It's tournament time for the girls
The Janesville coaches just hope their teams don’t need jumper cables to get rolling after extended layoffs.
Craig (13-7) has been idle for more than a week since winning its Feb. 14 regular-season finale at Madison La Follette. The same will be true for top-seeded Parker (18-2) by the time the Big Eight champions swing into WIAA tournament action in a Division 1 regional final at home Saturday.
The fourth-seeded Cougars’ 11-day layoff ends Tuesday when they join the crowd and tip off the postseason with a 7 p.m. regional semifinal game at home against 13th-seeded Kenosha Bradford (4-16).
Craig comes off a third-place finish in the Big Eight, fueled by 10 wins in the last 13 games. Coach Mark Marsden hopes his Cougars can pick up where they left off.
“Eleven days is a long sit,’’ said Marsden, whose team drew the last-week bye in the Big Eight schedule. “Sitting that long makes it very difficult.
“We were playing our best ball, and we wanted to keep playing, but we couldn’t get anybody to play us,” he said. “We tried to move games, but nobody would bite.’’
Meanwhile, Parker coach Tom Klawitter feels the bittersweet bite of again getting the No. 1 seed that his perennial Big Eight champions have had so many times.
It guarantees the Vikings of home game in the regional finals, but it also leaves them idle with a semifinal bye when Klawitter would rather be playing.
“You know how I feel about that,’’ he said. “But it is what is, and we’ll prepare for it as we have in the past.”
And first-round byes or not, the past has been good to Parker. The Vikings have been in the state tournament a record 12 times, including three of the last four years and seven of the last nine.
Parker’s bid for a return to Madison begins against eighth-seeded Oregon (10-10) or ninth-seeded Wilmot in a Saturday afternoon game. The two sets of Panthers play Tuesday night at Oregon to determine who comes to Parker.
If Craig beats Bradford, the Cougars will have a home game at 4 p.m. Saturday against Lakeshore champion Westosha Central (15-5) or Lake Geneva Badger (6-14).
Milton (13-7), the area’s Division 1 state qualifier last year, tips off at home Tuesday against 10th-seeded Beloit Memorial (8-11). The winner plays at second-seeded Kenosha Tremper (18-2) in the regional finals.
It’s all part of the Wilmot Sectional, which climaxes Friday and Saturday, March 7-8, in the Panthers’ lavish new facility to determine a state qualifier.
While the overall sectional field is similar to recent years, the seeding presents a different look. It places Craig and Parker in different regionals of the upper bracket, which means they wouldn’t meet until the March 7 sectional semifinals.
Seventh-seeded Milton is in the lower bracket. So the Red Hawks wouldn’t face a Janesville team until the sectional final.
Craig might consider that a break, since the Red Hawks have eliminated the Cougars the last four years and head into this year’s tournament with a seven-game winning streak.
Whatever the case, Marsden joins lots of others with tournament optimism, especially after his Cougars showed well in exciting late-season losses to the powerful Big Eight co-champions—Parker and Middleton.
“We’re entering my favorite time of the year, and I like our chances,’’ the Craig coach said. “I’ve enjoyed this season so much, and I just want to keep it going.’’
Marsden surely speaks for lots of others—certainly his cross-town rival.
And now it’s time to start the engines.