East Troy back at state for second time in three years
When the basketball season started, Darryl Rayfield wasn't quite sure what kind of team he had at East Troy.
Rayfield knew his Rock Valley North team would be athletic and could shoot, but would it buy into the team concept and what it would take to get back to state for the second time in three years?
He got his answer over the Christmas break. The Trojans started 4-4, but two of the losses were to Division 1 teams and the other two to highly regarded McFarland and Stoughton.
East Troy has gone 14-3 since and plays a WIAA Division 3 state semifinal game against Appleton Xavier at 10:45 a.m. Friday at the Kohl Center in Madison.
“We played a really tough schedule early,” Rayfield said. “And as a team, I think we came out of the break knowing that if we shared the basketball and did things the right way, we could be pretty good.
“Since then, we've continued to improve and are finally healthy. And our continuity is real good right now; everybody is on the same page.”
East Troy has won seven of its last eight, including last Saturday's 42-34 win over River Valley in the sectional title game. The Trojans are averaging 63 points per game and allowing 53.
Connor Mitchell leads a balanced scoring attack for East Troy. The senior is averaging a team-high 13.8 points per game and has made more than 80 percent of his free throws.
Junior sharpshooter Joe Ciriacks is right behind Mitchell with a scoring average of 11.6 points per game. Ciriacks hit seven 3-pointers in a sectional semifinal win over Evansville.
Will Iloncaie, a first-team all-Rock Valley North selection, averages 11 points per game, giving the Trojans three players averaging double digits in scoring.
“The thing that sticks out about these kids is how multi-skilled they are,” Rayfield said. “And because they're so athletic, you can't try and shut down just one or two of them because we're so balanced.”
Rayfield hopes the larger Kohl Center floor will work in East Troy's favor. The Trojans like to get out on the break and are not afraid to shoot 3s.
Xavier, a private school out of Appleton, is 23-3 on the season. The Hawks won the Eastern Valley Conference and are making their second trip to state—the first coming in 2009.
“They're a very physical and very tough team,” Rayfield said of Xavier. “Everybody posts up for them, and they drive the ball hard to the hole.
“But I really like the way we're playing right now. And I think we're going to give a great showing at state.”