(WQOW) -- The field is finally set. Twenty teams have punched their tickets to the Kohl Center, three from the greater Eau Claire area, and two of those are very familiar with the court in Madison.
In Division 5, McDonell Central used another strong start to knock off South Shore and earn both their third straight Sectional Title, and their third straight berth in the WIAA State Tournament. Senior Hayden Baughman again led the way with 17 points, but the rest of the team followed suit - Cory Hoglund and Charlie Bleskachek both finished in double figures, as 7 different Macks got on the score sheet - another sign that this year's team is peaking at the right time.
"It's a long season, and this last month can be long too, and we hoped we would peak at this time," says head coach Archie Sherbinow, "The way that injuries fell, they probably happened at the right time, too. So a blessing there, but I think we're absolutely playing our basketball right now."
"It's huge, especially losing so much last year," Baughman says, "It really means a lot to come out here and show that we've still got it, and we can still make it back to State. Hopefully we can go back there and do pretty well."
The Macks will face Deerfield in the State semifinals Friday morning at 10:45 a.m.
In Division 3, Prescott earned it's second straight Sectional Title with a win over Wisconsin Dells, and they're set to make their third appearance at State in the last four seasons. But this will be the first time the Cardinals appear in the Kohl Center without 7-footer Owen Hamilton, who graduated last year. Instead, this current group of seniors has turned a streak of success into an expectation and belief.
"It's not easy to replace 7 feet, a Division 1 basketball player, and Owen was such a great player for us, and the other starters we had with Simon and Murphy starting for us," explains head coach Nick Johnson, "We knew we could go up tempo this year, we could go fast, led by Peter [Brookshaw], one of the best players in the State. We put a lot of pressure on other teams' defenses, and we do have very good players. They believe, they believe in themselves, they believe in the system, and it's built all the way through our lower grades and coming up. We've got something really special in Prescott and I'm really proud of it."
The Cardinals take on East Troy in the semifinals Thursday afternoon at 3:15 p.m.
And in Division 4, Clear Lake advances to their second ever State Tournament with a win over Durand in the Sectional Final. The last time the Warriors advanced to state was 1972, a fact that's not lost on any of the Warriors players or coaches.
"1972. That was a special group," head coach Jason Sargent says, "We had a 25th anniversary awhile back, and had that whole team join our group and that was pretty special. Our boys have tried to have a gutty performance to get over the hump, and that's pretty much what it was, so I mean it feels amazing. I'm so proud of the boys for battling through those highs and lows, and it's just an unbelievable feeling."
Clear Lake faces Marathon in the semifinals Thursday night at 8:15 p.m.