There was little suspense before the WIAA released its boys basketball tournament brackets on Sunday as to where the undefeated, third-ranked Laconia Spartans were going to fall in their Division 4 half-sectional.
The Spartans garnered the expected No. 1 seed in their part of their bracket and will open the tournament at home against either Markesan or Wayland Academy on Friday, Feb. 22.
“(The No. 1 seed) is something you work for from the beginning of the season,” Laconia coach Tom King said. “We beat some pretty schools along the way and I think that gave us some pretty good credibility there.”
Laconia is no stranger to earning a top seed either. This marks the sixth straight season the Spartans will enter the tournament with a No. 1 seed — the last two in a Division 4 half-sectional and the previous three in a Division 3 regional.
Yet, Laconia was unable to turn any of those top seeds into a state trip or even a spot in a sectional final. Last year, the Spartans were upset by eighth-seeded Reedsville in overtime in their first game of the regional.
“We’ve been the No. 1 seed before and have had quite a bit of success, so the bull’s-eye has been on our backs a long time,” King said. “We just try to approach it one game at a time, like the regular season.”
Like any tournament, each game along the road will get tougher for the Spartans, with a possible regional final matchup against either Destiny or Montello, a pair of high-scoring teams.
Also looming, is second-seeded St. Mary’s Springs, which — if both teams keep advancing — could be a sectional semifinal matchup at Fond du Lac High School.
“I think it’d be great if we both can get there. We would both have to beat some pretty good competition to get to the sectional semifinals,” King said. “I think it would be great for basketball in the area. We both have a lot of fans in the area and I think it would just be a huge crowd.”
The Ledgers (18-2) face the winner of Pardeeville and Horicon in a regional semifinal and would likely have to clear third-seeded Brookfield Academy to reach the sectional.
Whitefish Bay Dominican, Kenosha St. Joseph and The Prairie School are the top seeds in the other half of the sectional.
In Division 1, Fond du Lac earned the seventh seed in its half-sectional and will travel to second-seeded Neenah on Feb. 22. Oshkosh North earned the top seed in the bracket, where seven of the nine teams are members of the Fox Valley Association.
Other games in that half-sectional will pit third-seeded Stevens Point at home against No. 6 Appleton West, while fourth-seeded Appleton North hosts fifth-seeded Appleton East. Oshkosh North gets the winner of Wisconsin Rapids at Oshkosh West.
Waupun (16-4) earned the No. 2 seed in its half-sectional and will face the winner of seventh-seeded Cedarburg and 10th-seeded Kewaskum. A victory for the Warriors would land them in a regional final against either third-seeded Nicolet or sixth-seeded Grafton.
In the other half of the bracket, fourth-seeded Beaver Dam hosts the fifth-seed West Bend East and the half-sectional’s top seed, Slinger, will get either Port Washington or West Bend West in its first game.
All five local Division 3 teams landed in the same sectional and two — fifth-seeded Campbellsport and 12th-seeded Mayville — will meet in the first round on Tuesday, Feb. 19.
Seventh-seeded Winnebago Lutheran will open the tournament at home against 10th-seeded Watertown Luther Prep, while eighth-seeded North Fond du Lac also gets a home game and will host ninth-seeded Kiel. Lomira, the 11th seed, plays at sixth-seeded Ripon in the first round.
The only other first-round game in the half-sectional pits No. 4 Columbus at home against No. 13 St. Lawrence Seminary, while Oostburg, Berlin and Sheboygan Falls earned the top three seeds, respectively.
In Division 5, 15th-seeded Oakfield travels to face second-seeded Black Hawk in the first round. The winner gets either Cambria-Frielsand (No. 7) or Rio (No. 10). Randolph is the top seed in that half-sectional.
The WIAA boys state tournament will be held March 7-9 at the Kohl Center in Madison.