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Floyd Thomas Jordan Davis

Logan's Floyd Thomas and Central's Jordan Davis dive for a loose ball in the first half of a game at Logan this season. The Red Raiders have the inside track to the MVC title after beating Onalaska once, but the rematch is coming Feb. 12.

The stretch run of the regular season is upon us for high school boys and girls basketball, and that means it’s time to look at how things might shake out over the next couple of weeks.

While the Aquinas and G-E-T girls have clear inside tracks to winning the MVC and Coulee Conference with four games left, there are question marks on the boys side.

Can Onalaska knock off Central in the second meeting of the season and disrupt the Red Raiders’ bid for an outright title?

How will the logjam at the top of the Coulee — three teams within a half-game of each other — be decided? Can G-E-T hold off West Salem and Onalaska Luther?

Here are some things to consider as teams returned to the courts Thursday.

Boys basketball MVC

Leader: Central (7-0)

In the hunt: Onalaska (6-1)

Johnny Davis mug

Johnny Davis

Breaking it down: This was a two-team race at the beginning of the season, and it’s a two-team race now. The Red Raiders (second) and Hilltoppers (fifth) are two of the top teams in Division 2 and too much for the rest of this conference to handle.

Sparta got off to a great start and won its first two conference games, but Onalaska beat the Spartans 76-61, and Central followed that up by beating them 92-60. Holmen (3-4) is in third place, but is 0-3 against the Red Raiders and Hilltoppers, leaving it no real chance to make a move against either the rest of the season.

The only important date remaining when it comes to the title picture is Feb. 12, and that’s when Central travels to Onalaska. If the Hilltoppers win, they would force a title share, or if the Red Raiders — led by junior Johnny Davis — win, they would take the title outright for the fourth year in a row.

Any other scenario would have to involve major injuries or setbacks for Central or Onalaska.

What separated the teams in their first meeting was a foul call that sent Onalaska junior Tyrell Stuttley to the bench and an ankle injury to Gavin McGrath that sent him there, too. Central took advantage and used a 20-3 run after those two incidents to win the game 74-56. Remember that the Hilltoppers beat the Red Raiders in Onalaska last season and are certainly capable of doing so again.

Coulee

Leader: G-E-T (6-2)

In the hunt: West Salem (5-2), Onalaska Luther (5-2), maybe Westby (3-3) or Viroqua (3-3)

Malachi Athnos mug

Athnos

Breaking it down: First place has been passed around like a hot potato all season, and the Red Hawks enter February with the lead after beating Black River Falls and Arcadia handily in their last two games. The Red Hawks are trying to win or tie for the championship for the ninth time in 10 years — they had an eight-year run ended by Black River Falls last season — but they have their work cut out under first-year coach Jared McCutchen with the Panthers and Knights around.

G-E-T lost games to Viroqua and Onalaska Luther the first time through conference schedule and beat West Salem and Westby. The Red Hawks have used a balanced offense — Sawyer Schmidt’s average of 11.8 ppg leads the team — in fighting their way to the top.

The Panthers (7-9 overall) have been up and down but are always a threat with the scoring punch of Malachi Athnos (19.8 ppg) and Trenton Foreman (14.6 ppg). The Knights have a tough matchup for anyone in 6-foot-10 Bennett Loersch, who had 24 points and nine rebounds in a win over Westby on Saturday, and two more reliable scorers in Emery Byus and Joey McNamara.

West Salem was scheduled to play at Onalaska Luther on Thursday and host G-E-T on Feb. 8. Onalaska Luther has split with the Red Hawks.

Aquinas junior Taylor Theusch

Aquinas high School junior Taylor Theusch attempts to pass around Onalaska's Kenzie Miller in the first half of a game last week. The top-ranked Blugolds appear to have a clear path to another MVC title after already beating the second-place Hilltoppers twice.

Girls basketball MVC

Leader: Aquinas (8-0)

In the hunt: Onalaska (6-2)

Breaking it down: The Blugolds, ranked first and the defending champions in Division 4, have already beaten the Hilltoppers twice and appear ready to build on a 43-game conference winning streak.

There are still a lot of things for other teams to accomplish but catching Aquinas probably isn’t possible with four games left. Onalaska and Central (5-3) are the only two teams with outside chances to overtake the Blugolds.

Coulee

Leader: G-E-T (8-0)

In the hunt: Arcadia (6-2)

Breaking it down: The Red Hawks, ranked fifth in Division 3, are going to be tough to catch with four games left. G-E-T does still have games left with the Raiders and Westby, but it owns a 46-30 win over Arcadia and a 66-41 win over the Norsemen.

The Red Hawks are excelling offensively and defensively behind senior leader Lexi Wagner (24 ppg.) and senior post Olivia Zielke and have won 14 games in a row since a 50-45 loss to Melrose-Mindoro, which is ranked third in Division 4 and was a state runner-up last season.

The Raiders are led by the trio of juniors Linzy Sendelbach and Ellie Hoesley and sophomore Mercedes Romo. Sendelbach can be a force in the lane, and Romo can be a factor from the perimeter, while Hoesley and Chloe Halverson help the team control tempo and pick their spots. But Arcadia has to win out and needs help to make the regular-season finale against G-E-T mean something.


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Todd Sommerfeldt can be reached at todd.sommerfeldt@lee.net or via Twitter @SommerfeldtLAX

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