Clinton, East Troy collide tonight
When East Troy handed Clinton’s boys basketball team its only loss of the season back in December, Cougar coach Denny Morris’ postgame speech was short and to the point.
Morris told the team he’d much rather lose to East Troy in December and beat them in March.
Clinton gets that opportunity tonight.
Second-ranked East Troy (22-2) and sixth-ranked Clinton (23-1) play a Division 3 sectional semifinal game at 7 p.m. at Janesville Craig. The winner plays Wisconsin Dells or Lodi for the sectional title and a trip to state Saturday at 1 p.m. at Middleton.
East Troy, the Rock Valley North champion, beat Rock Valley South champion Clinton in a crossover game, 65-62, on Dec. 13.
“Going into this game, we really feel like there’s no pressure on us,” Morris said. “We respect East Troy immensely, but our kids are playing with a lot of confidence and energy.
“The first time we played them this year was a tremendous game, and I expect the same thing Thursday night. It’s going to be a great atmosphere, and I know our community is really excited about it.”
Morris said tickets went on sale at Clinton High School Tuesday morning and by 5 p.m., 500 had been sold.
Morris, now in his sixth season as head coach, knew a long time ago that this year’s team had a chance to be special. He watched current seniors Justin Langley, Chandler Stevenson and Aaron Roth play basketball together since third grade, along with juniors Cody Risseeuw and Jalen McMartin.
“I’ve known for a long, long time that this group was going to be special,” Morris said. “They couldn’t get to the varsity level quick enough.
“They’re a very close knit team that has done everything we’ve asked of them.”
Clinton has won 19 straight since the loss to East Troy. The Cougars feature a balanced scoring attack and a shutdown defense.
The 6-foot-7 Langley leads the team with a 16.6 scoring average, while Risseeuw is at 13.4.
Defensively, the Cougars have held six of the last seven opponents under 50 points.
As well as the Cougars have played all season, the Trojans are big and talented. East Troy has lost only to the top-ranked team in the state, Germantown, along with Division 1 2010 state champion Hartland Arrowhead. The Trojans, led by 6-8 Army recruit Tanner Plomb, have pounded every opponent but Clinton this season. East Troy has topped the 70-point mark 13 times, including three games where it scored 90 or more.
“The key is going to be which team does a better job of getting back on defense, and for us, we have to take care of the ball and not get outrebounded,” Morris said.
“It’s going to be a tremendous game between two good programs representing the Rock Valley Conference. I know our kids will be ready.”
Let the fun begin.