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Central's Noah Parcher

Central’s Noah Parcher drives past Logan's Floyd Thomas (23) and Maguire Werner during a regular-season game. Parcher is playing in his fourth WIAA Division 2 state tournament.

Central High School boys basketball coach Todd Fergot knows how hard it is for his team to be in this position.

Teams all over the state set the goal in November of playing once — hopefully, twice — at the Kohl Center in Madison this week. Most stumble along the way, but the great ones find a way to keep winning.

They don’t care who is at the Kohl Center with them. The desire is the atmosphere and prestige that accompanies playing the best Wisconsin has to offer with a WIAA championship on the line.

The Red Raiders (24-2), ranked second in Division 2 and Madison veterans after playing in the last three state tournaments, cared a little bit about who they might play on Friday if they won their sectional last weekend.

Fifth-ranked Milwaukee Washington (21-5) knocked Central out of last year’s state tournament in the semifinals and was a possibility for a rematch with the way it was finishing its season.

Central's Jordan Davis

Central’s Jordan Davis shoots during a regular-season game against Logan. Davis is averaging 12.6 points per game and has made 52 3-pointers.

“We’ve been waiting for this all year, and we have an opponent that we wanted because of what happened last year,” Central junior Jordan Davis said. “We’re excited.”

The third-seeded Red Raiders and second-seeded Purgolders meet in the second Division 2 semifinal of the afternoon session with an estimated tip time of 3:15 p.m. Top-seeded Glendale Nicolet (25-1) meets fourth-seeded Elkhorn (23-3) in the first semifinal at 1:35 p.m.

While the chance at revenge is appealing, the challenge that awaits is fully recognized. Washington is loaded with Division I college talent, most of which played in last year’s state tournament and ended Central’s season.

“They have a big and athletic team,” Central junior Johnny Davis said of the Purgolders. “Our game plan was working, and we were winning at halftime last year, but they found a way to come back and beat us.”

Washington outscored Central by 16 points in the second half to pick up a 70-58 victory that sent it to the championship game against Kaukauna. The Galloping Ghosts won that game, leaving the Purgolders searching for their first state title since 1993.

To stop Washington from getting that chance, the Red Raiders have to take better care of the ball and not let little mistakes turn into bigger ones.

Senior Noah Parcher said Central seemed to lose some focus when the Purgolders started to take control during last season’s matchup and can’t let that happen this time around.

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“Instead of picking each other up, we kind of got mad at each other and didn’t play as well as a team,” said Parcher, who averages 11.3 points and 4.9 assists while shooting 56 percent from the floor. “We have to stay together, and I know we will because we have been picking each other up during hard times this year.

“I think we’re playing our best basketball right now and feel good after the way we played (in an 81-55 win over) Merrill (during Saturday’s sectional final). We’re ready for this.”

Both teams return nearly identical rosters from last year’s state tournament.

The Purgolders still have starters Michael Foster Jr., Deontay Long and Johntae Martin on this team, and returning players scored 43 of their 70 points. The 6-foot-9 Foster Jr. has Division I scholarship offers and Long has Division I interest.

Washington has also added freshman Tre White, a 6-6 guard who recently moved from Texas to Milwaukee and already has an offer from Kansas. White has averaged 18.1 points and 6.0 rebounds since joining the team a month ago.

White provides a new weapon to grab Central’s attention.

“I’ve seen them play, and he’s a good player,” Central’s Johnny Davis said of White. “Jordan Dinsmore hit a lot of big shots against us last year, and he’s not there this year, so they are a different team with (White).”

Davis scored 17 points in last year’s game, but he was held to four field goals and two rebounds. Those numbers will have to jump after he has posted averages of 22.7 points and 9.3 rebounds as a junior.

Jordan Davis will also have to build on his 52 3-pointers and reach or exceed his scoring average of 12.6 ppg for the Red Raiders to advance from a court filled with Division I prospects on the biggest stage of the state.


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

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Assistant Sports Editor

Todd Sommerfeldt has covered sports for the La Crosse Tribune since 2003 after doing the same previously in the Fox Cities and Rock County.