Keith Larson and Ashley Markowiak of Whitnall enjoyed a memorable time at the Wisconsin Dells last weekend.
Unlike many visitors to the Dells, however, Larson and Markowiak were not there to splash around in a waterpark or take in a show.
Instead, they were taking part in the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association's (WBCA) Division 2 All-Star Game on Friday night at the Justagame Field House.
Larson, the head coach for the Whitnall girls squad, directed the South team, which lost to the North by an 85-71 count. Markowiak, one of his top players from recent seasons, totaled 12 points and six rebounds.
"This was a great experience," Larson said. "The WBCA did a great job of organizing and planning the practices, the scrimmages, the banquet and the game."
He said it was a special treat to be able to coach a group of state all-stars.
"You have those types of players who were the best on their high school teams," the coach said. "When you have that kind of talent assembled, it's a nice situation."
He quickly added that coaching in an all-star game also presents some challenges.
"The high school players, you work with every day," he said, "and the all-stars, you just work with for a limited time. You have to go with what works best: the offense and defense your players are most comfortable with."
Larson said the all-star team clearly has more talent than a typical high school squad, but the key is to get everyone to work together.
"It's like Miami (Heat of the NBA)," he continued, "blending the three big stars."
He said the all stars, because of their extensive experience, possessed a strong basketball IQ and understanding of the game.
The all-star games use a 30-second shot clock and prohibit zone defenses and full-court presses. Also, every player must be on the court for at least 16. Larson said one of his assistants kept a chart for the playing time of every girl.
"I would sub five-for-five, which you usually don't do in high school," he said. "You are looking for individuals who mesh well and play well together."
He was pleased with the effort of Markowiak, who led the South team in points and tied for the top spot in rebounds.
"She held her own against that caliber of player," Larson said. "I think she opened some eyes, and she played well for herself and for Whitnall High School."
Besides the involvement of Keith Larson and Ashley Markowiak in the WBCA All-Star Game, the Whitnall girls basketball team received some other good news.
The Falcons were awarded third-place Academic All-State for Division 2 by the WBCA. They presented the medals and ribbons at a school board meeting June 3.
"This is quite an honor for our team, school and district," coach Keith Larson said.
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