Fall Creek looking for strong performance in regional tournament
Each regional tournament in WIAA Boys Basketball Tournament series are now down to four teams each and this weekend features both the semifinals on Friday, March 3 and the finals on March 4.
Fall Creek (20-4 overall) as the result of being a No. 1 seed in its Division 4 Neillsville Sectional half-bracket (the semis next week will be played at Osseo-Fairchild) scored a bye for the first round to await the winner of the No 8 seed Colfax vs. No. 9 seed Blair-Taylor contest. That turned out to be Colfax by a 70-57 score and the Crickets will host the Vikings (13-12) this Friday, March 3 with the tip time at 7 p.m.
The Crickets are the only team in the Tri-County Area left as the other three (Osseo-Fairchild, Augusta and Eleva-Strum) lost their regional first round contests on Tuesday, Feb. 28.
FC has lost two of its last four contests with losses to No. 1 ranked Chippewa Falls McDonell, which secured the Western Cloverbelt title for the Macks, and to Marshfield Columbus in their Cloverbelt Crossover game last weekend at Osseo-Fairchild to fall of the state rankings. But both games were closely contested with McDonell winning on a last-second shot and Fall Creek having a rally come up short against the Dons. Being at home and a top seed should help them bounce back if nothing else the memory of losing last season's regional championship game to Durand-Arkansaw, also on a last-second shot, to reedem.
To do so the Crickets will need to control Colfax's top players, senior guard Jack Scharlau and junior guard Elijah Entzminger. Scharlau averages 15.7 points per game and over 10 rebounds per contest while Entzminger leads the Vikings in scoring with 15.8 ppg. and assists at 2.7 per contest. Fall Creek will counter with their All-WCC trio of junior forward Bo Vollrath, junior center Isaac Steinke and senior guard Leo Hagberg. Vollrath finished the 2022-23 season the leading rebounder in the conference at over 10 per game and led the league in assists at 4.6 per game. Thus, along with over 22 points per contest, was named the Western Cloverbelt's Player of the Year.
The other semifinal in this regional tournament pits No. 5 seed Spring Valley (15-10) at No. 4 seed Melrose-Mindoro (17-7) Mel-Min. was runner-up in the Large Dairyland Conference and is led by their senior All-DC guard Dominic McRoberts, who averages 10.8 ppg. and eight rebounds. The Mustangs have two other players averaging 10 ppg. in 6-7 junior center Presley Byom and sophomore guard Aeron Hanson. Byom also averages eight rebounds a game and M-M is led in assists by senior guard Ty Zeman at over four per contest. Mel-Min. had no problems getting past Cadott in the first round 56-39. Spring Valley moved past Augusta 72-55 in the first round. They are led by the Dunn-St. Croix Conference's scoring champion this season in sophomore guard Cade Stasiek, averaging nearly 19 points per contest. Stasiek is not only the team's scoring leader but also led in rebounding as well with nine per game and assist with four per contest. Junior forward Jamison Bauer also averages 10 ppg. and sophomore center Caleb Bartko averages seven points and seven rebounds per game although at 6-3 he is the biggest player on the team.
The championship game will be played Saturday in the home gym of the highest remaining seed beginning at 7 p.m.