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Knights, Redbirds ready for rematch
Cullen Brooks, a 6-foot-4 junior, averages 18.8 points a game for the New Glarus boys basketball team. (Times photo: Marissa Weiher)
MONROE - The rematch between the New Glarus and Darlington boys basketball teams could turn into a shootout with two teams who like to push the tempo, shoot 3-pointers and score on the break.

New Glarus (20-4) plays second-ranked Darlington (24-0) in a Division 4 sectional semifinal game at 7 p.m. Thursday in Evansville. Darlington beat New Glarus 71-55 Jan. 3.

However, Darlington coach Tom Uppena understands it would be dangerous to expect a similar game.

"Things will definitely be different the second time around," Uppena said. "I think they are a lot better team now than when we played them in January. That's a long time ago as far as basketball. When you have some young guys on your team they do some growing in the season."

New Glarus, the Capitol South Conference champion, has won 15 of its past 16 games. The Knights had a 13-game winning streak snapped in an 87-71 loss in the regular-season finale to Lake Mills, which also made the Division 3 sectional semifinals. The Knights' 88-73 win over Deerfield on Saturday gave New Glarus its the first regional title since 1991.

"I think the guys are playing with a lot of confidence right now," New Glarus coach Travis Sysko said. "It doesn't seem like the weight of the world is on their shoulders. They are playing loose and with confidence. I feel like we are playing at a pretty high level. I feel like we are a better team than we were in January."

The Knights are led by sophomore Jaden Kreklow, who is averaging a team-best 19.3 points per game. The other top scorers for the Knights are 6-foot 4 junior Cullen Brooks (18.8 ppg) and sophomore Zach Feller (13.7 ppg).

"They have a lot of really good shooters and have some size inside with the (Cullen) Brooks kid," Uppena said. "They push the ball and really attack the rim. We will have our hands full."

The Redbirds are unbeaten this year and were on the brink of making a state tournament appearance last season. La Crosse Aquinas defeated the Redbirds 50-49 in a sectional final last year.

The Redbirds received a boost when senior Chad Golackson returned from a back injury about five games ago that sidelined him most of the season. Golackson scored nine of the Redbirds' 29 points off the bench in the 53-38 regional championship game win over Mineral Point.

"He's finally back and getting into a groove," Uppena said. "He's found his shot. Sometimes it takes a while to get your groove back."

The Redbirds are a deep team with seven players averaging at least seven points per game. Senior Will Schwartz (15.6 ppg) and senior Trevor Johnson (13.2) are the top scorers. The other top playmakers are seniors Ryan Glendenning (10.9 ppg), Josh Soper (9.3 ppg) and Hunter Johnson (7.2 ppg).

"I don't think you can focus on one guy," Sysko said of the Redbirds. "They have so many weapons and players who can score."

Darlington was able to race out to a 10-point lead in the first meeting against the Knights. With a Memphis-style offense that relies on driving to the basket, kicking out for 3-pointers and pushing the ball on the break, the game has the makings of being a shootout.

"We have been an uptempo team all year," Sysko said. "I don't see us getting away from that. It could turn into a track meet if both teams are running because Darlington really scores well in transition."

Sysko said the key will be getting points in the paint and knocking down open shots.

"In the first game we played it wasn't our best shooting night," he said. "We have to find a way to knock down some shots."

The Redbirds also are embracing the moment.

"It feels really good to be playing at this point in the season," Uppena said. "It's the goal of every team to still be playing right now. It's nice to see them rewarded for all of the hard work they have put into it."