The Central High School boys basketball team walked off the Kohl Center floor a very disappointed one when last season ended in the WIAA Division 2 state semifinals.
The Red Raiders were understandably dejected because they came up on the short end of a 70-58 score against Milwaukee Washington and wouldn’t get the chance at a second consecutive state title.
But it was more they way the team lost that was hard to swallow. Central needed better direction on the court, and junior point guard Noah Parcher took the outcome personally.
“We didn’t have good leadership, and that falls on me,” Parcher said on Wednesday. “I’m the guy who had been (to state) twice before, and I wasn’t as good of a leader as I should have been.”
Parcher, a 6-foot senior, was determined not to let that happen again because the ceiling is high for the Red Raiders again this season. This is Parcher’s swan song during a four-year varsity run, and he is focused on helping Central achieve everything it can.
One thing the Red Raiders want to accomplish is winning a fourth straight MVC championship. Even though it is January, Friday night will be a big test to see if Central can win another title.
Onalaska (10-1, 4-0) leads the MVC and is ranked fourth in Division 2 by The Associated Press as it travels to Mark Sutton Memorial Gymnasium for a 7:15 p.m. game against the second-ranked Red Raiders (9-1, 3-0).
It represents Parcher’s next big moment as a leader for a team that needs a win against a very good opponent — one that has placed second in the MVC four straight times and beat Central during a regular-season game in Onalaska last season.
“I think last season was an opportunity to learn how to lead and how to lead the right way at all times,” Central coach Todd Fergot said. “You have to lead whether it is going well for you or not, and I think that’s what we have had some kids learning.”
Parcher said the learning process extended into this season, and that a 72-49 loss at Brookfield Central on Dec. 15 forced the issue. It was embarrassing, Parcher said, to get blown out. Even if it was on the home floor of one of the state’s top teams in Division 1.
“After that game, all I could think about was how much better we could be,” Parcher said. “They exposed us and embarrassed us, and things had to change.”
Fergot said things are changing and that Parcher is simply becoming more of an all-around contributor to the team. His work as a playmaker has been essential to Central’s success since he joined the team — even in a limited role early in his career — and Parcher is adding to that with a little more aggressive approach in scoring when needed.
With juniors Johnny Davis (23.3 points per game) and Jordan Davis (14.2 ppg) around, Parcher doesn’t often have to carry the scoring load. But his 17-point performance in a big nonconference win over Stoughton and 21-point outburst in a victory at Logan have certainly been helpful.
The key to those games, however, was that Parcher didn’t become one-dimensional. He stuck with his roots as a point guard while adding more shots to his game.
“I think the Stoughton game is one the of the best he has ever played,” said Fergot, who spoke along the same lines of Parcher’s effort during the Logan game. “We are seeing a lot more of what he can do during games like that.”
Parcher has honed his game through years of practice. He used to play baseball, but gave that up in fourth grade. He briefly gave football a try, but neither sport connected like basketball did.
“Basketball is something I can use to get my mind cleared if I’m having problems with anything,” said Parcher, who averages 10.8 ppg. “I’ve always had a love for the game.”
That was even the case when his older brother, Caleb, worked with him as a kindergartner.
“He would always be training me,” Noah said of Caleb. “He made me run laps when I missed layups and everything.”
Parcher sees the court well, and that makes him a very effective part of Central’s ball movement. He is good for a couple of no-look passes each game, and he is very good at putting the ball in perfect spots for shooters.
“He makes sure he has everyone involved in the game,” Johnny Davis said. “The way he can look away and still put passes right where they need to be is pretty amazing. He did that to me (against Sparta).”
That, Parcher said, has been the natural aspect of playing point guard.
“I think what I have had through my whole career is good court vision,” Parcher said. “I’ve never had an issue bringing the ball up the floor, and it’s something I’ve always been able to do against pressure and against very good competition.
“I’ve never switched positions.”
That may change in certain situations the rest of this season, and Fergot said that is just to take advantage of Parcher’s offensive abilities. Parcher said there was a discussion of him moving to shooting guard but that the decision was made to only use him there when situations dictate.
“We did that with Bailey (Kale), too, and we did it a lot when he was a senior,” Fergot said. “We’ll do it when necessary to have him be a little more aggressive with his shot. When he plays the point, he is pretty focused on making the pass first, and there are times we want him looking for the shot first.”