By Jason Zaleski
Welcome back to our alphabetical list of five girls and boys basketball teams that we think you should find a way to watch due to their exemplary play this season. Find them quickly as this list is dynamic and you will see teams come and go from this list regularly due to their performance, lack of, or better performance of another.
Many games mentioned below are broadcast live on Zaleski Sports. See the weekly schedule by clicking here.
Girls Power Five
Assumption (10-2, 6-2) - The Royals dropped a crucial road game on December 16th at Auburndale by a score of 40-34. Since that rather lackluster loss, Assumption has ripped off four consecutive including three Marawood conference wins. The four game win streak has seen a scoring advantage of 234-111 highlighted by a defensive effort at Chequamegon that only allowed nine points. Assumption beat Stratford 52-32 to begin the season on the road on November 18th. The Tigers (8-5, 4-3) will now visit Wisconsin Rapids on Thursday where the Royals look for it's fifth straight or risk losing more ground to Auburndale in the conference standings.
Neillsville (9-1, 6-0) - The eye test says that the Warriors are the best team in the Cloverbelt East Conference, maybe by a mile.
The conference standings say that there are things left to solve as Spencer sits at 7-1 and Columbus Catholic checks in at 5-1. Neillsville dealt Spencer its only conference loss back on December 21st doubling up the Rockets 44-22. That may have been a warning shot to Tuesday's visitor in Columbus Catholic. With the Rockets downing the Dons a month ago, logic would tell you the Warriors should handle business at home tomorrow. I will tell you head over to Neillsville and see for yourself if the Warriors are as clear of a conference favorite as they appear to be.
Auburndale (9-3, 6-1) - The Eagles occupy the top spot in the Marawood South to begin 2022. Auburndale did suffer its first conference loss last week to Edgar 53-37 as coach Dale Aue's club was held to under 20 in each half. Auburndale holds a game and a half lead over the reigning state champion Assumption Royals and have a critical conference game against Marathon (6-4, 4-2) on the road Thursday. With the Royals picking up steam since falling at Auburndale on December 16th, it seems like the Eagles need to be sharp prior to the rematch on February 8th.
Mosinee (13-0, 4-0) - The much awaited arrival of the Mosinee Indians on this list. Somebody wake up the voting coaches and ask them why they aren't ranking the Indians, sheesh! Quality wins against Lakeland, Auburndale, and Neillsville combined with a zero in the loss column make this team legit in every way. Seniors Kate Fitzgerald and Lexi Freiboth average a combined 25 points per game and Hailey Shnowske has buried 18 3-pointers on the season for coach Scott McKellips. The girls have conference games at Medford (3-5, 2-2) on Tuesday and then will see Lakeland (7-6, 4-1) for the final time of the season Friday at home. A win over both and Mosinee can begin to engrave the Great Northern Conference championship plaque.
Wisconsin Rapids Lincoln (5-5, 4-0) - Another tough stretch last week for the Red Raiders with losses against #2 Freedom (D3) and #1 Reedsburg (D2) that did end with a win over Wisconsin Valley Conference foe DC Everest 72-36. Megan Clary continues to be our frontrunner for conference player of the year, averaging 21 points per game for coach Mitch Wolding (somebody offer this kid a scholarship!). This week it's a winnable game against Wausau East (2-8) on Tuesday and then a mega showdown at Wausau West (8-2) on Friday. Winner of the West Rapids clash will take control of the Valley, loser will take its first loss in conference.
Moving out: Athens - Tough loss vs Edgar
Boys Power Five
Columbus Catholic (10-1, 5-0) - Two weeks ago the Dons checked off a dramatic win on their list of season accomplishments with a last second victory at Owen. Last week the Dons checked off its first loss of the year with a 55-50 discrepancy at the hands of the St Mary's Springs Ledgers (6-3, 3-1) at the 2021 Rick Majerus Shootout. Columbus Catholic now embarks on an important week of basketball beginning today with a road game against sectional peer Pacelli (4-6, 3-0). Of particular concern for Columbus in Stevens Point tonight is uber-athletic freshman Jaydon Awe who patrols the paint at 6'6" while leading the Cardinals in scoring. Things stay intense on Thursday when conference co-leader Neillsville (8-2, 6-0) visits Marshfield. The Warriors bring seniors Andrew Brown (18 ppg), 6'6" center Mason Roenz, and 6'5" Santana Subke (10 rpg) and you need to bring yourself early to find a seat for this huge Cloverbelt conference game.
Iola-Scandinavia (10-0, 4-0) - What else can you do aside from winning your first 10 games of the season? As the rock and roll band The Fabulous Thunderbirds famously crooned, "Ain't That Tuff Enuff". Two years ago we had a sectional final pairing featuring Iola-Scandinavia and Stratford for a game that would have been talked about for generations. That game didn't happen as the world was closed for business, including the aforementioned game of the century. Good new perhaps for those who still desire that marquee game, as we sit today both the T-Birds and Tigers have a real chance to clash in a sectional semi-final in Auburndale on March 10th. More on that in weeks to come. For now, I-S looks to stay undefeated this week at home on Thursday vs Bonduel (5-5, 1-2) and at Menomonee Indian (5-3, 0-2) on Friday.
Marathon (9-1, 6-1) - Red Raiders fans are frantically readying an email to me regarding my comments about Stratford and Iola as the sectional semi-final matchup to keep an eye on.
Marathon supporters likely see their boys in a sectional semi-final and as I said above, more on that in weeks to come. Marathon has already beat Stratford (10-1, 6-1) and Newman (10-2, 6-1) and has firmly earned the top spot in the Marawood South standings. The Red Raiders offensively have three problems that you might not have a solution for as Jaden Koeller, Grant Warren, and Ben Robbins combine for 40 points per game. Last week the Red Raiders roughed up Prentice 92-51 and Rhinelander 75-50. This week, it's conference play at Assumption (4-5, 3-3) on Tuesday and at home vs Auburndale (5-6, 3-4) Friday.
Newman Catholic (10-2, 6-1) - The Cardinals get an outrageous 50 points per game from Mason Prey, Isaac Seidel, and Conner Krach. Jacob Pfiffner, Jackson Pfender, and Eli Gustafson chip in another 16. Do you have 67 points when coach Cory Marquardt and the Cardinals take the floor against you? That seems to be the quandary most teams have faced when attempting to beat the Cards and it's only been done once with Northland Pines putting up 78 during the season opener on November 28th. Newman is at Stratford for an enormous Marawood South conference game on Tuesday and at Edgar on Friday. Can the Tigers or Wildcats find 67 tic marks?
Stratford (10-1, 6-1) - Much has been said about the Tigers in this column. Could they be in a sectional semi final against Iola-Scandinavia, Marathon, somebody else, nobody? First things first for coach Curt Schmidt and his team is a conference championship. It's there for the taking and even though a conference title. no longer factors into post game seeding, it does factor into team confidence. Cam Daul and Ashton Wrensch score in double-digits while the Tigers calling card may be defense. In a tough Marawood conference, every game is going to be a battle to the bitter end. Two conference opponents this week with a game at home vs Newman (10-2, 6-1) on Tuesday that will have conference title consequences and no letup at Assumption (4-5, 3-3) on Friday.
Moving out: None