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MCC BOYS BASKETBALL PREVIEW

High school boys basketball: Racine MCC teams enter a new era

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St. Catherine's Domonic Pitts (20) battles for a rebound with Racine Lutheran's Gavin Zawicki (10) during a Metro Classic Conference game Jan. 27 at the Gallo Sports Center in Caledonia.

There has been a seismic shift in Racine concerning Metro Classic Conference boys basketball programs.

The core of a St. Catherine’s team that went 74-5 with three MCC championships and a state title the last three years has graduated. Also gone is Nick Bennett, voted the Associated Press Coach of the Year in Wisconsin last season.

At Racine Lutheran, Jeff Christensen has retired after 33 years as the Crusaders coach. He became the 29th coach in state history to win 500 games in 2019 and also led Lutheran to four state championships.

And at Prairie, Jason Atanasoff has graduated four of the top six players who led the Hawks to the WIAA Division 4 championship game last March. That includes Antuan Nesbitt, the second-leading scorer in the program’s history.

Catholic Central will try to take a big step this season behind the nucleus of Cal Miles and Max Robson.

And for the first time since the 2019-20 season, St. Catherine’s and Lutheran will be able to play true home games again. Because of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions by the City of Racine last season, both programs were forced to play all of their games outside of the city limits.

Here are previews of the four Racine County teams that are in the MCC:

Catholic Central

COACH: Stephen A. Smith, second season.

LAST YEAR: 3-19 overall, finished eighth in the MCC with an 0-16 record. Lost to Kenosha Faith Christian 47-39 in a first-round WIAA Division 5 regional.

Cal Miles, Catholic Central

Miles

ROSTER (*-denotes returning letterwinners): Seniors — *Calahan Miles, forward; *Maxwell Robson, guard. Juniors — *Mitchell Dietzel, forward; *Evan Krien, guard; *Daniel von Rabenau, guard; *Riley Sullivan, forward; *Christian Pedone, guard; Kaden Kayser, guard; Ayden Muellenbach, forward; Jonathan Benitez, forward. Sophomore — Alex Vogt, forward. Freshmen — Alex Rogan, forward.

OUTLOOK: The Hilltoppers expect to improve behind two key returning starters. Miles earned honorable mention All-MCC honors after averaging 8.3 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. Robson averaged 6.1 points.

Max Robson, Catholic Central

Robson

“Miles and Robson were second and third in minutes played last season and will be counted on to lead this team,” Smith said.

Experience should be an asset for the Hilltoppers considering they return seven letterwinners, “along with some very promising new players,” Smith said. “We will match up better athletically with most teams we will play. Our strengths will be our depth and experience and we will be more comfortable with each other and our system.”

“I am excited about this upcoming season as we have a good core of players who worked extremely hard on their game during the summer and offseason. “Our focus is and will continue to be winning the moment.”

Racine Lutheran Crusaders

COACH: Justin Hullum, first season.

LAST YEAR: 13-9 overall, finished fifth in the Metro Classic Conference with a 9-7 record. Lost to St. Catherine’s 51-33 in a WIAA Division 3 regional championship.

ROSTER (*-denotes returning letterwinners): Seniors — *Ben Tietyen, 5-11 point guard; *DaJahn Nelson, 5-11 point guard; *Gavin Zawicki, 6-2 shooting guard; *Nicholas Yohn, 6-4 forward’ *Julian Ramsey, 5-10 point guard. Juniors — *Eric Rossa, 6-0 shooting guard; *Eric Ibarra, 5-10 point guard. Sophomores — Riley Gavigan, 5-11 point guard; Alexander Loomis, 6-4 forward; Jack Lichter, 6-1 shooting guard; Matthew Hoeft, 6-2 forward.

Gavin Zawicki, Racine Lutheran

Zawicki

OUTLOOK: Hullum faces a rebuilding job in his first season after graduating Brady Wilks, Jackson Woodward, Scooter Molbeck, Owen Jozwiak and Henry Hoeft, each of whom started games. Woodward (16.7 points), Wilks (13.4) and Molbeck (10.8) carried much of the scoring burden.

Eric Ibarra, Racine Lutheran

Ibarra

The only returning starter is 6-1 senior forward Gavin Zawicki (13.7 points, 4.7 rebounds). Among the other more established returning players are Ibarra (3.0 points, 1.1 rebounds) Ramsey (3.2 points).

