2022 WIAA Girls Basketball Regional Tournament Preview

They say it always snows around tournament time.

Thus the WIAA prep girls basketball playoffs were delayed a day due to a winter storm across the state but begin tonight with regional tournaments running from Wednesday, Feb. 23 through Saturday, Feb. 26.

One Tri-County Area team has a first-round bye, No. 1 seed Osseo-Fairchild and they need the time to re-group.

The loss the Thunder took to Neillsville in the Cloverbelt Conference Championship game last week Saturday, Feb. 19 at Osseo-Fairchild knocked them all the way down to No. 9 in the finals state coaches' poll behind Neillsville at No. 7 (both with the same 22-2 overall records). That loss was a reflection not only of the Thunders' 56-40 loss to the Warriors but O-F's weakened position as they have lost five players due to season-ending injuries. The Thunder were still able to clinch the Western Cloverbelt division title with two wins the week before despite those injuries including a 58-49 win over decent Bloomer (10-14) squad.

The Warriors led 37-25 at halftime and while Thunder fought hard to keep within a good distance of their foes, down 46-38 late in the second half, Neillsville outscored them for the duration 10-2. Taylor Gunderson had 11 to lead O-F in scoring and Kaitlyn Skoug had eight points and Madisyn Loonstra seven for the Thunder. But with five players out due to injury, O-F could not stop the Warriors' sophomore Paris Opelt who finished with game-high 35 points, including 27 in the first half alone.

O-F takes on the winner of the first round match-up between No. 8 seed Eau Claire Regis (10-12) and No. 9 Whitehall (12-8). Regis is led by the Western Cloverbelt scoring champion and all-conference stand-out senior Makenna Rohrscheib who is averaging 19.2 points per game. They're coming off a 65-39 Cloverbelt crossover win over Loyal and the Thunder have to keep Rohrscheib from making the same impact on their potential regional semifinal contest Friday, Feb. 25 at Osseo-Fairchild as Opelt did.

One advantage the Thunder will have is all their tournament games will be played in Osseo as they are not only a No. 1 seed but will is the host for the sectional championship game.

Fall Creek could be a potential regional finals match-up against O-F. The Crickets a No. 5 seed at 16-8 overall, host No. 12 Spring Valley (6-18) and are on a six-game winning streak. Defense has powered the Crickets over the past two weeks. No one for Gilman (18-6 overall) had more than six points as the Crickets annihilated them 67-26 in a Cloverbelt crossover game last week Thursday, Feb. 17. FC also had one of its best games on offense this season as Gianna Vollrath with a season-best 18 points, Katie Kent 14 and Tori Marten 11 points. If Fall Creek they will have to travel to Durand (19-5) for a regional semifinal match-up against the No. 4 seeded Panthers. Senior Madisyn Kilboten is Durand's leading scorer averaging 12.3 points per game while freshman Emma Bauer leads the team in rebounds with five per contest along with eight points per game.

Another D-4 match-up has No. 11 Augusta (11-13) at No. 6 Cadott (18-6). The Beavers will not only be going up against one of the region's top scorers in junior guard Lauren Goettl, averaging 18 points per game, but will have to do so playing pretty much a seven-player rotation and only 10 players on their roster. But that didn't stop the Beavers from downing Tri-County and Large Dairyland Conference rival Eleva-Strum (9-12) in their regular season finale 54-42 last week Thursday, Feb. 17 in Augusta. AHS's Kennedy Korger's 22 points led all scorers and teammate Brittany Bergman finished with 17 points. Jaden Bautch scored 16 to lead Eleva-Strum, 9-12 overall, while teammate Madison Schultz scored 11 points.

The Beavers were in front for much of the game but there was a window to where the Cardinals could have put on a rally against a fatigued ballclub only trailing 37-31 with 7:43 to go in the second half.. However Bergman shut that window with inspired play on defense and rebounding that helped AHS outscore E-S 17-11 for the duration.

Bergman, a junior, finished as the top rebounder in the Large Dairyland this season grabbing nine boards per game.

"We were very determined not to let them get back in game," Bergman said. "We played with a lot team chemistry and cohesion through that whole time,"

If Augusta wins they would take on No. 10 ranked and No. 3 seed Colfax (22-2) which finished ahead of Durand in the Dunn-St. Croix Conference. Forwards sophomore McKenna Shipman and senior Madison Barstad are their top scorers and rebounders at 15.3 ppg. and 6.5 rpg and 10.3 ppg. and 5.5 rpg. respectively. No. 7 Neillsville is the No. 2 seed in the sectional half-bracket and faces the winner of the No. 10 Mondovi - No. 7 Elmwood/Plum City match-up in Neillsville in the regional semis Friday, Feb. 25.

Eleva-Strum is in Division 5 and will look to bounce back from the loss to Augusta with a first-round tussle; with No, 11 Independence (8-14). The Cardinals are the No. 6 seed and if they win will more-than-likely face Small Dairyland champion Lincoln (17-5) whom they beat this season 42-39 as the third-seed Hornets host No. 14 seed Greenwood (4-19). Whoever emerges from that contest in the regional semifinals will in all probability face No. 2 seed and No. 3 ranked Blair-Taylor (23-1) led by the Large Dairyland scoring champion, junior guard Lindsay Steinen averaging 29 ppg. The only reason the Wildcats aren't the No. 1 seed is they are in the same sectional half-bracket as No. 1 seed and No. 2 ranked Bangor (22-2).

The regional finals are on Saturday, Feb. 26 at 7 p.m. The tournament brackets can be found here: https://halftime.wiaawi.org/CustomApps/Tournaments/Brackets/HTML/2022_Ba... and here: https://halftime.wiaawi.org/CustomApps/Tournaments/Brackets/HTML/2022_Ba...



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