds, earning another first-period pin, this time in the semifinals over Laconia’s Caleb Hopp (44-7) Friday night. Peplinski needed 1 minute and 34 seconds, one second less than his quarterfinal pin earlier in the day.

Peplinski will face Boyceville’s James Palmer (43-1) for the state title Saturday.


Johnson sees court, converts on senior night

Leader Photo by Lee Pulaski Shawano Community High School senior Richard Johnson made a layup on the opening possession of the game on senior night Thursday, getting the opportunity to score just four months removed from an ACL injury during the football season.

Shawano senior Richard Johnson was nervous as he stepped out onto the court Thursday to be a starter for the first time this season in his team’s Bay Conference season finale against New London.

Johnson, just four months removed from tearing his ACL in the Hawks’ Level 1 football playoff loss to Notre Dame and three months since surgery, waited under the basket for his time to shine on senior night.

“I was shaking really bad,” Johnson said.

Senior Tyrell Hesse, on the opening tip, got the ball to Josh Mueller, who made the long-distance pass to Johnson. Johnson, still in a knee brace after walking for the past month and a half, converted on the layup for the opening points of the game.

“It was just one of those moments that was great about high school sports,” Shawano head coach Dave Ambrosius said.

The Hawks (12-10, 9-5 Bay Conference) went on to win the game, 59-45.


Jensen finishing senior season with dominant play

Gresham girls basketball head coach Vaughn Miller saw into the future.

As an assistant at Bowler High School under his brother, AJ Miller, he faced Gresham’s Sydney Jensen four times over her freshman and sophomore seasons, and despite her youth, she showed signs of progress and skill that intrigued the brothers.

“‘Oh that No. 4, that red-headed girl on their team, she’s a pretty good player. She’s young, but she’s going to be an excellent player,’” Vaughn Miller recalled from a conversation with his brother. “I guess, we were able to see the future because I wasn’t wrong about that. She was a very good player.”

Jensen, who became the school’s fourth 1,000-point scorer in the regular season finale at home last week, has carried the Wildcats over the second half of her final season, averaging 20.5 points per game over her past four games, including Tuesday’s upset of Phelps in a WIAA Division 5 regional quarterfinal.


Banker, Potrykus advance to quarterfinals

Photo by Mary Langenfeld Jacob Banker, of Bonduel ,wrestles against Joey Cibulka, of Poynette, in the WIAA Division 3 state wrestling tournament at the Kohl Center on Thursday . Banker pinned Cibulka in the second period.

Photo by Mary Langenfeld Menomonee Indian High School senior Antonio Mahkimetas wrestles James LaPointe, of Bayfield/Washburn, in the WIAA Division 3 state wrestling tournament Thursday at the Kohl Center in Madison. LaPointe defeated Mahkimetas, 11-5.

Two of the three area wrestlers who competed Thursday at the WIAA Division 3 state tournament in Madison advanced with victories.

Bonduel junior Jacob Banker advanced with a pin, Wittenberg-Birnamwood senior Stetson Potrykus won a decision, and Menominee Indian senior Antonio Mahkimetas saw his season come to an end.

Banker (33-5), the Bears’ only state qualifier, won his preliminary match at 170 pounds over Poynette’s Joey Cibulka by a second-period pin.

Banker needed three minutes and 32 seconds to secure the victory and will go up against Iowa-Grant/Highland’s Brady Peat (40-6) in the quarterfinals Friday morning. Banker and Peat met in the wrestlebacks at state last winter, with Banker advancing to the third-place match with a 6-5 decision victory. Banker finished third, and Peat took fifth.


Press pushes Shawano into blowout loss

Leader Photo by Chris Caporale Shawano Community High School sophomore Hailey Buschman goes up for a layup between two New London defenders Thursday in Shawano’s 61-29 WIAA Division 2 regional semifinal road loss.

Leader Photo by Chris Caporale Shawano Community High School junior Kristina Wynos dishes the ball to a teammate in the second half of Shawano’s 61-29 road loss Thursday. Wynos scored the final four points of the game for the Hawks.

The Shawano girls basketball team struggled to take control of the tempo of Thursday’s WIAA Division 2 regional semifinal road game in New London.

The Bulldogs, who unleashed a man-to-man, full-court press, forced the Hawks to push the ball up the court too fast, forcing turnovers and missed shots, and the game was never in doubt as New London ran away with the 61-29 victory.

“They’ve never been in this spot before, so you’ve got to use it as a learning experience, and you’ve got to slow down,” Shawano head coach Ryan Koenig said. “We just couldn’t slow down. Once you break it, you’ve got to slow down, and we just kept trying to go as hard as we could to the basket or the sideline, and bad things happen when you do that.”

Shawano, which lost Kennedy Klemens to a knee injury just over a minute into the game, turned the ball over on its first four possessions. New London’s Leah Porath scored the first six points of the game.


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