Mary Parker calls a play for her Demon girls last week. Can Burlington knock off Union Grove again? (Rick Benavides/SLN)

 

OK, I get it, it’s technically still February, but area basketball March Madness is here, and there’s nothing quite like the excitement and atmosphere that surrounds playoff hoops.

After last weekend, all four Burlington high school basketball teams have their playoff seeds, and each team is on a different path.

While the Wisconsin and Marquette men’s basketball teams are both struggling this season and most likely won’t make the NCAA tournament, we can at least shift our focus to the prep squads.

Though the Burlington wrestling squad continues to steal most of the headlines, with its undefeated record, No. 4 state ranking and state-best individual state qualifiers, there is plenty of good local basketball coming up.

Let’s take a look at how the playoffs are shaping up for the Burlington boys and girls, along with the Catholic Central boys.

 

Lady Demons earn 3 seed, set for strong run

Head coach Mary Parker is enjoying her finest season with Burlington, as the team knocked off Delavan-Darien, 38-27, last Thursday to finish the regular season 15-7 and 11-3 in the Southern Lakes Conference.

Both records are the best in Parker’s five-year coaching tenure, and keep in mind the Demons weren’t at full strength in two of their three conference losses.

On Senior Night, which honored seniors Jessa Burling, Holly Johnson, Hannah Kettherhagen, Jazmine Yambor and Jackie Garwood, Burlington jumped to a 21-11 halftime lead and cruised to victory.

Burling, held to five points in the previous game, which knocked the Demons out of conference title contention, returned to form with 16 points, eight steals, six rebounds and four steals.

The team totaled 17 steals in playing its signature ball-hawking defense.

“Tonight we really wanted to send our seniors out with a win, and the girls played with a lot of energy and intensity to do so,” Parker said. “Our defense was our best offense. When we got steals, we were able to push the ball in transition.”

Burlington is the No. 3 seed in a WIAA Division 2 regional that features many SLC teams.

The Lady Demons are the hottest city team, as they’ve won eight of 10 to finish the season after starting 7-5.

That included a five-game win streak, including wins over Wilmot and second-seeded Union Grove, two teams that were higher than Burlington in the standings at the time.

Burlington will host No. 6 Waterford, a team it beat twice, once by only four points, on Friday at home.

But Saturday could be the rubber match with the Grove, which beat Burlington by 15 in Union Grove early in the season.

However, on Jan. 30 in Burlington, Burling went off for 22 points and 13 rebounds, and Burlington shut down the Broncos, 51-45.

Can the Lady Demons shut down the powerful four-time conference champs once again?

Union Grove most likely has revenge on its mind and will have the home-court advantage, but Burling, who averages 17 points, 11.7 rebounds and 7 steals per game, has the ability to lead her team to victory again.

Burling, who became the school’s all-time leader in points, rebounds and assists this season, had a monster game in the victory over the Grove.

It would take another Herculean effort in the regional final Saturday, but the Demons have the kind of defense to pull off a road playoff victory.

Down the road, Burlington would have to face Monroe, the state’s No. 3 team, or Stoughton, the No. 7 squad.

 

Demon boys face uphill climb

At 10-11, the Burlington boys basketball team is a No. 6 seed in a WIAA Division 2 sectional and will host No. 11 Milton Tuesday, Feb. 27.

After a promising 5-1 start to the season in which senior guard Nick Klug broke Tony Romo’s all-time scoring record, Klug had to miss the rest of the season with a foot injury, and the Demons were forced to scramble to find an identity.

Burlington has also had injury issues with 6-foot-7 senior Brock Halbach.

Without Klug in the starting lineup, Burlington is 6-10 and host lost seven of nine games to finish the season.

Despite the recent struggles, the Demons have been competitive in most games and have found some balanced scoring.

Burlington lost, 74-60, at nonconference foe Mukwonago, perhaps the area’s best team at 16-4, on Monday night.

On Feb. 16, Burlington enjoyed a 67-52 lopsided victory after jumping out to a 38-18 halftime lead at Delavan-Darien.

Trent Turzenski, a 6-foot-6 center, had a career night with 24 points and 11 rebounds.

Grant Tully added 15 points with three triples, and Nick Webley contributed 11 points.

Burlington was solid at the line, hitting 19 of 27, and they hauled in 30 rebounds.

Dylan Runkel added seven boards.

Burlington may have to rely on its size (Runkel, Halbach and Turzenski all 6-foot-6 or taller) in order to win in the playoff opener.

Halbach is the team’s leading scorer with 9.4 points per game, while Tully is adding nine. Webley averages eight per contest.

If the Demons can get past Milton, they will have to win at No. 3 Waukesha West (14-7), a strong squad that is 8-4 at home, with one of the losses coming to Westosha Central.

Central has beaten Burlington twice.

The Demons can ride the energy of the home crowd to pick up that first win, but it will take their best effort of the season to win in Waukesha.

If the Demons can get past Waukesha, Westosha is the No. 2 seed and Union Grove is the top seed.

Halbach, who sat out last week with back spasms but expects to play Thursday, said the Demons can make some noise in the postseason.

“I know we haven’t been on the right track the last couple of games but I’ve never not been confident in the team,” he said. “We are strong playoff contenders. We’re looking to win.

Burlington closes the regular season at Elkhorn Thursday.

 

Toppers playing underdog

All season, the Catholic Central boys basketball team has had to face larger, state-ranked teams in the Metro Classic Conference that feature some of the state’s best talent.

Prairie, Martin Luther, St. Cat’s and Dominican have beaten up on the young Toppers, but even the lesser conference teams have been pretty good this season.

The result is a 4-17 overall record along with a 2-13 MCC mark, which equates to last place.

The Toppers fell in nonconference action in their last home game Monday, 57-48, to Lake Country Lutheran, a Division 3 team.

Frank Koehnke scored 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.

Fellow senior Chad Zirbel, who recently returned after injuries sidelined his football and most of his basketball season, added eight rebounds. Zirbel has really added to Catholic Central’s depth and given them some senior leadership.

John Pum added 11 points against Lutheran, and brother Brandon Pum scored nine.

The good news for the Toppers is that they are facing schools their own size in the Division 5 tournament, where the Toppers open as a No. 10 seed at No. 7 Faith Christian Tuesday, Feb. 27.

Catholic Central is 2-1 this season against D5 squads, including a 56-50 victory over Faith, which is having a strong season at 14-5.

If the Toppers can upset Faith, they’d have to travel to No. 2 Lourdes Academy.

If the upset train keeps rolling, an eventual date with D5’s No. 4 team, Sheboygan Lutheran (18-4), would be daunting.

But in 2016, All-Area Player of the Year Ben Heiligenthal went off in the postseason and led the Toppers to the state tournament.

That squad had much more experience, but Koehnke, who is averaging nearly 18 points and 8 rebounds per game, is capable of taking over the playoffs for the Toppers.

Can he lead the young squad on an improbable run?

“We are going to need to be consistent throughout a game,” said head coach Kyle Scott. “Not flashes here and there. We are the 10 seed, which is probably where we should be.”

 

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