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10 high school girls basketball players to know this winter

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There’s no question the greater Madison area has produced some of the top high school girls basketball talent in recent memory.

Not only championship teams, individual accolades also have been frequent and top-end players will continue to grace the hardwood this winter.

Here are 10 players to know.

Taylor Pfaff PTK photo

Baraboo senior Taylor Pfaff races up court during a Badger West Conference game against Portage last season at Baraboo High School.

Taylor Pfaff

School: Baraboo

Grade: Senior

Position: Guard

Things to know: A four-year player, Pfaff has been a bright spot for a Thunderbirds program that has a combined 12 wins the last three years. The first-team All-Badger West Conference pick and Dubuque commit has been one of Baraboo’s top two scorers in each of her first three seasons, including last year when she led the team with 13 points and 2.6 assists per game. Pfaff, who can drive and shot .269 from 3-point range last season, is a solid defender with 2.5 steals and 3.8 rebounds per game last season.

Quotable: “Taylor has grown tremendously from her freshman year, both with her skills and the approach she takes to practice and games,” coach Mike Behl said. “She is a dynamic scorer and can get buckets in a variety of ways. She can get to the hoop, she draws a lot of fouls and she is learning that she can pull up and shoot from mid-range when she gets stopped. And last year her ability to shoot from 3 involved so that she can hunt her shot off of the dribble.”

Anni Salettel PTK photo

Beaver Dam junior Anni Salettel slices towards the basket during a WIAA Division 2 sectional final against Green Bay Notre Dam last season.

Anni Salettel

School: Beaver Dam

Grade: Junior

Position: Guard

Things to know: Not every player needs to be a lights-out scorer to succeed, and Salettel sets a perfect example for the Golden Beavers. The 5-foot-11 guard has the ability to score after averaging 8.4 points per game and shooting 36.9% from 3-point range, but it’s her relentless defensive motor that makes her such an integral part to the team’s success. The Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association Division 2 honorable mention All-State pick added 3.4 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game last year.

Quotable: “Anni is an extremely smart player who defends and can score in a lot of different ways,” coach Tim Chase said.

Gabby Wilke PTK photo

Beaver Dam junior Gabby Wilke goes up for a shot during the first half of a WIAA Division 2 sectional final against Green Bay Notre Dame last season.

Gabby Wilke

School: Beaver Dam

Grade: Junior

Position: Forward/Wing

Things to know: The saying ‘Iron sharpens iron’ hits close to home for Gabby Wilke, who has benefited from playing against older sister and University of Wisconsin redshirt freshman Maty Wilke. At 6-2, Gabby Wilke looks poised for another big season after a breakout campaign when she averaged a team-best 16.6 points per game and was second with 5.1 rebounds. The South Dakota commit earned WBCA Division 2 All-State honors and was a unanimous All-Badger East Conference pick and can impose herself on opposing defenses in a multitude of ways.

Quotable: “Gabby is a tremendous competitor and a great leader,” Chase said. “She has tremendous talent in all aspects of the game.”

Jessi Ernst PTK photo

Pardeeville senior Jessi Ernst grabs a rebound during a Trailways West Conference game against Randolph last season.

Jessi Ernst

School: Pardeeville

Grade: Senior

Position: Forward/Center

Things to know: Ernst erupted onto the area scene last winter in helping the Bulldogs reach their first WIAA regional championship in nearly two decades. The 6-1 post more than tripled her scoring average from her sophomore season, leading the Bulldogs with 16.5 points per game while shooting 56.8% from the field. Ernst, who’s drawing college interest, averaged a double-double with 11.5 rebounds per game to earn a WBCA Division 4 honorable mention All-State selection as well as a unanimous first-team All-Trailways Conference honoree.

Quotable: “After having a great season last year I am really excited to see what she can accomplish this year,” coach Joe Guenther said. “Jessi is one of the captains of our team and that is a title that is well deserved.”

Jorey Buwalda PTK photo

Randolph senior Jorey Buwalda battles for possession against a Highland defender during a WIAA Division 5 state semifinal game last season at the Resch Center.

Jorey Buwalda

School: Randolph

Grade: Senior

Position: Power forward

Things to know: The Rockets were fueled by plenty of players en route to their first Division 5 state championship last season, but none bigger than Buwalda. The UW-Milwaukee commit averaged team highs of 19.3 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. The 6-foot power forward was named the Trailways West Conference Player of the Year as a unanimous first-team all-league pick and earned WBCA Divivision 5 All-State honors for the second straight season.

Quotable: “Jorey has been an integral part of our team’s success over the past three years,” coach Chad Kaufman said. “Her skill development continues to evolve on a yearly basis and she is the one of the hardest workers that we have night in and night out. She is able to play with her back to the basket and facing the basket. She has great range on the perimeter and is a tremendous passer. She is very difficult to defend and her versatility makes it difficult for most opponents to defend her.”

