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High school boys basketball conference favorites, contenders and things to know

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The Randolph boys basketball team celebrated winning a state championship last season.

Now, a new season offers new opportunities for area teams.

Familiar faces will work strive to continue to excel as coaches and players, while other players will burst onto the scene or fill valuable roles.

As the season begins, here are things to know about the WiscNews-area’s conferences this season:

Badger East Conference

Who’s in it: Beaver Dam, DeForest, Fort Atkinson, Milton, Monona Grove, Stoughton, Watertown, Waunakee.

Favorite: Waunakee. The Warriors lost key players, including first-team all-conference performer Andrew Keller and second-teamer Joey Fuhremann, from last year’s team that finished 18-7 overall and right behind DeForest and Milton in the Badger East. But the Warriors’ program is perennially solid and other league coaches favor coach Dana MacKenzie’s squad to be a leader in the Badger East this season. The Warriors likely will receive contributions from the school’s talented football program, potentially from players who saw action last year (that included Robert Booker II, Shea DuCharme and Garett Lenzendorf).

Jack Jens

Beaver Dam's Jack Jens catches a pass in the post during the first half against Waterloo on Nov. 26, 2021.

Contenders: DeForest, Milton, Stoughton. DeForest edged Milton in last year’s Badger East title game, but both teams will need to retool after losing key players to graduation. That included the top guards in the conference in Max Weisbrod of DeForest (who was the conference player of the year) and Jack Campion of Milton. Eric Stewart is in his first season as DeForest’s coach. Senior guards Brody Hartig, honorable-mention all-conference last year, and Alex Van Ooyen figure to lead the Norskies, who were 23-5 and advanced to a WIAA Division 2 sectional semifinal last year. Senior forward James Hodge, and sophomore forward Jackson Accuardi will be threats inside. … Brogan McIntyre, a 6-foot-5 senior who was second-team all-conference, should pace Milton. … The Badger East all-conference teams were senior-laden last year. That could mean Stoughton, led by juniors Ty Fernholz (second team all-conference) and Sawyer Schipper (honorable mention), will be in the mix. Fernholz also was an honorable-mention choice on the WBCA Division 2 All-State team.

Things to know: Beaver Dam lost a significant chunk — including guards Brady Helbing and Tyler Bunkoske — from last year’s team that reached the Division 2 sectional semifinal against Glendale Nicolet. Junior forwards Jack Jens and Camron Mendoza and junior guard JT Kaul are among top returning players. … Monona Grove looks to bounce back from a 6-20 season with a more athletic group that coach Dan Zweifel described as young and hungry. Senior forward Max Weise, junior guard Emmett Toijala and junior forward Isaiah Erb are among players expected to contribute. Weise tied the program record with six made 3-pointers in a game last season, Zweifel said. … Watertown has a new coach in Chad Hayes, replacing Jim O’Leary.

Badger West Conference

Who’s in it: Baraboo, Madison Edgewood, Monroe, Mount Horeb, Oregon, Portage, Reedsburg, Sauk Prairie.

Favorite: Oregon. The Panthers, under coach Chris Siebert’s direction, caught fire in midseason and advanced to a WIAA Division 2 sectional final last season. The Panthers had eight seniors, including Ryne Panzer and Deaken Bush, graduate. Oregon this season likely will revolve around 6-5 senior forward Casey Schoenecker (9.9 points, six rebounds per game) and senior guard Evan Miles.

Drew Mistele

Baraboo junior Drew Mistele shoots between a pair of Portage defenders during the first half of a Badger West Conference game on Dec. 21, 2021.

Contenders: Madison Edgewood, Sauk Prairie, Mount Horeb. Reggie Patterson, who had been the Verona coach, takes over for longtime coach Chris Zwettler. The Crusaders will be led by 6-2 senior guard Al Deang, a second-team all-conference choice last year, and 6-0 senior guard Mateo Jimenez, an honorable-mention selection. … Sauk Prairie coach Sean McGann’s team brings back experience and depth and has four players who averaged between 9.7 points and 8.6 points per game in Devin Kerska, Corbin Wardrop, Carson Brickl and Connor Breunig. … Mount Horeb coach Todd Nesheim believes his team could make a push for the title because of its solid guard play and potential for improved shooting from last season. Rocco Richie, a 6-2 senior, and 6-foot senior Zach Peter lead the way.

