Elkhorn and Beloit Turner have the over and the under covered.
The Elks probably should have received a little more love around the state but have been overlooked despite suffering just three losses.
The Trojans labored through some ups and downs throughout their season, and thus have flown a bit under the radar.
But make no mistake about it: Both teams firmly believed in themselves and that they would reach this stage in the season. Turner and Elkhorn will both be playing in games today with a trip to the Kohl Center on the line.
“As soon as the brackets were released last spring,” Turner coach Ken Watkins told me Friday, “I thought this was where we would be and who we’d be playing.”
And so here we are.
Third-seeded Turner plays top-seeded Martin Luther at 7 p.m. at Evansville High in a Division 3 sectional final.
And third-seeded Elkhorn plays top-seeded Mount Horeb at 1 p.m. at Janesville Craig in a D2 sectional final.
The Elks, at 22-3, are the overlooked team, and they haven’t been shy about saying as much. They feel like they should have been ranked throughout the season.
“I know rankings are kind of arbitrary, but I just don’t feel like we’ve gotten a lot of respect on that end,” Elkhorn coach Josh Skatrud said Friday. “At the same time, I just care about what happens on the court.”
Those results are impressive.
Two of the Elks’ three losses came to Westosha Central, the team they beat at the buzzer Thursday night in a sectional semi. The other was a late-game stumble against DeForest.
Part of the reason, presumably, that Elkhorn hasn’t gotten a lot of attention is because it doesn’t have one star player. Four player—twin brothers Vince and Luke Umnus, Nick Brown and Chance Larson—all average double figures. And two more players average more than six points.
“Last night was a great example of our team,” Skatrud said, referencing Larson’s buzzer-beating drive to the bucket. “We had two guys that could’ve tried to be a hero and chuck up a shot, but they found the open guy.
“We just try to make the right basketball play. That means we don’t have one player that averages 18 or 20 points. But I don’t think that means we don’t have good players.”
In the case of Turner, the Trojans certainly aren’t lacking talent, either.
Jordan Majeed has been the catalyst all season and averages more than 18 points a game. He’s got 72 points in three tournament games.
But Watkins points out senior Steve Dillard and juniors DJ Wash Jr., Dai’Vontrelle Strong and Kenny Draeving are all capable of contributing in double figures, as well.
“There’s a lot of talent, there’s no doubt about that. We’ve got guys not getting a ton of playing time that would be major contributors on other teams,” Watkins said. “Jordan has been our most consistent scorer, but we’ve got other guys who have big games.
“It’s just a matter of what defense is the other team playing and what matchups. I don’t think our kids care who gets the credit, as long as they get the win.”
The Trojans flew under the radar because they didn’t exactly pile those victories up early on. They were just 8-6 through their first 14 games.
But, with the 6-foot-6 Strong back in the lineup after missing the first 16 games, Turner has won nine of its last 10.
“The season is a journey … and if you’re going to be excited about the peaks, you better be ready to pull yourself out of the valleys,” Watkins said. “I don’t know if we were overlooked. I know our players never stopped believing, so all the credit goes to the kids.”
Turner is looking for its first-ever trip to the state tournament. Elkhorn has been there four times, but not since 1987.
Perhaps somewhat fittingly, both will be considered the underdogs in today’s games.
But neither Watkins nor Skatrud believe their teams will go in feeling sorry for themselves.
Even if others didn’t, the Trojans and Elks have always believed in themselves.