PARDEEVILLE — Playing against No. 1 seeds has not fazed the Pardeeville boys basketball team on its road to the WIAA state tournament.
In a Division 4 sectional semifinal game last Thursday night, the Bulldogs knocked off the top seed in its half of the bracket, a New Glarus team that was undefeated and the No. 1 ranked squad in its division. Then in the sectional final on Saturday, Pardeeville took on the other No. 1 seed in the sectional bracket, and rallied late for a 62-61 win over Mineral Point, earning the program its first trip to the state tournament since 1978.
Now that the Bulldogs have made it to Kohl Center in Madison, waiting for them is, you guessed it, another No. 1 seed.
On Sunday, Pardeeville (23-3) was named the No. 4 seed in the four-team Division 4 tournament, meaning the Bulldogs will play top-seeded Manitowoc Roncalli (21-5) in a state semifinal game Thursday at 6:35 p.m. Being named the bottom seed of the tournament, and having to play the Roncalli team that was seeded as the best of the bunch, is something that doesn’t bother the Bulldogs.
“I don’t mind that all,” Pardeeville senior Logan Zuhlke said. “I’m not trying to be cocky, but we took out two No. 1 seeds already. We might as well take out another one.”
The Bulldogs should be a confident bunch, as they enter the state tournament coming off a pretty good test in sectional games against New Glarus and Mineral Point. Both games came right down to the wire, and both times Pardeeville was the better team down the stretch, allowing it to emerge with the victory.
Pardeeville senior Jonathan Kamrath, who made the winning free throw with 0.7 seconds left in the sectional final win, said the No. 4 seed doesn’t mean they can’t ground the Jets.
“It’s definitely motivation,” Kamrath said. “We kind of want to prove that even though we are the fourth seed, we can win these games and do something that hasn’t been done here in a while.”
Beating a third straight No. 1 seed won’t be easy. Roncalli enters the tournament as the top seed for a reason, despite having more losses than the other three teams in the field, which also includes Marathon (22-4) and Clear Lake (25-0).
Roncalli, the smallest school in the Eastern Wisconsin Conference, ended up third in that league with a 10-4 record, finishing behind Valders and New Holstein, who were the co-champs at 12-2. Valders, who handed Roncalli two of its losses this season, is the No. 1 seed in the Division 3 state tournament.
“We have a pretty tough conference that we play in,” Roncalli head coach Joe Garceau said. “We’re battle tested that way night in and night out for the most part. We try to get tough competition in our non-conference.”
Roncalli also has state tournament experience. The Jets return almost everyone from a team that lost in the Division 4 state semifinals a year ago, and are making their seventh trip to the state tournament since 2005 — but Roncalli has never won a single game in any of its previous appearances.
Garceau said the regular season has prepared his team for the playoffs.
“Out of our 26 games on the season, 11 of them were against ranked opponents in Division 3 or Division 4,” Garceau said. “We try to pride ourselves on having a tough schedule, not trying to make it easy on ourselves, understanding that’s what it’s going to take to be successful in the postseason.”
Roncalli is led by the guard duo of junior Chombi Lambert and senior Mitchel Schneider. Lambert comes into the tournament averaging 20 points per game. Lambert, who scored 45 points in an 83-62 win over Fond du Lac Saint Mary’s Springs on Feb. 3, has made 65 of 148 of his 3-pointers this season (44 percent).
Schneider, who had a 34-point game against Random Lake on Jan. 2, is averaging 18.9 points per game this season. Like Lambert, he also likes to shoot the 3-pointer, having made 63 of 131 from beyond the arc this season (48 percent).
Lambert and Schneider combined to score 56 percent their team’s points this season, but Pardeeville head coach Chris Lindert said Roncalli’s other players can hurt you, too.
“They have kids that are good role players, who do what needs to be done,” Lindert said. “They will set screens, they will rebound, play defense. If you go through the box scores, every so often you will see a kid score bigger numbers than normal. They’re just a solid team. It’s going to be a very good game.”
Clear Lake has chip
Clear Lake had to settle for the No. 2 seed in the Division 4 tournament despite being the lone remaining undefeated team in the state across all five divisions. The Warriors won the Lakeland Central Conference and are making just the second state tournament appearance in program history, with the other coming in 1972.
Clear Lake head coach Jason Sargent thought his team deserved the top seed.
“I know that Roncalli has obviously beat some very good teams and had a very tough sectional, but with the body of work we had and being undefeated, I thought we would be the 1 seed,” Sargent said. “But we’re happy. It doesn’t matter. We’re advancing to the state tournament. There are four teams left in Division 4 and we’re just proud and happy to be one of those four.”
Clear Lake is led by junior forward Bailey Blanchard, who comes in averaging 19.6 points per game, but the Warriors hang their hat on their defense. Clear Lake has given up less than 50 points in 17 of its 25 games this season, and has yielded an average of 38.5 points in the postseason.
“It’s so fun to watch,” Sargent said. “We’ve really frustrated some very good teams. We have some good matchups that we’re able to switch and we’re not afraid of the matchups that we see.”
Clear Lake’s opponent in the semifinal is Marathon. The Red Raiders return to the state tournament for the first time since 2011 and are making their eighth appearance overall. Marathon won a state championship in 2011, and also won titles in 1975, 1976 and 1977, becoming just the second team in Wisconsin history to win three WIAA crowns in a row. Marathon’s state title in 1975 was the result of a 65-57 win over Pardeeville in the Class C championship game.
Marathon finished 12-4 and in a tie for second in the Marawood South Conference. Those four losses all came in close games.
“We lost four games by a total of eight points,” Marathon head coach Adam Jacobson said. “We had opportunities to have more in the win column, but unfortunately we didn’t execute some things down the stretch.”