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November 27, 2012 | 04:10 PMThe saga continues in area high school basketball between Lake Geneva Badger and East Troy.
Junior Jacob Growel, who started at point guard for Badger since his freshman year and averaged 13.9 points per contest last season, transferred to East Troy this school year and will play for the Trojans.
The Badgers opened their season Nov. 20 at home with a 68-44 loss to Sussex Hamilton. Colton Andresen and Rob Slagle paced the local boys with 11 points. Hamilton drained 10 3-pointers in the game. Badger was down, 35-22, at the half and never recovered.
Andresen is now Badger's leading returning scorer with 8.3 points per game a year ago.
Look for basketball previews in next week's Regional News.
Growel joins a cast of all-star characters, including senior shooting guard Nate Dodge and 6-foot-9 twin brothers Brett and Alex Prahl. Dodge is committed to Division 1 Army, and the Prahls have given verbal commitments to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
So why would a player choose to share the wealth instead of returning to a team where he was the top guy?
It could be the wins. The Trojans were ranked in the top 10 in Division 3 all season last year and finished a couple wins from state.
Or the coach. Daryl Rayfield, a Lake Geneva resident who has coached current Badgers in youth basketball, is the head man at East Troy. Rayfield ran into some controversy last season with a lopsided victory over Big Foot.
With starters playing in the fourth quarter despite a 50-point halftime lead, Rayfield was accused of running up the score by Big Foot Athletic Director Tim Collins. However, the man knows basketball and he is earning wins with the Trojans at an impressive rate. And who wouldn't consider playing with Dodge, one of the state's best, and two 6-foot-9 studs?
It will be interesting to see how much Growel's game will improve, and how this shocker will impact Badger.
When I first noticed Growel attended East Troy, I was very surprised. Going into this season, I deemed Badger a contender for the SLC title. Badger may still be a contender. Teams without their top scorer tend to rally together and concentrate more on the team, with balanced scoring.
However, when the going gets tough, someone will have to step up and take the final shot. Look for Andresen and Tony Ashley to step up and emerge as scoring stars for the Badgers. Also, Slagle, a 6-foot-4 center, should provide a solid inside presence.
Keep in mind Rayfield replaced Darin Lottig, who left for Badger last season.
I've talked to a Badger student who said Growel has a solid relationship with Rayfield.
On the flip side, I've talked to a Badger parent who wished Growel would've stayed.
East Troy may now be the favorites to win the state title in Division 3.
Badger, which features experienced seniors and juniors, will look to improve on last year's 5-18 season.
Burlington, Waterford and Wilmot will contend in the SLC.
New head man in Walworth
The lone coaching change in area basketball this winter season is at Big Foot.
After one season, Rodney Wedig will no longer lead the Lady Chiefs, who were 5-18 last year.
Mike Dowden, a 2005 Big Foot graduate, takes over the program this winter. He is the son of longtime Big Foot basketball coach Dan Dowden. Mike played basketball at Division 3 St. Norbert College and is a former girls college basketball coach.
Collins gave Dowden a ringing endorsement when Dowden was hired at the beginning of the school year.
"He's got experience, integrity and he's in it for the long haul," Collins said.
Defending the crown
Three area basketball teams, the Badger girls and the Faith boys and girls, are coming off conference titles from a year ago.
The Lady Badgers captured their first title since 1998 thanks to star play from center Lana Wieseman and guard Emma Kopp. Wieseman now plays at Division 3 Beloit College, and Kopp is at Division 3 Carroll College.
Badger hopes to repeat with nine seniors, led by Karina Reeves, the team's top returning scorer.
Just outside of Williams Bay on Highway 67, Faith Christian won two conference titles in last year's banner season. The boys were 24-1 a year ago and a perfect 11-0 in the Indian Trails Conference. Adam Montsma, the area's leading returning scorer with 20.1 points per game, leads a group of four three-year starters, including senior Alex Montsma and juniors Jared Mulder and Joe Ingersoll. The Eagles must replace their big man in the middle, Josh Sass, but the perimeter shooting will be top notch.
The Eagles are the favorite for the conference crown.
The Lady Eagles are also the defending conference champs. They posted a 14-7 mark last year before losing to Williams Bay in the playoffs. Leading scorer Suzanne Knudtson graduated, so Suzanne's sister Alida, a junior, should step up as Faith's biggest offensive threat.
At Williams Bay, the boys will replace Lawrence Crement, who led the team in almost every category. Fortunately, Noah Gray, who played his first two seasons at Faith Christian before transferring to the Bay only to miss last year, has stepped up as a scoring threat for the Bulldogs.
In Saturday's 73-45 home loss against Palmyra-Eagle, the 6-foot-2 guard paced the Bay with 20 points, all of which came in the final three quarters. The Bulldogs are 0-2 this season.
As for the Lady Bulldogs, seniors Josie Bauscher and Claire Canda should have the girls near the top of the Trailways Small Conference.
They opened the season Nov. 20 with a 48-32 pounding of Eastbrook Academy. Canda led the team with 17 points, and Bauscher added 12.
While the basketball season promises to be action-packed, don't forget about the Badger wrestling and gymnastics squads, which are both coming off state trips.
Who said there was an offseason between fall and winter Sports? This year, it really didn't exist. See you at the games.