It was a long, drawn-out affair between two powerful entities within the state of Wisconsin: The WIAA and the University of Wisconsin.
But the final decision was a bit of a head-scratcher: In late April, the WIAA approved a measure that would see the boys’ basketball tournament stay at the Kohl Center in Madison until 2020.
The girls’ state tournament? That would be moved to the Resch Center in Green Bay for the 2013 and 2014 seasons. The negotiations leading up to and the reaction afterward made the WIAA’s decision to move the girls’ state tournament The Post-Crescent’s No. 1 high school sports story of 2012.
Girls’ basketball coaches and players were upset with the move, with the general sentiment being that the girls’ tournament would be in an inferior facility when compared to the Kohl Center.
WIAA officials claimed that the girls’ tournament, which has seen a decline in attendance in recent years, would fare better in attendance in the 10,500-seat Resch Center rather than the cavernous Kohl Center, along with perhaps a better game-day experience.
That remains to be seen, but for the first time in the girls’ tournament history, five division champions will be crowned in March in a city other than Madison.
Here are the other top stories for the past year.
2, Little Chute/Xavier boys’ basketball sectional semifinal mess
Time appears to have healed the sore wounds from this unfortunate incident, which involved four different basketball teams and communities. On March 3, Xavier defeated Little Chute in a WIAA Division 3 regional final but was later forced to forfeit due to the Hawks having a player on the roster who had competed in a Catholic Youth Organization league game the previous week.
WIAA rules prohibit student-athletes from participating in such games during the seasons of their respective sports. A Mustangs player saw the Xavier player in the CYO game, came forward along with other Mustangs teammates to alert the Little Chute administration following the loss to Xavier. A call was made to Xavier officials on March 8 to alert the school that Little Chute knew of the violation but had no plans to alert the WIAA.
Xavier officials then chose to self-report the violation to the WIAA that morning and the WIAA promptly disqualified the Hawks as they prepared for their sectional semifinal game against Fox Valley Lutheran.
What followed was some tense moments as Little Chute, being the last team the Hawks defeated before the disqualification, was given the victory from the regional final game and allowed to compete against FVL. The Mustangs defeated the Foxes but eventually fell to eventual state champion Brillion in the sectional final.
3, Appleton North boys’ volleyball team goes undefeated and wins first state title
Many championship teams like to claim that they battle adversity en route to a state title, but for the Lightning that was indeed the case. North, which finished 27-0, was the No. 1-ranked team throughout most of the season but encountered some inconsistent play early in the playoffs and then a personal tragedy as the father of Drew Eastman passed away due to a heart attack just a week prior to the state tournament at Wisconsin Lutheran College in Milwaukee.
The Lightning soldiered on, knocking off Germantown and Milwaukee Marquette in the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively, before holding off Burlington in the title match to claim the Fox Valley’s first state title in boys’ volleyball since 1982.
4, Wrightstown’s Bonnie Draxler sets state pole vault record in girls’ track
Draxler, the Tigers’ uber-talented cross country and track athlete, set the state record in the pole vault this past June with a leap of 12 feet, seven inches, the highest mark in any division. She also cleared 13-3 during a sectional meet. Draxler also defended her state title in the 200 and finished third in the 100, both in Division 2.
5, New London girls’ basketball team wins second consecutive Division 2 state title
The Bulldogs squared off against New Berlin Eisenhower in the premier matchup of the 2012 girls’ basketball state tournament in March. It was a showdown of the top-ranked, defending state champion New London and Eisenhower, a pick by many in the media to win the state title.
New London used that small slight as extra motivation in completing the back-to-back state championship run, defeating second-ranked Eisenhower 43-39 and secure its place in state history.
6, Neenah girls’ 3,200 relay team sets state record
The Rockets’ 3,200-meter relay quartet of Alison Parker, Claire Knaus, Jessica Parker and Jennifer Parker kicked off the 2012 WIAA state track and field championships with a bang in La Crosse in early June.
Neenah destroyed the rest of the state field in Division 1 and set the state record with a time of 9:00.42, besting the old mark of 9:03.38 set by Marinette in 1994. It was the second consecutive state championship in the event, with the same quartet winning in 2011 with a time of 9:08.64.
7, Brillion wins WIAA Division 3 state basketball state title
One of the school’s affected by the No. 1 sports story was Brillion. The Lions defeated Little Chute in a WIAA Division 3 sectional final and used that momentum to earn victories over Lodi and Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau at the Kohl Center.
The Lions did it old-school: hard-nosed defense, no-nonsense guard play and plenty of heart and hustle. Those factors, along with one of the top coaches in the area in Pete Kittel, helped bring the gold ball to Brillion last March.
8, Xavier boys’ soccer team wins WIAA D2 state title
There was no doubt that the 2012 Xavier boys’ soccer team had the talent to bring home the state title. But did the Hawks have the team chemistry to do so?
The Hawks (22-4-1) proved they did and more, romping their way through the field led by defensive stalwart Seth Maertz and forwards Jacob Hernandez and Austin Weigman, clinching the WIAA Division 2 state title with a 3-0 victory over defending state champion Mount Horeb at Uihlein Soccer Park in Milwaukee in late October.
9, Appleton East softball team plays 27 innings in victory
The linescore in the Sunday sports section of The Post-Crescent on Sunday, May 20, looked as if someone had accidentally fallen asleep with their finger on the zero button.
In actuality, it was the real linescore from what turned out to be the longest high school softball game in state history at nearly six hours: A 3-2 victory for Appleton East over Watertown in a 27-inning marathon at the Chippewa Falls Invitational.
East pitcher Tierney Wittmann got the win, but Lauren Blasczyk pitched 23 of the 27 innings in a true test of mettle and stamina. She finished with 17 strikeouts.
10, Appleton North football team gets No. 1 seed, plays first “home game” on the road
It was a tough season for the Lightning this past fall. Not only did Appleton North have to overcome major injuries to two of its best players, it did so with aplomb, finishing undefeated in the Valley Football Association-North Division at 8-0.
That earned North a No. 1 seed and the first-round home game that came with it. But its opponent, Superior, had a more than five-hour drive to Appleton and asked the WIAA to move the game to a neutral site, a scenario possible under the WIAA playoff procedures that allows opposing teams to request a neutral field if “travel distances are deemed excessive.” That meant Appleton North would have to “host” its opening playoff game nearly two hours away at a neutral site in Weston.
North defeated Superior in that Level 1 game at D.C. Everest’s Stiehm Stadium 35-0 and would reach the Level 3 playoffs before bowing out to Hudson.
— Ricardo Arguello: 920-993-1000, ext. 558, or email@example.com; On Twitter @PCRicardo