APPLETON – It’s good to be King, especially when you have a 6-foot-4 post player who poses nightmarish matchup problems inside the paint.
Milwaukee King and sophomore center Sydnee Roby present a difficult challenge for unbeaten Appleton North on Friday night in the Lightning’s 6:35 p.m. Division 1 state girls’ basketball semifinal at the Resch Center.
It should be an interesting and highly competitive battle considering both teams are unbeaten and ranked No. 1 (North) and No. 2 (Milwaukee King) in both the Associated Press and wissports.net Division 1 state polls.
De Pere (24-2) and Middleton (23-3) meet in Friday’s other semifinal at 8:15 p.m. The Redbirds are No. 3 in the AP poll and fourth in the wissports.net ranking. Middleton is seventh in the wissports.net poll and eighth in the AP ratings.
The Generals (25-0) won the Milwaukee City-Gold Conference and are making their fifth trip to the state tournament and first since 2012. Like Appleton North, King is seeking its first state title.
“They’re good,” said Appleton North coach Joe Russom. “They’re well-coached and play a different style of ball than we’re used to. They’re deep in the guards and very fast, and they have Roby inside who has created mismatch problems for basically everyone they have faced this season.”
Roby has already received a number of offers from high-powered Division I college programs and is a force both offensively and defensively. She is averaging 16.9 points and 11.6 rebounds per game and has blocked 92 shots.
“A lot of what they do goes through Roby,” said Russom. “She’s a very intelligent player and she directs traffic. She’s kind of like a point guard in the post. Everything flows through that middle with them, so we have to defend the paint better than we ever have. We’ve been tested by kids like (Hortonville’s) Morgan Allen, but Roby is a little different than even her.”
Roby gets plenty of help. Guards Tishara Morehouse (11.4 ppg), Kaye Clark (11.3 ppg) and Annaly Garcia (10.2 ppg) are double-digit scorers. The Generals average 71.4 points per game and allow 49.8.
“Morehouse is an excellent penetrator and she makes a lot of things happen,” said Russom. “For us to win, it’s going to take a couple things. Number one, we have to get the tempo. If we can make it a full-court game, I think it plays to our advantage because it minimizes Roby’s effectiveness.
“The second part of it will be rebounding and defending the post. We’re going to have to double down and we need to do a great job of blocking out and getting out in transition.”
North is an excellent defensive team, allowing just 41.0 ppg. The Lightning have no trouble scoring, either, averaging 59.1 ppg. University of Milwaukee recruit Sydney Levy (18.9 ppg, 61 3-pointers) leads a balanced North attack that gets scoring contributions from point guard Kari Brekke (10.8 ppg, 42 3-pointers), Paige Schabo (10.7 ppg, 38 3-pointers) and Callie Pohlman (8.6 ppg).
“We’re definitely going to have to hit the boards hard,” said Pohlman. “Sydnee Roby is a really good player and then we’re just going to run and pressure them like we have against every team this year.”
Levy added: “They’re a great team, undefeated as well. It’s going to be a good game. We’re going to come out with a lot of intensity and give it our all.”
Tim Froberg: 920-993-7183 or firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter@twfroberg
Division 1 State
At Resch Center, Ashwaubenon
6:35 p.m. – Appleton North (26-0) vs. Milwaukee King (25-0), followed by De Pere (24-2) vs. Middleton (23-3)
8:15 p.m. – Semifinal winners