Sydney Cherney PTK photo

Reedsburg's Sydney Cherney shoots against Oregon's Delaney Nyenhuis during a Badger West Conference game last season.

Sydney Cherney

School: Reedsburg

Grade: Junior

Position: Guard

Things to know: There weren’t many holdovers from the Beavers’ back-to-back state qualifying team, but Cherney helps make up for that dropoff. The 5-9 guard enters her third varsity season as Reedsburg’s top returning scorer after tallying 18.1 points per game last season after hitting double figures in all but one game last winter. The WBCA Division 2 All-State and unanimous first-team All-Badger West Conference pick is drawing Division II looks and is an all-around threat after doing a bit of everything last season.

Quotable: “Sydney has a great ability to impact the game in so many ways — she can score in different ways, rebound, defend and she is the ultimate competitor,” coach Mark Simon said.

Emily Loging PTK photo

Rio’s Emily Loging, left, reaches over Fall River’s Areena Schultz to snare this rebound during a Trailways West Conference game in 2021.

Emily Loging

School: Rio

Grade: Senior

Position: Guard/Forward

Things to know: A four-year varsity player, Loging shines in all facets of the game for the Vikings. At 6-1, she led Rio in all statistical categories last season and finished in the top five for the Trailways West Conference, earning unanimous first-team all-league honors, as well as WBCA Division 5 honorable mention All-State recognition. She averaged 14.8 points and 10.4 rebounds per game, as well as 2.8 assists and 2.7 steals under coach and aunt Deb Hutzler to draw Division III looks from the likes of UW-Stevens Point, Carroll and Wisconsin Lutheran.

Quotable: “Emily will pace us with her consistent contributions and ability to involve her team. She is a pass-first player that can score at will,” coach Deb Hutzler said. “She anticipates well, has outstanding court vision, and is one of our best defenders that makes solid decisions. She is an extremely versatile and passionate athlete that loves the game and her team.”

Maggie Hartwig PTK photo

Sauk Prairie senior Maggie Hartwig puts a shot up during a 2021 WIAA Division 2 regional semifinal against McFarland.

Maggie Hartwig

School: Sauk Prairie

Grade: Senior

Position: Forward

Things to know: Hartwig’s success on the hardwood doesn’t stop when the temperatures begin to drop as the center of the Eagles’ success. Along with being an offensive weapon on the volleyball court, the Evansville basketball commit is a force to contend with in the post. The 6-1 forward led the team averaging 11.8 points and 9.7 rebounds per game.

Quotable: “Maggie is a phenomenal athlete who is just plain hard to guard when she gets the ball in the post,” coach Jacob Breunig said. “She is the hardest rebounder I have ever seen and to top it off a fantastic kid and teammate. We are very fortunate to have her and her skill set in our program.”

Gracie Gopalan PTK photo

Waupun junior Gracie Gopalan takes a shot during a WIAA Division 3 sectional final against Madison Edgewood last season.

Gracie Gopalan

School: Waupun

Grade: Junior

Position: Guard

Things to know: Gopalan didn’t have the gaudiest scoring numbers for the Warriors’ first WIAA Division 3 state championship team. However, the diminutive 5-2 point guard played an imperative role offensively as one of Waupun’s key facilitators. The WBCA Division 3 All-State pick averaged a team-best 4.9 assists per game to go along with 7.9 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.4 steals, making her a prized all-around commodity.

Quotable: “Gracie is a dynamic point guard and is a true team leader on both ends of the court. She has the ability to break people down off the dribble and has become a consistent 3-point shooter,” coach Tim Aalsma said.

Kayl Petersen PTK photo

Waupun junior Kayl Petersen puts up a shot over a Freedom defender during last season's WIAA Division 3 state championship game at the Resch Center.

Kayl Petersen

School: Waupun

Grade: Junior

Position: Small forward

Things to know: After a strong introduction as a freshman, Petersen averaged 16.9 points and 9.4 rebounds per game last season. The Marquette commit scored 37 combined points on the state stage to earn WBCA Division 3 All-State honors. She was also named the Co-ECC Player of the Year alongside teammate Abbie Aalsma.

Quotable: “Kayl is a kid that can impact the game in many different ways. She has a unique ability to block shots without fouling and has a knack for getting rebounds,” Tim Aalsma said. “Offensively, she is a three level scorer at a high level, but also sees the floor extremely well.”

Editor’s note: The WiscNews area consists of the following schools: Beaver Dam, Waupun, Columbus, Dodgeland, Horicon, Hustisford, Fall River, Randolph, Cambria-Friesland, Wayland Academy, Central Wisconsin Christian, Portage, Poynette, Pardeeville, Lodi, Sauk Prairie, Reedsburg, Baraboo.

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