The David vs. Goliath metaphor may not ever be fitting in describing a matchup within a Division 5 playoff game.

However, if it were, it’s undoubtedly telling of the matchup between Three Lakes (19-5) and Black Hawk (21-0) which takes place Thursday in the State Championship semifinals in La Crosse.

“There’s no doubt they are one of the best, if not the best team we’ll face this season, or any season,” Three Lakes head coach George Lurvey said. “We’re proud though of what we’ve accomplished as a team to get to State.”

The matchup between Three Lakes and Black Hawk is set for Thursday at 9:05 a.m. at the La Crosse Center.

Black Hawk is on one of the longest high school varsity girls basketball win streaks in the nation, having rolled off 75-straight now across the last three years.

The team won the title in 2019 with an undefeated season after falling in the State title game the year prior which was their only loss of 2018. Going back to the start of the 2017 season the team has lost just two varsity basketball games now in five years, amassing a record of 124-2 over that time frame.

One of the biggest reasons for the success of the team recently has been the play of senior point guard Bailey Butler who is the odds-on favorite to claim the title of Miss Basketball in the State this year, an annual award voted on by coaches and given to the State’s top player across all divisions.

“We definitely have to worry about how to stop, or at least limit Bailey,” Lurvey said. “Course, I don’t think anyone has really figured out how yet, but we are going to have to try.”

Butler, a UW-Gren Bay committ, has been named first-team All-State in each of her first three years and is averaging over 28 points per game so far this season will be named to her fourth.

Butler’s stat line is simply amazing, with a 28.6 points per game average, she shoots the ball at over 55% from the field. She is also one of the top three-point shooters in the state, hitting 43% from there to go along with a 77% free throw shooting percentage.

As if that wasn’t enough, she’s grabbed almost eight rebounds per game this season, leads the team with eight assists per game while also pacing the defense with 6.3 steals per game.

Right behind her is fellow senior guard Kaylee Marty who scores 15 per game and also has shot over 52% from the field this season. Underneath is senior forward Makayla Mau who’s averaging just under nine points per game, and sophomore Tara Welinitz who leads the team in rebounding with over eight per game.

Looking across the other way, Black Hawk head coach Mike Flanagan said in a phone call Sunday night that he fears some of the length Three Lakes can present with their low post presence. The trio of Emily Fink, Mari Szews and Mollee Gruszynski will make him put an emphasis on rebounding, he said.

“We are going to have to find a way to not just deal with their size down beneath the basket, but we have to be able to pass out of the trap,” Flanagan said. “We watched the film against Athens, and Three Lakes comes out and gets after it. They can definitely shoot the ball well also.”

Three Lakes’ Sydney Lurvey and Taylor Kolling seem to have found their shooting stride.

Across the last four games the two of them combined have hit from three 23 times, carrying their team’s offense the last two games.

“The nice thing about having those two wing players is that if one of them is having an off night, you hope the other one sort of makes up for it,” coach Lurvey said. “To have two girls who are both 1,000 point scorers on your offensive end is pretty special.”

The x-factor in all this might be at the point guard position where Three Lakes junior Kara Sowinski will start opposite Butler.

Sowinski rarel leaves the court, and with her quickness will be a matchup problem for Black Hawk.

“She’s quick, she’s smart and she doesn’t panic,” Flanagan said. “She’s a great little player who dishes the ball well and does a good job facilitating the offense.”

Three Lakes typically only goes seven deep with junior Sara Gruszynski also seeing significant playing time. Between the two Gruszynskis, Fink and Szews, it represents a rather unusual defensive presence inside.

“It’s not very often you see a frontline quite like Three Lakes, especially in Division 5,” Flanagan said. “Rebounding will be a focus.”



Second semifinal

In the second game of the day Wisconsin Rapids Assumption (14-8) will face McDonell Catholic Central (12-3) from the Chippewa Falls/Eau Claire-area. That game is set for 12:35 p.m. Thursday.

Both teams faced shutdowns this year due to COVID-19, but come in playing their best basketball of the season.

Assumption returns to the WIAA semifinals after reaching the championship game three straight years from 2013 to 2015, winning one of those years. After starting the season 2-5, they’ve managed to go 12-3 since then. They earned their shot at the title by defeating Wauzeka-Steuben 65-44 in the Sectional championship game.

Junior Ainara Sainz de Rozas Martin is the team’s leading scorer averaging just over 13 points per game, just ahead of senior Josie Grundhoffer who is just over 12 per game.

McDonell Central defeated Prairie Farm by 19 in the Sectional final, winning 72-53.

After falling to Osseo-Fairchild back in early January, the team heads to La Crosse on a six-game win streak. The team is led by junior guard Lauryn Deetz who leads the team with 13.7 points per game. Anna Geissler is the team’s top senior, averaging 11.5 points per game and leading the team three-point shooting at 43%.

Freshman Emily Cooper is also a solid offensive contributor, averaging 8.3 points per game and leading the team in three-point shots made with 36.