MONROE — The WIAA girls basketball playoffs begin Feb. 19, with six local schools playing in first-round Division 5 games.
Four other local teams, including Monroe, open their postseason Feb. 22.
The Cheesemakers (16-6) are the No. 2 seed in their WIAA Division 2 sectional and finished second in the Badger South behind top-seeded Monona Grove (19-2). Monroe will play the winner of Rock Valley champs McFarland (13-8) and Mount Horeb (6-16).
Earlier this year, Monroe defeated both McFarland (54-34) and Mount Horeb (55-40) in nonconference games.
Should the Cheesemakers move on, their quest for a third-straight state berth would likely mean a meetup with either Reedsburg (16-6) or Stoughton (13-8) in the regional final Feb. 23. The Beavers earned a No. 3 seed and get the winner of Sauk Prairie (4-17) and Stoughton. Monroe defeated Reedsburg 81-70 in the Badger Challenge back on Jan. 12. Monroe also swept the season series against the Vikings by an average of 14 points per game.
The sectional semifinal is scheduled for Feb. 28, where the likes of top-seeded MG and fourth-seeded Oregon (14-8) remain. Oregon upset the Cheesemakers 45-43 on Jan 17.
On the bottom side of the Sectional 3 bracket, Waterford (17-4) is the top season, with Wilmot (15-6) the No. 2, Milton (8-13) the three and East Troy (15-7) the fourth seed.
Monroe is playing behind the backbone of seniors Sydney Hilliard and Emily Benzschawel, two four-year varsity starters who have each been all-state and will play college basketball next year. Benzschawel (11.4 points per game) will play for Division II Lindenwood University next year. Hilliard (20.1 ppg) is the school’s all-time leading scorer and will play for the Wisconsin Badgers in the fall.
Brodhead drops from Division 3 to Division 4 this season, and the Cardinals (12-9) earned a No. 3 seed in the Sectional 3 bracket. Brodhead will face the winner of Montello (4-15) and Parkview (12-9) Feb. 22. The winner will then likely face No. 2-seeded Belleville (16-5).
The Cardinals decimated Parkview by 21 in their lone nonconference matchup Jan. 26.
Brodhead is led in scoring by freshman guard Kiarra Moe (13.7 ppg).
New Glarus (10-12) received a No. 4 seed and a first-round bye. The Glarner Knights will host the winner of Waterloo (13-8) and Williams Bay (5-15) Waterloo just defeated New Glarus 65-58 Feb. 14, while Belleville ended the regular season with a 61-56 win over the Knights Feb. 16.
New Glarus lost to Belleville by just two points Jan. 3, and dominated Waterloo by 14 five days later. The seeds for the brackets came out Feb. 10.
Sophomore guard Jaylynn Benson leads the team with 16.9 ppg and has five games of 20 or more points.
In the flip side of the Sectional 3 bracket, Darlington (17-4) earned a No. 3 seed and a second-round game at home against Wisconsin Heights (6-13) Feb. 22. The winner will likely get Mineral Point (19-3) in the regional final Feb. 23. The Pointers edged the Redbirds for the SWAL title by a game.
Darlington is led in scoring by UW-Parkside recruit Kaylee Meyers (15.9 ppg), who just surpassed 1,000 career points, and senior forward Kathleen Mathias (13.9 ppg).
Any team wanting to reach state through Sectional 3 will likely have to face La Crosse Aquinas — the state’s No. 1-ranked team and defending champion. Aquinas has lost just two games in the past three seasons — once in the 2017 state title by a point and two weeks ago to the top-ranked large school in Minnesota.
All eyes will be on top-seeded Black Hawk (21-0), the state’s runner-up a season ago. The Warriors cruised through the regular season despite a daunting nonconference schedule. Black Hawk won all but two games by 18 points or more. The two anomalies were against Division 3 opponents on the road.
Nonconference wins over Melrose-Mindoro (ranked third in D4) and Stockton, Illinois (ranked top-5) were added in with wins over teams that spent time in this season being ranked, including Platteville, Cuba City and Argyle.
The Warriors are known for their stout defense and punishing full-court press. Juniors Natalie Leuzinger (17.8 ppg) and Hannah Butler (16.0 ppg) each crossed the 1,000-point career threshold already this season, and sophomore guard Bailey Butler (17.8 ppg), who has already received an offer from DI UW-Green Bay, has scored 824 points in 50 career games.
No Division 5 teams received a first-round bye. Black Hawk, which is averaging nearly 70 points a game this year, drew winless North Crawford, which is averaging 30.7 points per 36 minutes of action. Black Hawk is also in the Division 5 Sectional No. 3, away from the rest of the Six Rivers East, which all reside in Sectional No. 4 this season.
Argyle (17-5) received a No. 3 seed and drew Madison Country Day (1-20) for a first round game. The Orioles are led by senior Jena Saalsaa (17.1 ppg), who is just six points shy of 1,500 for her career.
Albany (15-7), a No. 4-seed, improved by five wins over last year despite losing one of its best players to injury during the season. The Comets, which are led by senior forward Libby Beck (12.8 ppg) and freshman guard Brianna Dahl (11.0 ppg), will host conference rival Pecatonica (No. 13) in the first round.
The Vikings (4-18) have struggled all season to find a consistent scoring threat and keep opponents from scoring at will. Albany won both season matchups by an average of 33 points.
Monticello (12-9) surprised a number of times this season, splitting the season series with Barneveld and Argyle and taking Argyle to the brink Feb. 13. The seventh-seeded Ponies, which are led in scoring by Alyssen Noriega (15.2 ppg), have scored 60 or more points eight times this season. Monticello hosts Johnson Creek (6-15) in the first round. The Ponies won the Nov. 19 nonconference game between the two teams 63-20.
Juda (3-18) has struggled all season, picking up nonconference wins against Wayland Academy and North Crawford, plus splitting the season series with Pecatonica. The Panthers, with a 12-seed, will travel to fifth-seeded Rio in the first round. The Vikings have a 16-6 record and are led by senior point guard Jordyn Hutzler (20.5 ppg), who has scored over 1,300 points in her career.
As the brackets match up, the winner of Pecatonica and Albany will face either Rio or Juda in the regional semifinal Feb. 22. Should Argyle advance past Madison Country Day, either 11th-seeded Cambria-Friesland or No. 6 Central Wisconsin Christian would visit Orioles Country Feb. 22.
If Monticello prevails, a likely matchup against second-seeded Randolph, one of the top five teams in the season, awaits in the regional semifinal.
With a win, Black Hawk will host either a member of the SWAL in the regional semifinal Feb. 22, either Iowa-Grant or Southwestern. A potential date with either Potosi-Cassville, Benton, Ithaca or Kickapoo in the regional final Feb. 23 would be next.