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Observations from the 5th annual Wisconsin vs. Illinois Border Battle

02/06/2023, 1:30pm CST
By Mark Miller

Wisconsin won the Border Battle with Illinois at The Prairie School in Racine on Saturday, recording five victories against three defeats with its counterparts from the south. 

Wisconsin leads the overall series of games, 20-13.

Here are some observations from the Border Battle, which is annually sponsored by the Wisconsin Basketball Yearbook and The Prairie School:

Sam Coon

Game One
Saint Mary's Springs 80, Northridge Prep 40

*** The Ledgers' depth, shooting skill and balance were too much for Northridge Prep to handle as the Wisconsin Flyway Conference leaders pulled away 10 minutes into the contest. Saint Mary's Springs led 38-21 at intermission and continued to build on its lead in the second half. 
*** Seven different players scored at least seven points for coach Kyle Krueger's squad, led by senior Sam Coon with 17. Senior Lucas Rameker added 13, followed by sophomore Noah Maul (11), senior Sam Baker (nine), senior Josiah Moul (eight), junior John Coon (seven) and senior Gavin Jahns (seven). 
*** Saint Mary's Springs finished with 12 made three-point field goals and is averaging 10 made triples per game on the season. The Ledgers have 175 made three-point baskets through 17 games compared with 87 for their opponents. 
*** Ranked No. 5 among Division 4 schools in the latest WSN Coaches Poll, Saint Mary's Springs is led by the experienced and talented senior foursome of Sam Coon, Josiah Moul, Lukcas Rameker and Gavin Jahns.
*** Northridge Prep fell to 18-9, but continues to lead the Independent School Conference standings.

Wisconsin Player of the Game
Sam Coon, 6-1, Sr., G

A steady combination guard with the ability to score, pass and make foul shots, Coon led the Ledgers with 17 points, but he also contributed four rebounds, five assists and two steals. And though he is just 6-foot-1, Coon also turned in a career- best four blocked shots. Surprisingly, Coon is averaging 2.4 blocked shots per game. A four-year varsity performer who had his playing time reduced as a junior while battling cancer, Coon is averaging 14.1 points, 4.2 rebounds and 5.5 assists. 

Game Two
Racine St. Catherine's 46, Batavia 44

*** In an intense, close and hard fought battle for the entire 36 minutes, St. Catherine's got a big play from freshman guard Lamont Hamilton to pull out an exciting win. With the clocking winding down in a deadlocked game, Hamilton drove the lane and was able to get off a game-winning floater with just a couple of seconds left to help the Angels improve to 18-1. It was Hamilton's second game-winning shot of the week as he did the same thing against Martin Luther in a two-point win a week ago.
*** Hamilton, a 5-foot-11 point guard, is considered one of the top freshmen in the state as his confidence, shiftiness with the ball and outright speed and quickness are tough to defend. He finished with 12 points, three rebounds and three asists. 
*** University of Wisconsin football recruit Davion Thomas-Kumpula (6-0) is normally a good shooter, but he made just two-of-nine shots against Batavia's aggressive defense. With Thomas-Kumpula struggling to find his shot, the absence of top scorer Evan Moherek (6-0), who is averaging 17.0 ppg, but is out with an ankle injury, was felt even more as the Angels struggled to score. 
*** Seniors Isaiah (6-5) and Elijah (6-6) Wray give St. Catherine's a physical frontline. The twin tandem recently committed to NCAA Division II Concordia-St. Paul to play football.
*** Batavia, a school of nearly 2,000 students, slipped to 13-14 under coach Jim Nazos. Senior Jack Ambrose (6-6) had a strong game for the Bulldogs, scoring 16 points. 

Wisconsin Player of the Game
Domonic Pitts, 6-4, Sr., F 

Like the other players on the Angels' frontline, Pitts plays with physicality and toughness. He is a four-year varsity performer for the Angels so he's been through a lot of good coaching and helped the team win a lot of games, including the 2021 WIAA Division 3 state championship. Pitts finished with a game-high 20 points against Batavia and was the go-to player on offense for the Angels. He is averaging 13.6 points and 6.1 rebounds for the Metro Classic Conference-leading Angels. 

