As we learned with high school football, seasons can be won and lost with each and every game played. Cancellations and postponements can create adversity that will test players and coaches. That being said, the basketball season is a go and there are a few teams that will be looking to repeat, or find new success in this wild season.
1. Stratford Tigers
Stratford has been a powerhouse for years and this year looks to be no different. The Tigers ran the table last year posting a perfect 24-0 record. Had the COVID-19 pandemic not interrupted the season, the Tigers would have been on a course to collide with some of the state’s top teams in Madison. Fans, players and coaches were all robbed of that chance.
This season’s run will not come without challenges however, as the team lost two of its 1,000-point scorers in Vaughn Breit and Ben Barten. The Tigers’ top five scorers from last season all graduated leaving Max Vanderhoof as the team’s best option returning. Vanderhoof averaged 5.5 points per contest last year on 44 percent shooting from the 3-point line. Senior Cody Miller will be manning the backcourt with Vanderhoof. Miller shot 45 percent from three last season but saw limited action only logging 9.2 minutes per game.
Pending COVID holdouts, six seniors will be back to try to compete for another Marawood Conference championship. The rest of the conference, including Auburndale who lost three times to Stratford last season, will be attempting to take down the reigning champs.
2. Auburndale Eagles
The Auburndale Eagles are also welcoming a new cast of contributors this season. They had six seniors graduate including standout Cooper Weinfurter. He led the team in points, rebounds, blocks and steals last season which will be a lot of production for head coach Chad Weinfurter to replace.
Chad will start with junior Hunter Wright who was the team’s second-leading scorer last season, pouring in 15 points per game. Both Cooper and fellow graduate Fletcher Raab made 63 three-pointers last season which accounted for a bulk of the scoring from deep. Out of the five other players from last season with more than 10 attempts from beyond-the-arc, no one shot better than 30 percent, making shooting a concern for this season. The Eagles will look to some new faces for contributions as they are listing three juniors and four sophomores on this year’s roster. With no one listed over 6-foot-1-inch, Auburndale will have to use its speed, active defense and pace to score on opposing teams.
3. Medford Raiders
The Medford Raiders were disappointed with a regional-exit last season to New Richmond. After winning the Great Northern Conference for the first time since 2017, the Raiders were outscored by a New Richmond team that had won its conference as well. Then junior Payton Kuhn scored 25 points for the Raiders and no one else scored in double-digits for Medford that game.
This year, they will be returning a lot of key players from last season and will look to avenge that early exit from last season. The 2020-21 campaign will feature Kuhn who is beginning the season at 985 career points and will attempt to smash the school scoring record this season. Fellow seniors Ty Baker, Owen Wipf and Nate Retterath will all look to drive the Raiders back to the top of the Great Northern Conference. As a freshman, Logan Baumgartner made his presence felt as he averaged nearly 10 points per game.
4. Neillsville Warriors
This crew was another team whose season was ended by the Stratford Tigers. In last year’s regional final game, the Warriors fell to the Tigers, 71-36. The Warriors had success during the regular season, running through the Cloverbelt Conference and sharing the lead with the Spencer Rockets with a 15-1 conference record. Neillsville outscored its opponents by 456 points in conference play and dominated the boards with a 39-17 rebounds per game advantage over opposing teams. Spencer and Neillsville split the season series between the two schools and it looks as if it will come down to those two teams vying for the conference title again this year.
We will only see two seniors begin the season on the roster for Neillsville. Braden Trunkel was the team’s second-leading scorer last season, putting up 15 points per game on 45 percent shooting from 3-point land. Sophomore Andrew Brown scored 10 points per contest as a freshman and will have to expand on that role in order for the Warriors to be successful during the 2020-21 campaign. The front-court combination of juniors Mason Roenz (6’6”) and Santana Subke (6’4”) will have to use their size to overpower smaller opponents.
5. Marshfield Tigers
The Marshfield Tigers will be bringing in a relatively untested and inexperienced crew into the 2020 season. The top-6 scorers from last year’s team graduated and only five seniors will be with the team this season. The Tigers will also have to replace three 42 percent and above 3-point shooters from last season in Anthony Posteluk, Joey Goettl and Addison Hill. Marshfield finished second in the always competitive Wisconsin Valley Conference last year before dropping their regional final game to Neenah.
Sam Roherty is the senior with the most experience on the team and will have an opportunity to carry the bulk of the scoring load this season. He averaged only 2.4 points per game in limited action last year. Junior Gavin Fravert, brother of former Marshfield standout Adam Fravert, will be looking to follow in his brother’s footsteps of making his mark with the Tigers. He’ll be sharing time with seniors Wyatt LeMoine and Jack Nordback at the forward position.