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Janesville Parker's Brady Biba scores on the shot down low over Milton's Jack Campion during the first half of their game in Milton on Saturday, Dec. 22.

As Janesville Parker’s first-year boys basketball coach, Matt Bredesen had a good idea what to expect playing in the Big Eight Conference.

He knew the talent and athleticism in one of the state’s most successful conferences would be off the charts.

What he didn’t expect was that depth would play such a vital role night in and night out.

“I knew from coaching AAU ball in the summer that there were some really great players,” Bredesen said. “I coached a few of them on my teams. And I knew that even though it wasn’t going to be maybe in basketball, that there were a lot of Division I athletes playing basketball in the Big Eight.

“What I didn’t realize is the amount of depth on so many teams. Where I came from at a smaller school, you had three good players usually on a team and the rest were role players. In the Big Eight, the players are skilled 1-10. There’s not that big dropoff when you go to the bench.”

Madison East is currently ranked No. 1 in the Division 1 coaches poll, while Madison Memorial is seventh. In nonconference games this season, the Big Eight is an impressive 19-11.

Parker has struggled in its first season under Bredesen, but the future is bright with a strong sophomore class gaining valuable varsity experience. The Vikings have one conference win and two victories overall heading into tonight’s Big Eight clash at Beloit Memorial.

“I’m impressed and happy with the progress we’ve made,” Bredesen said. “I get the sense that the team is a little bit more competitive than it has been in the past. Other than the (Madison) East game—who is ranked first in the state—we’ve been a pretty competitive team despite our record.

“Our goal is to continue to win games and to build the program to a point where there is not a big dropoff when we go to the bench, which is the case with East, Memorial, La Follette, and even Middleton. I think they use about a 10-man rotation.”

Bredesen said not much has surprised him, otherwise, as far as playing in the Big Eight. He knew East and Memorial would be a step ahead of the others, with Madison La Follette being a notch below those two.

He knew physical play would be a staple. He also figured the speed and athleticism teams like East and La Follette had at their disposal would result in full-court-pressure defense that made the simple task of getting the ball past midcourt a monumental one.

Here’s a look at three area games on tap, including a Southern Lakes boys showdown Friday night in Elkhorn:

Janesville Parker (2-9, 1-7) at Beloit Memorial (2-9, 1-7), boys, Big Eight, 7:15 p.m., today, Beloit Memorial High School—The winner climbs out of the cellar in the Big Eight. Both teams’ lone conference win came against Madison West.

Beloit has played better of late. After starting the season 0-6, the Purple Knights have won two of their last five, including a nonconference win over Milwaukee Vincent.

Terrell Ringer and Amaria Cook both average double figures in scoring, but Beloit is averaging less than 40 points per game this season.

“They’re kind of in the same boat as we are,” Bredesen said of Beloit. “They’re looking to see where certain guys fit and trying to find the right combinations.

“On film, they’re very athletic. I would expect a good game in what I know is a good rivalry and has been for years.”

Parker is coming off a buzzer-beating nonconference win over Columbus. The Vikings trailed by seven at half, took a double-digit lead in the second half and won the game on Brenden Weis’ 3-point basket as time expired.

“I think the thing I’m most pleased with this season is that we haven’t stopped playing hard,” Bredesen said. “We’re still playing a rotation that is mainly sophomores and juniors, so it’s still a process.”

Best guess: Beloit 64, Parker 60

Wilmot (8-2, 4-1) at Elkhorn (10-2, 4-1), boys, Southern Lakes, 7 p.m., Friday, Elkhorn High School--Points should be plentiful as these two high-powered offenses meet.

Wilmot beat Burlington last week—which was the Demons’ first conference loss.

Kevin Sandman, Zack Watson and London Glass are all averaging more than 11 points a game for the Panthers.

Elkhorn lost its Southern Lakes opener to defending-champion Westosha Central but has won four straight since.

Luke Umnus, Nick Brown and Chance Larson have shared scoring honors most of the season and are all averaging at least 10 points per game.

Best guess: WIlmot 71, Elkhorn 65

McFarland (8-3, 5-3) at Beloit Turner (6-4, 5-3), boys, Rock Valley, 7:15 p.m., Friday, Turner High School—The winner stays in the upper half of the conference race, while the loser likely falls out of any title contention.

McFarland had won five straight before Tuesday’s loss to Jefferson. The Spartans have the Rock’s second- and fourth-leading scorers. Trevon Chislom is averaging 20.6 points per game, and Daniel Toennies is at 17.9 per game.

Turner has lost two straight conference games after winning five in a row. Jordan Majeed and Steve Dillard are averaging a combined 27 points a game for the Trojans.

Best guess: McFarland 73, Turner 63

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