Things to know: Monroe was the conference champion last season, but lost conference player of the year Carson Leuzinger and J.T. Seagreaves to graduation. … Portage coach Darrin Berger welcomes mostly a new rotation that he expects to be competitive due to its length and defensive ability. Senior guard Kyan Reichhoff averaged 11.5 points and 5.3 rebounds last year. The roster is bolstered by a group that had success at the Junior Varsity level, Berger said. ... Baraboo coach Tyler Fish believes his team will bring toughness, size and athleticism to the court, led by senior guard Drew Mistele and junior guard Luke Vittengl, senior forward Derek Gehin and junior guard Toby Lefevre. Reedsburg and Baraboo both are looking for bounce-back seasons.

Capitol North Conference

Who’s in it: Columbus, Lake Mills, Lakeside Lutheran, Lodi, Poynette, Watertown Luther Prep.

Favorite: Columbus. The Cardinals reached the Division 3 sectional final last year, falling to eventual state champion Hartland Lake Country Lutheran 61-56. Jeffrey Downing takes over as coach, replacing Ben Schambow. First-team all-conference selection A.J. Uttech, a 6-2 senior who averaged 15.6 points, returns, along with 6-3 senior Nathan Cotter and 6-5 Nolan Stauffacher. Columbus and Lodi tied atop the league last year and Downing anticipates the Cardinals will be buoyed by their leadership, athleticism, strength and size this year.

Contenders: Lodi, Lake Mills, Lakeside Lutheran. Lodi lost several players to graduation, including conference player of the year Brady Ring. Senior guard Jaden Gallagher and 6-4 senior forward/guard Brian Meitzner lead returning players creating good depth. Coach Ben Leistico said Meitzner demonstrates excellent footwork inside and also can step out to shoot from the 3-point arc. … Columbus and Lodi should be in title contention with Lakeside Lutheran, led by first-team all-conference performer and Citadel commit Levi Birkholz, and Lake Mills, which had a first-team pick in A.J. Bender last year.

Things to know: Senior forward Aiden Klosky, who averaged 15.1 points and 7.5 rebounds while earning second-team all-conference honors last year, leads Poynette. Pumas coach Cody Odegaard believes he has a good core that can attack defenses from multiple areas of the floor. That includes juniors Brett Hackbart, Liam Napralla and Chase Hansen and senior guard Kameryn Colstad.

South Central Conference

Who’s in it: Adams-Friendship, Mauston, Nekoosa, Wautoma, Westfield, Wisconsin Dells.

Favorite: Wisconsin Dells. The Chiefs look to defend their conference title. Coach Brad Rohling welcomes back senior forward Jared Nevar, a first-team all-conference selection who averaged 13.6 points per game last year, and senior point guard Braden Buss, a second-team all-conference pick. Nevar has the ability to score from anywhere on the floor, while Buss can shoot it and set up his teammates, Rohling said. Senior guard Damian Funmaker, senior forward Jack Field and senior guard Taylor Knetter also return for Wisconsin Dells.

Contenders: Adams-Friendship, Wautoma, Mauston. Ryan Frye takes over as Mauston’s coach. The Golden Eagles, who finished third in the conference last year, had several key losses to graduation, including South Central Player of the Year Adon Saylor, who averaged 18.8 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.0 assists. But junior wing Brock Massey, who accompanied Saylor on the all-conference first team, is back after averaging 19.4 points and 6.3 rebounds. Junior forward Kyle Dahl and senior forward Nick Erler also return. But Frye said the team has a lot of new players who will have opportunities to step into roles.

Things to know: Wisconsin Dells edged Mauston 58-56 in a Division 3 regional semifinal, prior to losing to eventual state runner-up West Salem in a regional final. ... Massey, who’s played as a freshman and sophomore, entered his junior season with 769 points. … Nick Brakebush is the new coach at Westfield, replacing Lance Fritz.

Trailways East Conference

Who’s in it: Beaver Dam Wayland, Dodgeland, Horicon, Hustisford, Oshkosh Lourdes, Oakfield, Waupun Central Wisconsin Christian, Oshkosh Valley Christian.

Favorite: Central Wisconsin Christian. Senior Will Syens was a first-team all-conference selection and junior Brock Hoekstra was a second-team pick last year for CWC, which was ninth in Division 5 in the Wisconsin Basketball Yearbook’s preseason rankings.

