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King roster reads like state all-star team

The roster reads like a Wisconsin state all-star game.

Three of Milwaukee Rufus King's starters on its state tournament-bound boys basketball team are headed for Division 1 programs, including guard Troy Cotton (UW-Green Bay), Leneal Harris (UW-Milwaukee) and 7-foot-0 center Mitchell Carter (South Carolina).

So what King head coach Jim Gosz said was downright scary when the WIAA held its annual conference call for coaches headed to the year-end event, to be held at the Kohl Center in Madison beginning Thursday.

"What's nice, you have a kid like (James) Pruitt who started the last two state championships (in 2003 and 2004) and a sophomore (Korie Lucious) who's highly touted and they're still on the bench and the game hasn't started yet," Gosz said. "You get a six or seven point lead and you can bring in probably two of your best players, things are looking good. We like to think our best players come off the bench because we don't think anything's going to happen the first couple minutes. We don't really buy into who start. It's who finishes the game."

Lucious, considered among the top sophomores in the nation by several prep publications, will join sophomore teammate Bryan Brown as Division 1 recruits in the coming years. Throw in the seniors, and the entire package is staggering for the seven other Division 1 teams hoping for a state crown.

"If I was working for a (news)paper, I'd put us up there too just looking at us on paper with all these Division 1 signees," Gosz said. "We understand it's not going to be easy, but looking at the resumes on some of these kids, I'd have to go with you guys as well (in seeing King as the favorites)."

The City Conference champions are 19-3 this year, with a loss tally matched or improved upon by five other teams in the D-1 field. Yet none of those losses have come against schools in the state, and King is still the prohibitive favorite to claim their third state title in four years.

The team will meet undefeated Ashwaubenon (24-0) at 1:35 p.m. today, facing a Bay Conference entrant that boasts an all-state caliber player of its own in senior Adam Koch, who averages 19.4 points per game and will play next season for one of the nation's rising mid-major programs at Northern Iowa.

The Jaguars' faithful have had plenty to cheer about in the 2005-06 school year. Five members of the state champion football team also play basketball, and many fans will be making consecutive weekend trips to Madison after witnessing the girls basketball team claim the Division 1 state title last weekend.

"A number of people have talked about the pressure on this team during the season and we have truly enjoyed the motto of living by the day and never talked bout our record or where we're rated in the state," Ashwaubenon coach Jeff VandeLoo said. "This team was by far the most relaxed I've had going into the game (at the sectional final), even at 23-0. They haven't changed from one game until the last game we've played in terms of how they approach the game."

Of course, they haven't faced a team like King, either.

"They have a ton of talent and athleticism and they're the favorite to win the state tournament," VandeLoo said. "We'll be up for the challenge. I don't know what we're going to do it terms of game planning ... but I know our guys will play incredibly hard."

Other Division 1 games

Game 2: Madison Memorial (22-1) vs. Brookfield Central (20-3), 20 minutes after game one.

Outside of a hiccup against Oconomowoc early in the season, Brookfield Central coach Mark Adams said he's seen his Lancers show impressive consistency throughout the season, with their only other two losses coming in the final moments against Greater Metro Conference powerhouse Wauwatosa East.

"In the tournament we've gotten better defensively ... in our first two playoff games, our defense basically won it for us," Adams said, referencing a pair of games that includes a double overtime victory over Muskego. "All three games have been down to the wire and we handled adversity well in all three games. The kids have a lot of heart and they're really competitive."

The team will have its hands full against the reigning Division 1 state champions, a team led by all-state caliber junior Keaton Nankivil (16.0 points per game 8.4 rebounds per game), a 6-foot-7 post. Meanwhile, Central's weapon of choice is 5-foot-10 senior guard Scott Bagguley (19.4 ppg), one of the school's top five career scorers and No. 1 on the school's all-time assists chart, re-writing a mark that had stood for 13 years.

Adams also identified senior David Kersey, who scores 15.5 points per game and stands as the team's second leading scorers, as one of the best defenders the program has produced.

Game 3: Menomonie (16-8) vs. Arrowhead (15-9), 6:35 p.m.

Arrowhead junior Charlie Chapman missed 18 games during the season following an athletic code violation, but his return has sparked the Warhawks to the state tournament in the game that many high school fans assumed would feature Milwaukee Vincent, a surprising sectional semi-final casualty at the hands of Homestead.

"Obviously Charlie is a very good player, and our seniors have really accepted him," Arrowhead coach Craig Haase said. "When he came back, he did give us an added scoring punch, but what gives us defensive pressure-wise makes our kids a little more confident. Our kids have accepted him and it's a tribute to our seniors that haven't let his distractions become the team's distractions. They've done a nice job implementing him back in the lineup."

Scoring 17.2 points per game, senior guard John Hoch has been at the forefront of that operation, helping Arrowhead to their second ever state bid and first since 1992. Menomonie's Cole Kraft leads his team, in its first state berth since 1986, with just two-tenths of a point more per contest and 8.2 rebounds per game.

"We're not big and we're not super quick but our kids are very disciplined across the board," Menomonie coach Jay Stanley said.

Game 4: Oshkosh West (23-0) vs. Verona (21-2), 20 minutes after game 3.

Loyola of Chicago recruit Andy Polka made just one 3-pointer this season, but most close followers of Wisconsin basketball could tell you when it happened. The Wildcats nipped Kaukauna on Jan. 11, 38-35, thanks to Polka's three-quarter-court basket at the buzzer to keep West's undefeated season intact.

The 6-foot-6 forward has earned his 14.0 points and 11.0 rebounds per game in a more traditional manner inside the paint, leading his team in blocks and assists in the meanwhile.

"He's had a very good high school career by all measures and I know he was motivated by getting us down to Madison," coach Lance Randall said. "The Fox Valley has really enjoyed watching these guys the last year or two ... they're a fun group to watch."

West's first round opponent, Verona, gets 7.3 points per game or more from six members of its roster and will make its first appearance in the state's final eight.

Semifinals -- Friday, March 17
Game 5: Winner of Game 1 vs. Winner of Game 2 -- 6:35 p.m.
Game 6: Winner of Game 3 vs. Winner of Game 4 -- approx. 20 min. following Game 5.
Championship Game, 25 minutes after Division 3 championship, Saturday.

The greater Milwaukee area is represented by one team each in each of the other three divisions. Division 2 entrant Delafield St. John's features high-flying Wisconsin recruit Trevon Hughes, undefeated Racine St. Catherine could be the favorite in a Division 3 field that has just one loss between four teams and Burlington Catholic Central enters the D-4 final four after ousting four-time defending state champs Randolph in the sectional final.

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OMCreader | March 22, 2006 at 5:42 p.m. (report)

Maddie said: King, King, King, I couldn't be more sick of hearing about this team that hasn't even taken state in last 2 yrs. Can we look elsewhere for heart, rather than just who happens to be in the spotlight at that time. Boring.

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