March 10, 2011 by JSOnline — Wauwatosa West is in. Wauwatosa East is out. The Southern Lakes is down to its last team, and it’s not state-ranked Burlington. Watertown Luther Prep, which lost four of its last five regular-season games, still has a shot at state, but New Berlin West, which won 12 straight, didn’t win a tournament game.
Make sense? We didn’t think so. Then again, what good is a tournament unless it has a few unexpected twists and turns? It figures only to get crazier. The WIAA boys basketball tournament continues with sectional semifinal play Thursday. By the end of the week some burning questions will be answered. Can Germantown keep playing at such a high level? Can Milwaukee Riverside make it out of the West Allis Central Sectional? Will Whitefish Bay Dominican beat defending Division 3 state champion Racine St. Catherine’s for a third time this season?
Further down the list, we come to the likes of Tosa West and Destiny, two unlikely sectional semifinalists. One has never reached this point before. The other was last here when many of its current players were in diapers or perhaps the womb. “Some of these kids like (freshman) Ricky (Landers) probably weren’t even born yet,” Trojans coach Mike Landish said. “Putting that into perspective was really neat for them.”
Tosa West (15-10) held off a Milwaukee Lutheran rally, defeating the Red Knights, 61-49, in Division 2. The regional crown was Tosa West’s first since 1996. Destiny’s fledgling program had never won a regional title in any sport before its 65-53 victory over Young Coggs in a Division 4 game. Destiny and Tosa West play in different divisions, are located in different parts of town and from different sectors – private vs. public – but both overcame early-season struggles before rallying to take their coaches on an unforgettable ride.
“You just hope (the players) get your message,” Destiny coach Branden Joseph said. “That’s a win in my (book). As you go on game by game, you realize that if they continue to get your message you can break barriers.” Tosa West defeated Milwaukee Madison, Milwaukee Morse-Marshall/Juneau and Milwaukee Lutheran to reach the sectional. Their run, however, actually started Jan. 14 when South Milwaukee handed the Trojans their fourth double-digit loss of the new year.
After the game Landish went back to the basics, especially defensively, and the players bought in. A 13-point victory over Greenfield followed, but the eye-opener came Jan. 25 when Tosa West stunned first-place Whitnall, 52-49. The seeds of confidence were planted. “The work ethic in practice just really picked up a lot,” Landish said. “Guys got on each other and made sure mistakes weren’t tolerated in practice. The mind-set of the team has been completely different.”
Tosa West closed the season as one of the toughest outs in the Woodland. It swept Whitnall and in the season finale denied South Milwaukee a share of the Black Division title. At the forefront of that run have been senior point guard Tyler Krause, the team’s emotional leader as well as its scoring leader with 12.7 points per game, and senior Jarvis Ashley, a defensive-minded forward with an all-around offensive game that produces 11.8 points per contest. Then there is the prodigy. Landers (11.3 ppg), a forward, is one of the area’s top freshmen and as the season went on learned to make better use of his 6-foot-7 frame in the paint.
At 6 p.m. Thursday, Tosa West faces Whitefish Bay (16-8) at the Al McGuire Center. The winner plays in the sectional final at 4:15 p.m. Saturday at the Al McGuire Center. “It’s a great, hard-working group of young men,” Landish said. “We don’t have a lot Division 1 players, nobody graduating and going on to play college basketball. It’s just guys who work hard, who believe in each other and play hard as a team. Joseph knows the feeling. It has been a transition year on many fronts for the Eagles. First there was Joseph, who is in his first season. Then during the season, some players were dismissed from the team. And then just before the start of the tournament, senior forward Dedrick Davis, a team leader, moved back to New York to be with his family.
“Our theme for this year when we go into the huddle is ‘1, 2, 3 brotherhood,’ and I think they’re truly embracing that,” Joseph said. “Each and every one of them is holding each other accountable for what they do on and off the court.” Destiny (13-11) entered the tournament a No. 4 seed but has beaten Milwaukee Academy of Science, Brookfield Academy and Young Coggs to reach the sectional. Junior Curtis Lockhart, much like Krause, has been the consummate floor general as well as the team’s emotional leader. Sophomore guard Eric Roby, who averages about 15.5points per game, is a great shooter. Junior forward Carey Burdeine is a slasher and the team’s most athletic player.
At 7 p.m. Thursday at Waukesha South, Destiny will have its hands full with 21-3 Racine Lutheran, which beat the Eagles, 69-47, on Dec. 27. “I respect the tradition of Racine Lutheran, and that’s what their kids play for,” Joseph said. “What I’m trying to instill in my kids is that you have to match their intensity. You have to bring it.” Destiny and Wauwatosa West have done just that so far in the postseason. But it’s time to turn the page. We’re only one-third through the tournament. More tests lie ahead. More questions must be answered.