Contenders: Hustisford, Oshkosh Lourdes. Rylee Nass is the new coach at Hustisford, replacing Otto Hopfinger. Hustisford lost six seniors, including conference player of the year and WBCA All-State Division 5 pick Gavin Thimm. The roster includes junior forwards Andrew Maas and Casey Grudzinski and sophomore forward Caleb Peplinski, although he is sidelined by a knee injury, Nass said.

Things to know: Wayland Academy and Oakfield also are expected to be in the mix in the conference race. Wayland Academy coach PJ Osvald said his team has perimeter quickness and capable scorers. Junior guard Diego Perez was a second-team all-conference selection last season after averaging 16.9 points and 6.2 rebounds. Senior guards Emre Kocer and Drew Benson also return. But Sekou Kourouma (a first-team all-conference pick last year as a sophomore who averaged 16.8 points, 4.4 rebounds and 4.2 assists) transferred to The Darrow School in New York, Osvald said. … Oakfield was the conference champion last season with a 12-2 record, one game ahead of Hustisford and Lourdes. … Dave Miller has replaced Bill Otto as coach at Dodgeland. … Jay Wald has taken over as coach at Horicon, replacing longtime coach Darrel Schliewe, who retired. … Brett Baehman replaced Dennis Ruedinger as Lourdes’ coach.

Trailways West Conference

Who’s in it: Cambria-Friesland, Fall River, Markesan, Montello, Pardeeville, Princeton/Green Lake, Randolph, Rio.


Randolph’s Ben Nieman carries the championship trophy after the Rockets' 65-51 win over Bangor in the WIAA Division 5 state final on March 19 at the Kohl Center.

Favorites: Randolph, Fall River. Randolph, coached by Tyler Fischer, had a 28-2 record, finished atop the conference with a 14-0 record and claimed the Division 5 state championship last season. Randolph is in Division 4 this year. The Rockets lost Sam Grieger, a first-team all-league pick and the co-player of the year in the conference with Pardeeville’s Derek Lindert last season, to graduation (along with first-teamer Travis Alvin and Ben Nieman). Karter Meredith, Jake Dykstra and Dietrich Meyer were in the top of the rotation last season. … Fall River looks to ascend after a fifth-place conference finish last year. Leading that charge for coach Arnie Oelke will be Colin Vieth (16.9 points, 9.1 rebounds), a first-team all-conference choice, and junior Shavlik Schultz, a second-team pick. Oelke said the return of Cullen Rauls, who had a leg fracture and missed last season, will be a significant development for a team that has much of its scoring coming back. Fall River was ranked sixth in Division 5 in the Wisconsin Basketball Yearbook’s preseason poll.

Contenders: Cambria-Friesland, Pardeeville, Markesan. Cambria-Friesland finished tied for third with Princeton/Green Lake in conference play last season. Cambria-Friesland coach Derrick Smit likes his team’s athleticism and balanced attack. But inexperience and scoring punch — the team lost 80% of its scoring from last season, Smit said — are concerns. Senior Drake Burmania (10.3 points) will be a key returner. Pardeeville finished second in league play, but will have to reload after losing Lindert to graduation.

Things to know: Rio seeks to make a move up in the conference, led by senior point guard Tyson Prochnow, a four-year varsity player described by coach Tim Struck as the team’s heart and soul. Guard Eric Eku also returns. Struck believes the young squad will play aggressively and will be scrappy.


Waupun coach Brett Pickarts likes the depth and talent his team possesses.

That will be important in the rugged East Central Conference, expected to have strong teams from top to bottom, including Waupun, Kewaskum, Jackson Kettle Moraine Lutheran, Winneconne and Berlin. Sophomore point guard Aiden Hawkinson (12.4 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 40% from 3-point range last year as a second-team all-conference performer), senior center Aaron Hull and junior guard Isaac Vande Kamp (13.1 points) lead the way.

Editor’s note: The WiscNews high school coverage area includes the following schools: Beaver Dam, Waupun, Columbus, Dodgeland, Horicon, Hustisford, Fall River, Rio, Randolph, Cambria-Friesland, Beaver Dam Wayland, Waupun Central Wisconsin Christian, Portage, Poynette, Pardeeville, Lodi, Sauk Prairie, Reedsburg, Baraboo, Wisconsin Dells and Mauston.

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