ASHWAUBENON - The girls state basketball tournament tips off Thursday and there are four teams from Northeastern Wisconsin which will be trying to win state titles at the Resch Center on Saturday.
In Division 2, Notre Dame and two-time defending state champion New London return. They played each other last year in a semifinal but this year they could meet in the state championship if they both win semifinal games.
In Division 3, defending state champ Kewaunee returns. The Storm is making its third straight state appearance.
In Division 4, Algoma returns to state after missing the trip last season. The Wolves hope to win one more game than the last time they reached the state tournament (2011) when they were runners-up.
Here's a breakdown of each of the area's state semifinal games with predictions for the tournament.
Notre Dame (20-6) vs. Milton (19-7)
Breakdown: Notre Dame has scored at least 70 points in three of four postseason wins, so the offense, led by Allie LeClaire (15.3 points per game), Brianna Byrne (14 ppg.) and Eliza Campbell (12.1 ppg.), is humming. Meanwhile, Milton has not allowed a team to score 70 points all season and all four postseason opponents failed to reach 50. Notre Dame will try to make this a full-court game where LeClaire, a junior and Green Bay recruit, excels. The Tritons fell short last year at state losing to eventual champion New London in a semifinal and they don't want a repeat. Also, the Tritons will have some home cookin' playing in their hometown.
New London (26-0) vs. New Berlin Eisenhower (24-2)
Breakdown: The Bulldogs are on a 68-game winning streak and beat Eisenhower last year in the state title game. However, this year's New London team returned just one starter, Brenna Heise (16.5 ppg., 7.5 rpg.), so it's basically a new team with a new coach (Andrea Flease) that continues to win games. New London isn't a high-powered offense (52.3 points per game), but has a stingy defense (23 opponents failed to reach 40 points), which will have to slow down a Lions team that averages 60 points per game. Eisenhower has revenge on its mind and it'll be interesting to see how the Bulldogs, with four new starters this season, handle the state tournament environment.
Predicted championship game: Notre Dame vs. New Berlin Eisenhower.
Champion: New Berlin Eisenhower.
Kewaunee (25-1) vs. Lodi (24-2)
Breakdown: This division has four combined losses among the four teams and two teams are defending state champs as Neillsville won Division 4 last season. Kewaunee appears to be in good position for a repeat as it has three senior players in Kelsey Stangel (13 ppg.), Alex Richard (12.6 ppg.) and Jill Kleiman (9.4 ppg.) that have played in the last two state championship games. Kleiman has been known to shoot well at state (13 for 27 from 3-point range in four state tournament games), while Stangel and Richard play well inside the arc. Whichever team wins Division 4 will have earned it as all four teams look title-worthy. But, Kewaunee knows how to get it done when it matters most.
Other semifinal: Neillsville (26-0) vs. East Troy (25-1)
Predicted championship game: Kewaunee vs. East Troy.
Algoma (24-2) vs. Cuba City (25-1)
Breakdown: The Wolves return to state for the second time in three seasons behind Packerland player of the year Taylor Schmidt (12.5 ppg. 4.0 apg.). Schmidt and junior post Kennedy Blahnik (9.7, 4.9 rpg) form a good 1-2 punch, but freshman post Anna Dier (8 ppg., 6.6 rpg) also can't be overlooked. The Wolves have a quite a test with the Cubans, who have won a girls state tournament-record nine state titles. It won't be easy, but Algoma is tested having played Kewaunee twice, Oconto three times, De Pere, Hamilton and Pulaski during the regular season. Its only losses came to Kewaunee and De Pere and it handed Hamilton, a Division 1 team, its only regular season loss. Only De Pere (52 points) reached 50 against the Wolves, but Cuba City averages 57.6 ppg. Algoma's defense will need to play big.
Other semifinal: Colfax (25-1) vs. The Prairie School (24-2).
Predicted championship game: Cuba City vs. The Prairie School.
Champion: Cuba City.
Semifinals: Arrowhead (18-8) vs. Mukwonago (24-2)
Superior (23-3) vs. Milwaukee Riverside (22-4)
Predicted championship game: Mukwonago vs. Milwaukee Riverside
Champion: Milwaukee Riverside
Semifinals: Newman Catholic (20-7) vs. Assumption (26-1)
South Shore (26-0) vs. Barneveld (26-1)
Predicted championship game: Assumption vs. South Shore
Champion: South Shore
Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay
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