Badgers boys basketball coach learned from the best

NIAGARA, Wis. – Jim Hoogland will draw on the experience of working with three Niagara High School coaching greats for today’s WIAA Division 5 boys basketball sectional championship.

Hoogland assisted Dan (Lefty) St. Arnauld and Phil Neveau with Niagara teams over the years. Mike Prost, a former Badger boys and girls head basketball coach, assists Hoogland with today’s team.

“I’ve taken a little bit from all of them,” Hoogland, Niagara’s head boys basketball coach for the past 10 years, said prior to the sectional tournament. “Every coach I’ve coached with had their strengths.”

Hoogland helped out Neveau with Niagara girls teams that reached Madison.

“Phil Neveau was more of a scorer, of course,” Hoogland said. “He’s helped with the offensive side and how to talk to shooters and handle shooters.”

Hoogland served as defensive coordinator on St. Arnauld’s vaunted Niagara and Northern Elite Predators football teams.

“Lefty has got that human side,” Hoogland said. “He helps me with my motivation on how to get the kids to do what they really don’t want to do but do it hard.”

Prost was the head coach of Niagara’s last sectional team in 1991.

“Michael is my basketball encyclopedia,” Hoogland said. “He was around when Dr. James Naismith invented the game.”

Hoogland was 0-for-2 in regional finals before the Badgers bounced Wausaukee 49-31. The Badgers recovered from an 8-0 deficit against the region’s top seed.

Goodman-Pembine Coach Paul Whitt, whose Patriots beat Niagara in the regular season and lost to Wausaukee in the regional semifinal, was impressed with the Badgers’ poise.

“Niagara was calm and controlled despite Wausaukee getting up early and having the crowd really behind them,” Whitt said. “There’s some very good upperclass leadership on their team and they just kept everyone calm, kept running their offense, took quality shots and never panicked. They took Wausaukee’s best punch.”

Junior Zach Walker scored 24 points and Jordan Zawada added 11 points and 11 rebounds in the 55-46 sectional win over Almond-Bancroft.

Seniors Zawada, TJ Liebergen, Colin Anderson and Zach Zychowski along with junior Joey Swanson start for the Badgers. Walker is the Badgers’ top reserve.

“This is a very special, special team,” Hoogland said after the regional final. “I’m proud of them.”

Niagara (19-7) and Green Bay NEW Lutheran (26-0) will clash at 1 p.m. today at Menasha High School for the sectional title and berth in the state tournament.

Green Bay NEW Lutheran, ranked second in one state poll, ousted defending state champion Sheboygan Area Lutheran 84-62 in another sectional semifinal Thursday.

Six-foot-seven Nathan Toenjes scored 29 points to lead the Blazers. Six-foot-5 Nathan Claflin chipped in 15 and 6-3 guard Kristin Zimmerman had 10.

Niagara-NEW Lutheran winner will play in the state semifinals Thursday, meeting Drummond (23-2) or Clayton (23-0) at Madison’s Kohl Center.

NOTES: The 2013 Badgers hope to become the fifth team in school history to reach the state finals. Niagara was previously represented in 1934, 1935, 1936 and 1979. The ’79 Badgers, under Coach Terry Youren, won the state title … Hoogland celebrates a birthday Sunday … Hoogland received a congratulatory note from Stratford district administrator Scott Winch, who once held the same post at Niagara. “Who was the genius that hired you?” was part of Winch’s message …