Cedarburg's Tom Diener made a name for himself in state coaching in the Milwaukee City Conference.
Diener won five WIAA Division 1 state championships while at Milwaukee Vincent, and he also took Milwaukee Hamilton to the state tournament.
Ironically, in his first trip to the Division 2 tournament with Cedarburg (24-2), he will be facing another City squad in Milwaukee Washington (22-4) at about 3:15 p.m. Friday, March 17, at the Kohl Center in Madison.
To add to the drama, Washington's coach, Fred Riley, worked with Diener for three seasons and considers him a friend.
"I learned a lot of things from him, such as how to best reach the kids," Riley said.
Riley apparently learned well because the Purgolders are enjoying a fine season, having shared the City crown with Milwaukee Vincent and Milwaukee Riverside at 11-1.
They are led by 6-foot-4-inch sophomore forward/guard Deontay Long at 19.3 points and 5.5 assists per game, followed closely by 6-3 senior guard Tyree Ellis at 18.2 points and 6.7 rebounds per contest.
Ellis has been on a tear lately, averaging 26.6 points in his last five games, including games of 33 and 31 points in the WIAA playoffs.
"He is feeling a sense of urgency," Riley said of Ellis. "He has played with focus and energy, and he has really turned it up in the past seven games or so."
Riley said Washington has also received punch off the bench from 6-2 sophomore wing Johntae Martin and 5-9 junior point guard Akeir McKinney.
Riley said the Purgolders were helped this season by playing four games in California over the holiday break, winning three of them.
"It was a tremendous experience, and it helped with team bonding," he said.
The winner will meet either La Crosse Central (24-2) or Waunakee (24-2) for the state championship at 6:35 p.m. Saturday, March 18. Central and Waunakee will play in another semifinal at 1:35 p.m. Friday.
Central features 6-4 senior shooting guard Kobe King, a University of Wisconsin recruit who averages 26.9 points and who tallied 41 points in a 92-54 triumph over Wausau East in a sectional title game last week.
"Kobe has not yet scratched the surface of what he can do," coach Todd Fergot said. "He has done some weight-lifting, so he is stronger; he has grown a little bit, and his shooting has improved."
Bailey Kale, a 6-0 senior point guard, averages 18 points for the Red Raiders, who won the Mississippi Valley Conference championship at 12-0 and downed Waunakee, 75-54, on Jan. 14.
Waunakee, which won the Badger Conference North at 12-0, also has a high scorer in 6-3 junior guard Mitch Listau at 22.5 points per game. Mason Steffen, 6-2 junior guard, adds 14 per contest.
"We are getting better every week," coach Dana MacKenzie said. "We knew we needed to get better at everything after the loss to Central."
This is the second straight trip to state for Central and Waunakee, both of which fell to state champion Kaukauna at Madison a year ago.
Cedarburg, though, is no stranger to top-flight competition, having beaten state powers Brown Deer, Beaver Dam and Kaukauna in the playoffs.
"I don't have any doubt in my mind that anybody is more battle-tested than us," junior John Diener said. "Brown Deer, Beaver Dam, Kaukauna, three great teams, and the games could have gone either way."