Aquinas High School's Lexi Donarski drives around Chippewa Falls' Maria Friedel in a game earlier this season. The Blugolds (6-0) battle Onalaska (4-1) in a key MVC game Thursday night.

The general thought shared by most coaches — outwardly, anyway — is that every game should be treated the same.

Neither Aquinas High School coach Dave Donarski nor Onalaska coach Shane Schmeling has even pretended to buy into that theory this week.

They have been the two dominant teams of the MVC for the last several years. The Blugolds and Hilltoppers have both finished second or better in each of the last six seasons and appear headed that way again this winter.

Thursday’s 7:15 p.m. tipoff in the middle of John Shelton Court at Charles Deeth Fieldhouse is one that has been anticipated since the first day of practice, maybe longer.

“This rivalry has been awesome for many years,” Donarski said on Wednesday. “There is going to be a decent crowd, and the kids are always excited for the atmosphere of this game.”

While some of the recent games have been competitive, the outcomes haven’t. The Blugolds have beaten the Hilltoppers eight times in a row and have to be considered the favorite in this matchup with a 6-0 overall record, 2-0 MVC mark and 34-game winning streak.

Aquinas is a defensive powerhouse and is very good at imposing its will and style on its opponents. Onalaska (4-1, 1-0) is probably one of the few teams that has the ability to combat that, which is why the hype devoted to this game each time it’s played is warranted.

“We have to be able to take care of the ball,” Schmeling said. “They are great in transition and create a lot of problems for anyone who plays them.

Shane Schmeling mug


“It looks like they are trapping more this season, and that leads to a lot of layups for (Lexi) Donarski and (Courtney) Becker. If we don’t take care of the ball, we cannot beat them.”

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Both teams have tested themselves with difficult nonconference games.

The Blugolds beat Minnesota’s DeLaSalle by 22 points and followed it up the next day by knocking off Iowa’s Dowling Catholic the next day. Onalaska scheduled an early game against Minnesota’s Stewartville (7-1) and lost 81-76.

The Tigers showed the Hilltoppers their defensive shortcomings, and Onalaska responded by holding West Salem to 49 points and Holmen to 45 in two victories since that defeat.

“Stewartville was a very good offensive team,” Onalaska junior Kenzie Miller said. “That game showed us that we really had to step our game up a notch on defense, and we have to continue that (Thursday).”

What Onalaska will have to do is keep Lexi Donarski out of the lane, Becker off the offensive boards and limit open looks for Taylor Theusch from the 3-point line. That puts some pressure on Lexi Miller in the post and will require attention to detail all over the court.

Expect the Blugolds to harass sophomore point guard Olivia Gamoke relentlessly to disrupt the plan to get the ball into the hands of the Miller sisters, who can both hurt teams inside the lane and from the 3-point line.

“We have to stop penetration and have to be able to close out (on the perimeter) quick,” said Aquinas junior Kayla Bahr, who has been a key part of her team’s all-around defensive performance. “They have a lot of girls who can shoot.”


Onalaska’s Lexi Miller looks for an opening to shoot as Holmen’s Sydney Jahr attempts a block during a game last season. Miller is the Hilltoppers' leading scorer at 15.8 points per game.

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