The Rock Valley Conference had a big year in boys basketball. East Troy advanced to the WIAA Division 3 state tournament, while Edgerton played in a sectional title game.
So it’s no surprise that three of the five members of The Gazette’s 2017-18 all-area team played in the Rock.
Joining player of the year Blake McCann of Janesville Craig are seniors Zach Mielke of Evansville and Jacob Fox of Edgerton, along with Beloit Turner sophomore Dai’Vontrelle Strong. Elkhorn junior Luke Umnus rounds out the team.
Zach Mielke led the Rock Valley in scoring with a 20.9 average and was a first-team all-conference selection. The 6-foot-3, three-sport athlete shot better than 50 percent from the field and led the Blue Devils in rebounding at 10 per game.
“Zach’s a rare breed,” Evansville co-head coach coach Kendall Buttchen said. “To be a three-sport athlete and to play at the level that he does in all three sports is almost extinct these days.
“We asked him to do a lot this year, and he responded and did it at a high level.”
Mielke had a double-double in 17 of 23 games and had four games of 30 points or more.
“I have so much respect for him,” Edgerton coach Daryl Fox said of Mielke. “He works hard on every possession and is very humble. I’d take him on my team any day of the week.”
Mielke plans to attend UW-Stout and play basketball for the Blue Devils.
Jacob Fox averaged 14.9 points per game for the season and caught fire during the tournament run. The 6-foot-3 sharpshooter had 15 3-pointers in four postseason games and helped the Crimson Tide advance to a Division 3 sectional title game, where they lost to East Troy.
“Jacob really transformed his game,” coach Fox said. “He went from a player early in the year that was looking for his points to a complete team player by about the middle of the season. When he made that transformation, our whole team benefited from it.
“And because we had so many other good scoring options, when Jake got hot, like he did so many games, it really forced teams to pressure him, which gave our other guys really good looks.”
Fox had a season-high of 29 points against Milton in a nonconference win and scored in double figures in 22 of 26 games.
“Fox is just a great pure shooter,” Buttchen said. “And when other guys on his team started making shots, that made him even more dangerous.”
A first-team all-conference selection, Fox plans to attend UW-Madison in the fall.
Dai’Vontrelle Strong, along with East Troy’s AJ Vukovich, represents the future of the Rock Valley.
A nationwide scouting report on the 6-6 Strong says he’s “an extremely promising big man who can score, defend and rebound.”
He averaged 14.2 points and 10.8 rebounds per game.
In the most dominant game of any player in our area, Strong had 32 points and 20 rebounds in a win over Clinton.
“He had some really big games for us this season,” Turner coach Ken Watkins said. “He showed glimpses of what he’s capable of doing. He just has to learn to do it on a consistent basis.
“The sky is the limit for him. He has the talent, and how far he goes will depend on how hard he works. He will definitely play at the next level. It’s just a matter of what level that will be.”
Strong had 14 or more rebounds in eight games this season and finished with 108 offensive rebounds, an average of 4.5 per game.
“Strong’s got unbelievable upside,” Buttchen said. “He has only scratched the surface on how good he can be. I don’t think anyone (opposing coach) is looking forward to seeing him for two more years.”
Luke Umnus might not have put up the offensive stats that the other four players on the all-area team did, but he was instrumental in helping the surprising Elks finish third in the Southern Lakes and advance to a Division 2 sectional semifinal game.
The 5-foot-11 point guard averaged 12.5 points and less than two turnovers per game.
“Luke can control a game,” Elkhorn coach Josh Skatrud said. “He’s a one-man press-breaker, and when he’s on the court, I don’t worry about too much because I know he’ll run the show.
“He’s so competitive and such a hard worker. He’s pretty quiet, but because he goes after it so hard, his teammates are afraid to not live up to his expectations. He did so much for us without scoring.”
Umnus saved his best for last, scoring 24 and 23 points in late-season wins against Wilmot and Burlington, respectively.
A first-team all-conference selection, Umnus is also an outstanding soccer player.
McCann, Mielke and Fox will represent the area at the WBCA’s All-Star games in Wisconsin Dells this summer.