Last season, the Neillsville girls basketball team went undefeated and cruised to a WIAA Division 4 girls basketball state championship.
The Warriors, now Division 3, still haven’t lost and, as expected, Neillsville was awarded a top seed and a first-round bye when the WIAA girls basketball tournament brackets were released on Sunday. Neillsville will attempt to continue its unblemished season and put another gold ball in the trophy case.
There are plenty of other strong local basketball teams that have state title aspirations, including last year’s state runners-up Owen-Withee, which earned a No. 1 seed in Division 5. With a balanced scoring effort that features Aleyna Goerlitz and Stephany Heggemeier, the Blackhawks likely will make another deep playoff run.
In Division 3, the Adams-Friendship Green Devils picked up the No. 1 seed in Sectional 3 and have the possibility to make a deep run in the postseason, led by post player Emma Roenneburg.
Marathon, Abbotsford and Amherst all picked up No. 1 seeds in Division 4. Marathon likely will meet conference rival Auburndale in a regional final and could meet Abbotsford in a sectional semifinal if the bracket goes as expected. Marathon defeated Auburndale in both meetings this season, but only by a combined 12 points, including a 33-32 win Dec. 14.
Abbotsford, though, has a tough bracket and likely will face Marawood Conference North Division foe Athens in a regional semifinal. Despite a 16-4 regular season record, Athens received just a No. 4 seed and the Bluejays upset Abbotsford three weeks ago, 65-57.
Amherst earned a No. 1 seed in Sectional 2, led by do-everything point guard Jaimee Pitt. Amherst will play the winner of Rosholt and Pacelli in the regional semifinal after receiving a bye.
In Division 5, Assumption picked up the top seed in Sectional 3 and has a favorable bracket for a deep playoff run.
One thing that stands out in the playoff pairings is the early-round rivalry matchups and potential matchups in the regional semifinals. In Division 1, No. 3 seed D.C. Everest takes on Marshfield. The Evergreens defeated the Tigers in both games this year, including by 26 in the last meeting.
In Division 5, Loyal meets Cloverbelt Conference East Division rival Greenwood. The two teams split regular season meetings with underdog Greenwood taking the last matchup 46-45 Feb. 8. As mentioned earlier, Athens-Abbotsford, Amherst-Pacelli and Marathon-Auburndale all are potential rivalry matchups early in the postseason.
Get ready for what could be a very wild and heated postseason.