“We have a young, inexperienced team with only one returning starter, Gavin Zawicki,” Hullum said. “However, Gavin has taken on a huge leadership role in rallying this team. These young men are extremely hardworking and highly motivated. They have been putting the time in during the offseason and I am looking forward to seeing how much they will grow through the course of this year.”

St. Catherine’s Angels

COACH: Ryan Thompson, first season.

LAST YEAR: 28-1 overall, first place in the Metro Classic Conference with a 15-1 record. Defeated Lake County Lutheran 68-49 in the WIAA Division 3 championship game.

Domonic Pitts, St. Catherine's

Pitts

ROSTER: (*-returning letter winners): Seniors — *Philip Peterson, 5-11 guard; *Alijah Matthews, 5-11 guard; *DeMarcus Imani, 6-2 forward; *Micah Smith, 5-11 guard; Trevor Harris Jr., 5-10 guard; Anthony Hernandez, 5-11 forward; Michael Balderas, 5-11 forward; Tristan Ropiak, 6-2 forward; Micah Smith, 5-11 guard. Juniors — *Evan Moherek, 6-0 guard; *Davion Thomas-Kumpula, 6-0 guard-forward; *Domonic Pitts, 6-4 forward-center; Terrion Barnes, 5-8 guard; Elijah Wray, 6-5 forward-center; Isaiah Wray, 6-3 forward-center; KingGolden Brooks, 6-5 center.

OUTLOOK: After graduating Tyrese Hunter (Iowa State), Kamari McGee (UW-Green Bay) and Jameer Barker (UW-Whitewater), first-year coach Ryan Thompson said the Angels don’t have the expectations similar to the last few seasons. The most established returning starter is Pitts, who averaged 3.4 points and 5.1 rebounds. Thomas-Kumpula, who missed most of last season with an injury, could be a big factor.

Domonic Pitts, St. Catherine's

Pitts

“It will be an overall team effort and there are some talented players on the roster, but they have not had a lot of varsity playing experience,” Thompson said. “Good team defense and working together on offense will be the key for success.

Davion Thomas-Kumpula, St. Catherine's

Thomas-Kumpula

“What we lack in experience, we make up for in effort. The team is working hard, learning a new system, and getting better every day. We look forward to playing hard and having fun.”

Thompson’s assistants are Jerry Thema, who has more than 20 years of coaching experience, Robby Collum, who started on Case’s 1999 WIAA Division 1 championship team, and Steve McWhorter, the 2010 All-Racine County Player of the Year who started on two state championship teams at St. Catherine’s.

The Prairie School Hawks

COACH: Jason Atanasoff, 11th season.

LAST YEAR: 24-4 overall, finished second place in the MCC behind St. Catherines. The Hawks set a program record for most victories in a season. Lost to Oshkosh Lourdes 43-41 in the WIAA Division 4 championship game.

ROSTER: (*returning letterwinners): Seniors — *Asanjai Hunter, 5-11 guard, *Jayce Jaramillo, 6-1 guard, *Arjun Kumar, 6-3 forward, Charles May, 6-2 forward; Sebby Babu, 6-3 forward/wing; J.P. Jorgenson, 6-2 guard; Jack Heath, 6-0 forward. Juniors — *Ashe Oglesby, 6-7 forward/wing, *Kaleb Shannon, 5-11 guard. Sophomores — Ben Fiegel, 6-0 guard, Caden Roehl-Landrum, 5-10 guard. Freshmen — Carsen Eeg, 5-11 guard.

OUTLOOK: While Prairie graduated four of its top six players in terms of minutes played, including the program’s No. 2 all-time scorer in Antuan Nesbitt, “the cupboard is definitely not empty,” coach Jason Atanasoff said.

Asanjai Hunter, Prairie

Hunter

Hunter (9.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.1 assists) and Ogelsby (10.6 points, 6-2 rebounds, 1.2 assists) each earned all-conference and all-county mention honors and are being recruited by multiple colleges, Atanasoff said. Jaramillo (5.2 points, 30 for 79 3-point average) had some big moments last year and Shannon (2.4 points) was starting to come along nicely before suffering an ankle injury that set him back for weeks.

Ashe Oglesby, Prairie

Oglesby

“Guys like Jaramillo, Shannon and Kumar will see their roles increase dramatically and there should be some good healthy competition to see who will round out our rotation,” Atanasoff said. “Players expected to battle for minutes are Ben Fiegel, Sebby Babu, Charlie May, Caden Roehl-Landrum, among others. Freshman Carsen Eeg has shown some nice ability during fall league and open gym and may eventually battle for minutes as well.”

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