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An eventful year in local sports saw the Whitnall boys basketball team make a spirited run to the state tournament, the Whitnall co-op gymnastics team claim a state championship and two other competitors place highly at their state events.

It also marked the successful beginning of the Shane Covington era in Greenfield High School football and the end (at least for now) of the West Allis Central-West Allis Hale football rivalry.

Take a look back at the top area sports stories of 2016:

 

 

1. WHITNALL BOYS BASKETBALL

The Falcons put together a fine regular season but really caught fire in the state playoffs, topping Bay View and Pewaukee to win the WIAA Division 2 regional, then Waukesha North and Whitefish Bay to claim the school's first sectional crown in 12 years.

Whitnall dropped a tough 62-59 game to Waunakee in the state semifinal as a late 3-point field goal attempt by Tyler Herro bounced off the back rim, but the Falcons still wound up with a successful 20-7 season and plenty of promise for the years to come.

"We knew many people didn't expect us to go to state," Herro said, "but we knew all along we were one of the best teams in the state once we put the pieces together."

For the season, Herro averaged 24 points and 3.9 assists to earn first-team All State honors, and Kevion Taylor averaged 19 points and received honorable mention.

Both have decided on their colleges, with Herro choosing the University of Wisconsin and Taylor selecting Winona State University.

2. FMOW GYMNASTICS

The local co-op used a balanced effort to claim the WIAA state Division 1 title after finishing second in 2015.

It was also the local co-op's fifth title in the last six years. The gymnasts beat out Southeast Conference rival Kenosha, 149.31 points to 147.6, for the crown. The team also earned several individual state medals, as Krystal Nelson was second in the balance beam, Sam Balcerak was second on the floor exercise and uneven bars and was also fourth in the all-around, while Abigail Missiaen was third on vault.

"This meet was one of those perfect coaching moments where all the things you've been working on all year come together," said coach Katie Moore. "It was awesome."

3. CENTRAL-HALE FOOTBALL

The West Allis Central-West Allis Hale football game this fall carried more than the usual significance.

With the approval of conference realignment in the southeastern part of the state, a contentious maneuver by the WIAA, Central will move to the Woodland Conference next fall and Hale will remain in the Greater Metro Conference. Under new football scheduling parameters, the two cannot meet on the football field for at least the foreseeable future.

Hale coach Brandon Ehret, for one, was unhappy with the prospect of the end of the rivalry.

"The community revolves around this game," Ehret said. "This is a rivalry like none other, one of the best in the state. This is what high-school football is all about."

The Bulldogs won the 2016 contest, 27-14, to take a 40-31-5 lead in the series.

"If this is the end of the rivalry, we get to keep the trophy for a while," Central coach Keith Ringelberg said after the game with a bittersweet smile.

 

 

4. ELLA SCHULTZ

The talented Central senior captured second place in the shot put at the WIAA Division 1 State Track and Field Meet in spring.

Schultz posted 45 feet-7 3/4 inches for the runnerup spot in the meet to cap a record-setting shot put career which began in her sophomore year at Central.

"I think confidence is the big reason I improved so much this year," she said.

5. TRE'VAUGHN CRAIG

The Greenfield wrestler snared third place at 152 pounds in the WIAA Division 1 state wrestling meet, winning four of five matches, with the lone loss coming to eventual state champion Hayden Krein of Sparta.

"Tre'Vaughn had himself a great tournament," former Greenfield head coach Chris Otto said. "Anytime you can go with four wins and one loss, you have to be proud of your accomplishments."

Craig finished the campaign at 47-3, including 37-1 in the regular season, and helped the Hustlin' Hawks tie Pewaukee for the Woodland Conference tournament crown.

 

 

6. JOEL STAVE

Fresh from his successful run as the University of Wisconsin quarterback, Joel Stave returned to his alma mater, Whitnall High School, in March for a jersey dedication ceremony.

Stave presented the school with a signed and framed No. 2 Badgers jersey and accepted the congratulations of former coaches, school superintendent Lowell Holtz, Greenfield mayor Mike Neitzke, master of ceremonies Vince Vitrano of WTMJ-TV and a packed gymnasium of current students.

"It was a lot of fun," Stave said. "I'm really honored to have the opportunity to do this. It was cool to come back and see everybody and have a day like this."

7. RICK WAGNER

The former West Allis Hale football and basketball standout continued his career as the starting right tackle for the Baltimore Ravens of the National Football League.

Wagner, who is now 27 years old and stands 6 feet, 6 inches, 310 pounds, is in his fourth season in the NFL, all with the Ravens. He has remained remarkably durable, having played 14 of 15 games this season and all 16 in 2015. At the University of Wisconsin, he only missed three games in his career.

8. MEHRYN KRAKER

The former West Allis Central basketball star is having another good season with the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.

Kraker, a 6-foot senior forward, is leading the Phoenix in scoring at 17.2 points per game and in assists with 46. She is third on the squad with 18 3-point field goals and has 19 steals.

Last season, she averaged 11.6 points in 33 games for Green Bay, second on the team. She led in assists with 106 and was second in steals with 51 and third in 3-pointers with 49.

Kraker was named the Most Valuable Player of the Horizon League Tournament after scoring 32 points in a semifinal contest. She also earned second-team all-league honors for the season.

9. GREENFIELD FOOTBALL

After turning around the Greenfield program in 2015, head coach Joe Koch left in March to take another job in Texas.

Former Milwaukee Riverside and University of Wisconsin-Whitewater star running back Shane Covington took the job in June, and the Hustlin' Hawks did not miss a beat. They went 5-0 to capture their second straight Woodland Conference East Division crown, then beat Bay View, 38-10, for the school's first WIAA playoff victory in years.

Covington put together a powerful offense led by Now Newspapers All-Suburban quarterback Rayvon Bartlett Jr. explosive running back Ezekiel Banks and honorable-mention All State tight end Jared Davis.

10. GREENFIELD BOYS BASKETBALL

Led by some of the same players who fueled the fine football season, the Hustlin' Hawks are off to a strong start in basketball.

Greenfield came into this week with a 5-1 record after winning just three games all of last season. The Hawks have not scored below 70 points in any game and racked up 105 in an overtime victory last week.

They have five players averaging in double figures, including Bartlett, Davis and Donnie Reasby, all football standouts as well.

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