Chris Knight and Estella Moschkau traveled distinctly different routes to arrive at this point.
Knight, a 6-foot-8 senior, made his way to Madison Memorial after living in New York City and DeForest, and saw his basketball ability transform from middle-school awkwardness to high-school refinement as a scorer, rebounder and high-flying shot-blocker and highlight-reel dunker for the Spartans.
Moschkau, a 6-2 senior at Madison Edgewood, progressed from a ball-handling Tri-County youth player in Mount Horeb … to AAU whiz … to an all-around high-school standout who’s adept maneuvering for inside baskets, connecting from deep or snaring a rebound and racing, with her long strides, up the court – an eye always on an assist.
Despite being elite prep basketball players in this area and in the state, they only met the other day -- knowing about each other only through an occasional game or two they’d witnessed and, of course, the seemingly ubiquitous social media.
What they found they have in common was a talent for the game and a hope that their best is yet to come. They each were diligent workers who were focal points in their teams’ successful seasons. How unselfishly their teams played was most important to them.
Moschkau led the Crusaders to a share of the Badger South Conference title with Monroe and Stoughton, then to the big prize: the WIAA Division 3 state girls basketball championship at the Resch Center in Ashwaubenon. Edgewood’s year-long goal was realized with a 21-point victory over Greendale Martin Luther in the title game.
Knight led the Spartans to a share of the Big Eight Conference crown with Sun Prairie, which was the 14th consecutive season Memorial has outright won or shared the league title. The Spartans then advanced to the WIAA Division 1 state tournament semifinals at the Kohl Center, dropping a hard-fought game to eventual champion Stevens Point.
They will go from high school to two outstanding academic institutions on opposite coasts, Knight at the Ivy League’s Dartmouth College in New Hampshire and Moschkau at the Pac-12’s Stanford University in California.
With all this in mind, it’s clear to see why Knight was named the Wisconsin State Journal/WisconsinPrepZone.com All-Area Boys Basketball Player of the Year for 2016-17 and Moschkau was selected as the Wisconsin State Journal/WisconsinPrepZone.com All-Area Girls Basketball Player of the Year.
Improvement was Knight and day
Spartans coach Steve Collins has seen a lot of talented players go through his program.
But he was hard-pressed to recall a player who improved the way Knight did in his two seasons at Memorial, after transferring from DeForest. Collins said he believed Knight’s best basketball is still to come, partly because Knight, who turned 17 in November, is young for his grade and also in his basketball development.
“I really believe that Chris can become a dominate player in the Ivy League,” said Collins, a Dartmouth graduate. “As he expands his game and becomes both a perimeter and post player, he will be very hard to defend. Chris is one of the best defenders and rim protectors I have coached.
“He is a very young senior, but his knowledge and willingness to work hard will make his ceiling very high. I have no doubt that Chris is going to be very successful on and off the court.”
Said Knight, who hopes to help Dartmouth make the NCAA tournament and one day become a lawyer: “I think I have potential.”
Knight, the Big Eight player of the year, led Memorial in scoring. But he said he was most pleased how his intensity increased this season, how he adjusted after early-season foul troubles plagued his games and how strongly he played defense.
“I had a lot of blocks and steals this year,” he said. “I was proud of that.”
He also was proud that Memorial kept its conference title streak alive and reached the state tournament for the first time since 2012.
“We kept the legacy going on – 14 in a row,” Knight said. “We weren’t the class to end it. This year, I think we put Memorial back on the map. We haven’t been to the state championships for a while as a contender.”
Teamwork, notably by the five senior starters, was at the heart of that.
“I think we played a lot better together,” Knight said. “No one really was being selfish. No one cared about points. We just wanted to win.”