Lucas Shulla Cose

Game Three
Deerfield 52, Madison Edgewood 49

*** Deerfield trailed by two points at intermission, but the Warriors slowly built a lead in the second half and held on to defeat a short-handed Edgewood squad. 
*** Edgewood played its fourth consecutive game without its best scorer and rebounder as senior Al Deang remains sidelined with an injury. Deang averages 12.7 points and 9.3 rebounds for the Crusaders, who fell to 11-8 under first-year coach Reggie Patterson.
*** Outside of senior Lucas Shulla Cose (6-4), who finished with a team-best 18 points, no other Edgewood player scored more than five points. Finding consistent scoring from the perimeter has been a problem of late for Edgewood, which made just two three-point shots in the game compared to seven for Deerfield. 
*** Deerfield got 18 points from Miles Cohan (6-1) and 10 from Jacob Cohn (6-1) while improving to 20-5 under coach Dan McKendrick.

Wisconsin Player of the Game
Lucas Shulla Cose, 6-4, Sr., F

Shulla Cose is turning in a terrific senior season for the Crusaders as his size, versatility and ability to maneuver around defenders in the lane to score has proven to be a huge asset for an Edgewood squad currently tied for first place in the Western Division of the Badger Conference. Shulla Cose had 18 points and got to the foul line for Edgewood in the loss to Deerfield. He also used good footwork to score on multiple reverse layups in the post. He is averaging 12.9 ppg and 5.9 rpg for Edgewood, which returns to league play Thursday with a home game against Reedsburg.

Will Gardner

Game Four
Franklin 71, Chicago Mount Carmel 68

*** Solid team play and strong defense helped Franklin pick up an impressive non-league win over a very good Mount Carmel squad. Coach Tyler Podoll's Sabers relied on balanced scoring, very good foul shooting and some timely baskets to hold off the Caravan.
*** Franklin, which leads the Southeast Conference and improved to 12-7, made 16-of-23 free throw tries and outscored Mount Carmel by 13 points from the foul stripe.
*** Junior Brandon Tilley (6-5) scored 12 points and had four rebounds for Franklin. His combination of size and versatility are impressive as he can score in different ways while playing inside and outside.
*** Senior Alexander Mierow (6-5) also had a very good outing for the Sabers as he made three shots outside the three-point arc en route to scoring 18 points.
*** Mount Carmel, which is 22-5 and in third place in the Chicago Catholic League Blue Division, got 21 points from senior guard Anthony Ciaravino. Senior guard Deandre Craig (6-1), who has a couple of mid-major NCAA Division I scholarship offers, battled four trouble and finished with 15 points.

Wisconsin Player of the Game
Will Gardner, 6-2, Sr., G

Gardner had a superb showing for Franklin as he scored a game-high 22 points while also hauling down eight rebounds, handing out two assists and finishing with two steals. He made four-of-eight shots from three-point range for the Sabers. The UW-Platteville recruit competes with a high basketball intelligence and uses his physical strength and constant motion to get open for shot attempts. Gardner is a three-year varsity performer for Franklin and is averaging 17.7 points, 7.1 rebounds and 3.8 assists.

Game Five
Buffalo Grove 84, The Prairie School 59

*** The Prairie School won a Metro Classic Conference game over Shoreland Lutheran in overtime on Friday and appeared to have a big of a hangover at the outset of its game with Buffalo Grove. With senior Connor Woodin making all nine of his three-point shots and scoring all 27 of his points in the field half, Buffalo Grove set the tone early and led by 15 at intermission on the way to its convincing victory.
*** The Prairie School never was able to get its deficit under double digits in the second half as junior guard Lucas Anam-Ndu (6-2) kept the Hawks at bay by scoring the majority of his 19 points after the break. 
*** Sophomore point guard Carsen Eeg (5-11) had a strong game for The Prairie School. In addition to handling the ball against pressure defense for the entire game, Eeg had three triples and scored 13 points. He also had three assists and two steals for the Hawks, now 11-8 under coach Jason Atanasoff.
*** Buffalo Grove made 17 shots from three-point range in the contest and improved to 11-16 under coach Kevin Geldon.

Wisconsin Player of the Game
LeTrevion Fenderson, 6-4, Soph., G/F

Fenderson is quickly establishing himself as one of the better class of 2025 prospects in the state. The son of former Racine St. Catherine's and UW-Parkside standout LaVontay Fenderson, Tre Fenderson had 23 points, 19 rebounds and four assists against Buffalo Grove. His ability to attack the basket and either finish or get fouled was the go-to offense for the Hawks. Fenderson is a good athlete with impressive strength and a very bright future for The Prairie School. 

