Jack Rose will lead Westosha Central into the WIAA Division 2 state basketball tournament Friday. (Photo by Jason Arndt)

Falcons face La Crosse Central in Friday’s semifinal

By Jason Arndt

Staff Writer

Westosha Central High School’s pursuit of a WIAA Division 2 state boys basketball championship begins with a matchup against second-seeded La Crosse Central Friday afternoon at the Kohl Center in Madison.

The Falcons, who captured a sectional title with a 78-49 romp over Oregon on March 12 at Watertown High School, enter the 2022 State Boys Basketball Tournament seeded third and boasts a 25-2 overall record.

La Crosse Central (27-1), meanwhile, is coming off of a 56-47 defeat of Medford.

The winner of the state semifinal match, which has an approximate tipoff of 3:15 p.m. on March 18, will advance to the state championship game against either top-seeded Pewaukee (25-3) or No. 4 Ashwaubenon (24-4).

With Westosha Central making its second State Tournament appearance in program history, with the first happening in 2018, the district has decided to release all students at noon on Friday and allow them to attend.

The State Tournament appearance comes after the Falcons produced a dominating run in both regional and sectional play.

More on the sectional performances, including results against Milton and Oregon, appears in this edition’s sport section.

 

Some redemption

According to senior Jack Rose, the State Tournament serves as redemption for the Falcons.

Rose, the program’s all-time scoring leader, was only an eighth grader when the Falcons advanced to state in 2018.

Since then, however, the Falcons have come up short with a 2019 sectional semifinal loss to Elkhorn before falling to the Elks the next season during the regional championship contest.

Last year, in the regional final, second-seeded Burlington upset No. 1 Westosha Central to end the Falcons’ season.

Rose, who has experienced all three losses, did not want history to repeat itself during his senior season.

“It feels great. Freshman year, we lost to Elkhorn on a buzzer beater, sophomore year, we lost to Elkhorn in the playoffs, and then junior year we lost to Burlington,” he said. “We definitely haven’t forgotten about any of those. We were working for this for the last three years.”

Senior point guard Devin Griffin, meanwhile, said he plans to make the best of his State Tournament experience.

“It is amazing, especially after losing the last two years,” said Griffin, who started his varsity career as a sophomore. “We felt we were in the position to win those games, so to go to state with these guys is just everything.”

 

Torrid stretch

Westosha Central, consistently ranked among the top 10 in Division 2 WisSports.net Coaches Poll this season, takes a 16-game winning streak into the State Tournament.

The Falcons, who finished unbeaten in the Southern Lakes Conference, earned a No. 1 seed in the post-season and opened with a 61-40 rout of ninth-seeded Delavan-Darien before defeating No. 5 Waukesha West 53-43 to claim a regional title for the first time since 2019.

In a March 10 sectional semifinal, Westosha Central ousted No. 2 Milton, 72-52, behind a game-high 24 points from Rose.

Westosha Central capped off sectional play with a March 12 defeat of Oregon, seeded second in the upper half of the bracket, to secure a State Tournament bid.

Coach James Hyllberg, in his seven seasons at the helm, has guided the Falcons to four 20-win season, six conference titles, four regional titles and two sectional titles.

Hyllberg said he felt fortunate for the program’s success since his arrival. However, he quickly deflected credit to the players, who entered the season with an objective.

“We don’t take this for granted,” he said. “These guys get all of the credit and have worked hard. The players are a mature group and it is a goal they set from day one.”

 

Ticket Information

Ticket prices for the tourney are $11 per session for all seating purchased at the Kohl Center, 601 W. Dayton St, Madison.

Ticket windows are available one hour prior to the start of any session. Tickets are available online for $11 plus fees.

Online tickets are print-at-home, available at the will-call window or through mobile delivery.

For more information on online ordering, visit wiaawi.org.