Coming off its second Woodland West title in the past four seasons, the New Berlin Eisenhower boys basketball team expects to be in the mix at the top of the league yet again.
In order to do so, the Lions will need their returners or newcomers from a talented junior varsity squad to step up to replace four starters from last year's team that finished 20-3 overall and edged Pewaukee by one game in the Woodland West.
First-team All-Woodland West guard Jack Sirek (12 points, 4.0 rebounds), second-team All-Woodland West guard Jordan Canady (12.1 points, 5.0 rebounds), leading scorer Stephen Kraninger (13.8 points, 4.0 rebounds) and forward Will Polczynski (4.5 points, 8.0 rebounds) all graduated, leaving Eisenhower without three of its top four scorers from last year.
"Last year's group was a phenomenal group," Eisenhower coach Dave Scheidegger said. "They set the standard pretty high. They achieved a lot of different things throughout the season. It is definitely going to be hard to match all that. We think we have a group that is at least willing to try to get after it."
The lone starter returning for the Lions is forward Sullivan Kulju, who is entering his fourth season on varsity. The 6-foot-6 senior averaged 13.6 points and 9.0 rebounds last season to earn second-team All-Woodland West honors.
"He brings a lot of athleticism, a lot of ball skills, facing, posting, driving and shooting, he pretty much has the whole thing," Scheidegger said. "He's a good defensive player and brings a lot of heart to his play. Like all the seniors, it is their time to step up with the leadership."
Eisenhower also returns seniors Matt Rolefson (4.8 points), Sam Hluchnik, Luke Duffin, Max Maier, Bryce Wesling and Jake Prodoehl and juniors Bryce Miller (5.7 points) and Joe Lang.
Also on the Lions roster are Nick DeFrance, Stephen Halusan, Kyle Kraninger, Luke Kuhrt, Dominic Quirk, Ben Schaefer and Eric Thyne.
With a 14-2 mark, the Lions won their first league title since 2012-13 last season, finishing one game ahead of Pewaukee and three games in front of Pius XI.
The Woodland West figures to be a loaded conference yet again, as Pewaukee enters ranked No. 9 in Division 2 in the Wissports.net preseason poll, and Eisenhower and Pius XI are honorable mention. Greendale returns three starters, Wauwatosa West has one of the best players in the state in Alou Dillon and New Berlin West should be an improved team with the majority of its roster back.
"It is always a wonderful conference," Scheidegger said. "There's always good basketball. There are a lot of good programs in it. This season is no different. It is going to be very competitive and challenging. Our guys are ready to go after it. We feel good about it, but it is going to be a challenge. There's going to be a lot of good basketball."
Eisenhower will open the season against Milwaukee Washington in the Fresh Coast Classic at UW-Milwaukee's Klotsche Center at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 25. The Lions will then host Muskego at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 29.