Battle royale on tap in competitive girls regional

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Eric Schmoldt
Sunday, March 2, 2014

Good luck finding a tougher or more exciting regional than the Division 3 bracket that is right in our own backyard.

Heck, even area coaches have been looking forward to seeing how it will all shake out for weeks.

One local girls head coach, whose team isn’t a part of the D3 bracket that feeds into a sectional semifinal March 13 at Janesville Parker, raved about the group when calling in a box score recently.

And why wouldn’t girls basketball fans be excited?

The regional features five different teams that have been ranked in the state’s Associated Press poll at times this season.

That means one of those teams—Clinton—isn’t even afforded a bye into the regional semifinals.

“We have a tough regional, so we need to stay focused for our first couple games and come out ready to play,” Whitewater senior Dani Dolan said.

The Whippets are actually the odd team out when it comes to rankings this season. They rattled off 18 victories in their final 19 games in the regular season, but they aren’t cracking the top 10.

The coaches showed the respect they have for Whitewater by giving it the No. 2 seed in the 12-team regional bracket.

The Whippets’ only loss after Dec. 10 came in an overtime game at Brodhead in a Rock Valley Conference crossover game.

Brodhead ran through its regular season unbeaten but won’t be satisfied. The Cardinals feel like they have unfinished business to attend to after losing in the final minutes of a sectional semifinal at Janesville Craig last season.

“We’ve been looking forward to it all season,” Brodhead senior guard Rachel Heller said this week. “Last year was kind of bittersweet how we ended our season, so I think we’re ready to go.”

Brodhead has consistently been No. 2 in the Division 3 rankings and owns victories over Division 1 Madison La Follette and at Division 2 Oregon.

“It’s one-and-done; it’s just the mentality of, ‘This is it if we don’t finish,’” Cardinals coach Brad Pickett said. “I think they’re getting there right now.”

In some brackets—where the chalk picks reign—one might pencil in Brodhead and Whitewater for an exciting rematch at Parker in the sectional semifinals.

In this bracket, it’s far from that easy.

If the seeds hold true, Whitewater will host third-seeded Lakeside Lutheran in a regional final on Saturday. The Warriors went 21-1 in the regular season and were ranked eighth in the state last week.

Lakeside’s only loss came in a regular-season finale against Marshall, which is the No. 4 seed on the other half of the bracket. The Cardinals are also 21-1 and were ranked fourth last week.

Marshall will need to get by a Clinton team that lost five Rock Valley Conference games but was ranked for the early portion of the year and has a dynamic senior class.

Keep up with all that?

To put it simply, five of Division 3’s top 14 teams will duke it out over the next week and a half just to see which team will earn the right to play in a sectional final, where a trip to the state tournament will be on the line.

“We’ve just got to be confident in ourselves,” Whitewater senior Brooke Trewyn said of what these teams’ mentality will need to be heading into the tournament. “We’re going to have some tough games, and we’ve just got to be ready. We can’t walk in too confident, but you’ve got to have a little swagger.”

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