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Thursday, March 15, 2018

State tourney begins this afternoon for PHS Boys hoopsters

The Prescott High School Boys Basketball Team, 24-2 overall, was given the No. 3 seed in the WIAA State Boys Basketball Division Tournament and will face No. 2 seed East Troy, 21-5 overall, in the state semifinals Thursday, March 15, at 3:15 p.m. in the Kohl Center on the UW-Madison campus.

Prescott is the highest remaining ranked team in the field at No. 6 (East Troy is No. 8) and has the best overall record and was the state runner-up last year. Yet it was No. 10 ranked Valders, 23-3 overall, who got the No. 1 seed. They will face No. 4 seed and unranked Kettle Moraine Lutheran, 22-5 overall, at 1:35 p.m. Thursday, March 15, the very first game of this year’s tournament.

“I'm not a fan of it,” PHS head coach Nick Johnson said as he prepares the team for not only its third trip to the state tournament and third in the last four seasons. “Coaches can dictate who they play by how they vote. Did this happen this year? I'm not sure. I believe there should be a committee chosen and they decide the seeds off the coaches three minute season summary. For us to be 24-2 and be given the lowest seed by a few coaches doesn't seem right. I guess it is what it is.”

But isn’t that what Prescott’s season has been all about, proving the skeptics wrong? The same skeptics who said PHS couldn’t get back to Madison without 7-0 center and Division I player Owen Hamilton, who helped the Cardinals to two of those state trips?

We are extremely excited on going back,” Johnson said.  “It's crazy to think three times in four years. It's a credit to our program and our players. “ 

Second-seeded East Troy is making its first appearance since 2015 and its fourth overall. The Trojans’ are attempting to win their first-ever game at state. They claimed the title in the Rock Valley Conference this year, and beat Edgerton 66-53 in the Middleton Sectional final to advance to the state semifinals.

The Trojans’ A.J. Vukovich is another 6-5 forward/guard combo who also leads his team in scoring, in this case at 20 ppg. He also has a team-best 10 rebounds per game average. He’s joined in these efforts by teammate 6-6 senior forward Nick Burdo. He averages 10 ppg., 10 rebounds per contest and has a team best 46 blocks (Vukovich has 45). 6-2 junior guard Michael Polakoski averages 14.5 ppg. and has 66 assists. Team leader in assists is 5-9 senior guard Jared Brehm with 102 and senior 6-3 forward Logan Mitchell has 49 steals.  East Troy may have five losses but they have also played a tough schedule with games vs. big schools like Madison Memorial and Madison East, defending Division 4 state champion Milwaukee Destiny and top-ranked Greendale Martin Luther.

East Troy is another team the Cardinals will face with superior height across the board but Johnson said Prescott hasn’t been fazed by size this season, certainly not in the sectional finals vs. a much taller Wisconsin Dells squad.

“I don’t believe we’ve been in a contest this season where size has been a big disadvantage to us,” Johnson said.  “I think that’s because we’re mentally tough enough to offset it with the way we play defense and box out and hustle for rebounds and our speed as well.”

Prescott's Joe Roosen puts up a shot against Ellsworth in the sectional tournament.

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