Amari McCottry

Game Six
Saint Thomas More 63, Prospect 62

*** In one of the more entertaining and competitive games of the entire Border Battle, Saint Thomas More utilized a put-back dunk from junior Sekou Konneh in the last minute of the game to erase a one-point deficit and beat a solid Prospect squad. 
*** Junior Amari McCottry (6-5) had 22 points for Saint Thomas More and was especially effective in the first half. His ability to score from deep, off the dribble and get to the foul line helped the Cavaliers go into intermission deadlocked at 30. In addition to his point total, McCottry also had six steals and three assists. 
*** Konneh and McCottry get most of the publicity for the Cavaliers, but juniors Evan Oleson (5-11) and Kyle Alivo (6-1), along with sophomore Kenari Parr (6-2), also had strong performances in a very tight and competitive contest. All three had big baskets for Saint Thomas More in addition to playing strong with the ball and performing well on defense.
*** Prospect dropped to 16-10 on the season under coach Brad Rathe and got 22 points from junior Cole Chapman (6-3) and 20 from senior Alex Georgakas (6-3).

Wisconsin Player of the Game
Sekou Konneh, 6-8, Jr., F

Konneh is all of 6-foot-8 and actually appears to have grown some, even in the last month. If he can get to 6-10 or so, high major collegiate programs will definitely want to check him out on the club circuit this spring. He finished with 26 points and nine rebounds against Prospect and had two monster dunks off of offensive rebounds. His length, size and activity are all impressive assets for a Saint Thomas More squad that improved to 16-3 under coach Tony Mane. Konneh is averaging 17.1 points and 15.4 rebounds for Saint Thomas More, which is in second place in the Metro Classic Conference.

Levi Birkholz

Game Seven
New Trier 63, Lakeside Lutheran 59

*** Playing a school of 4,009 students, Lakeside Lutheran, with an enrollment of 459, played even with New Trier until the very end. Sophomore Colby Smith (6-3) swished a baseline triple for New Trier and then a pull-up jumper in the lane by Levi Birkholz (6-4) bounced off the rim in the final possessions of the game as the Trevians improved to 25-4 while Lakeside Lutheran fell to 15-3.
*** Although it was a loss, it's hard to imagine Lakeside Lutheran playing any better than it did against New Trier. The Warriors were strong with the ball, patient on offense and made big shot after big shot against a really good team. The Warriors also held their own on the glass against a New Trier starting rotation that included Tyler Van Gorp (6-10), Logan Feller (6-4), Jake Fiegen (6-4) and Smith (6-3). 
*** Trey Lauber had a magnificent showing for the Warriors as he made five three-point baskets and scored 21 points. Lauber's ability to take some of the scoring pressure off of Birkholz was key to the Warriors remaining close to New Trier throughout the 36 minutes of the contest.
*** Fiegen, a NCAA Division I recruit for Cornell, was outstanding as he finished with 36 points and barely touched the rim on his jump shots. He had six three-point baskets and the Trevians needed each one to hold off Lakeside Lutheran.

Wisconsin Player of the Game
Levi Birkholz, 6-4, Sr., G

While Fiegen was making one clutch play after another for New Trier, Birkholz was doing the same for Lakeside Lutheran. The Citadel recruit had 28 points and was able to score well in transition, in the half court, off the dribble and from three-point range for coach Todd Jahns club. Birholz's most impressive play ended up actually being a turnover. Late in the contest, he drove from half court, elevated and put down a two-handed dunk in traffic. Birkholz was called for an offensive foul on the play, but the aggressiveness and explosiveness he showed on that play was definitely one of the best of the entire day. 

Asher Haas

Game Eight
Sussex Hamilton 66, Wheaton Warrensville South 59, OT

*** Senior Luther Smith Jr. (6-1) and sophomore Asher Haas (5-10) made big shot in overtime for Sussex Hamilton, which posted an impressive victory over a Wheaton Warrensville South squad that came into the contest with a 22-3 record.
*** Smith, as usual, was very good for coach Andy Cerroni's squad. He had 16 points, made all five of his foul shots and came up with a huge hoop in overtime to help the Chargers win their second OT contest in two days after beating Marquette High on Friday in an extra session.  
*** Senior Cameron Bratzke (6-4) has had a strong final high school season for the Chargers. He scored 15 points on the strength of five three-point baskets against New Trier and is averaging 12.8 points and 4.5 rebounds for the Chargers, who improved to 15-5. Brazke has made 46-of-95 tries from three-point range for 48 percent this winter. 
*** Senior Braylen Meredith (6-6) had 21 points to lead Wheaton Warrensville South.

Wisconsin Player of the Game
Aidan Konop, 6-1, Jr., G

Konop made several enormous plays for the Chargers, including a couple of big steals that led to layups. He finished with 14 points, making all six of his foul attempts, while also playing strong defense and contributing on the glass. Konop is averaging 8.8 ppg and gives the Chargers a wide variety of positive intangibles that help his squad post victories against really storng competition, both inside and outside of the Greater Metro Conference. 

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