LA CROSSE, Wis. (AP) — The most important goal of the season for La Crosse Central High School senior Johnny Davis was a WIAA Division 2 state championship.

The University of Wisconsin commit didn’t get the chance to make that happen, but it was through no fault of his own. Davis helped Central beat the state’s No. 1 team in a sectional semifinal before the season was halted due to the coronavirus pandemic.

So when his career -- at least on the current level -- was suddenly halted, it left individual awards to fill the space of what was lost during a career that ended with a 94-13 record and three appearances in the state tournament.

Davis, a 6-foot-5 forward, has been selected as the state’s player of the year by The Associated Press after averaging 27.2 points and 9.2 rebounds per game for the Red Raiders, who won a state title when Davis was a freshman and qualified for the state tournament the next two seasons.

He burst onto the scene as a contributing reserve on Central’s Division 2 championship team when he was a freshman and expanded his game from that moment forward. A natural rebounder, Davis became a much better passer and perimeter shooter later in his career with the Red Raiders.

Davis was selected from a first team that also includes Sussex Hamilton junior Patrick Baldwin, Hartland Arrowhead senior Carter Gilmore, Racine St. Catherine’s junior Tyrese Hunter and Sheboygan Lutheran senior Jacob Ognacevic. Davis and Baldwin were unanimous selections, and Davis was named player of the year in a vote that also included Baldwin and Ognacevic.

“It’s not surprising to see what he has become,” Central coach Todd Fergot said of Davis, who committed to the Badgers last summer. You have to have a certain level of natural talent, and he certainly has that.

“And if you look at the top players in the state by class, you have a group of 20 or so you would consider for that when they are younger, say as a freshman. But then you really have to be committed to becoming the best, and Johnny did that.”

Davis, who shot 58% from the floor and made 30 of 70 attempts from the 3-point line, had his biggest games in his team’s biggest games. He scored 42 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in a loss to nationally ranked Minnehaha Academy (Minnesota) and averaged 26 points during three games at the Montverde (Florida) Invitational.

He scored 68 points and had 22 rebounds during four state games with Central, which finished its season with a 55-40 win over top-ranked Onalaska in the sectional semifinal round of the playoffs.

AP coach of the year honors go to longtime Cuba City coach Jerry Petitgoue, who along with the Cubans was “oh so close” to making history this year.

Cuba City was on track not only to claim its first state championship in 22 years but also to complete the first unbeaten season during Petitgoue’s 53-year Hall of Fame career.

An unexpected event put a wrench in his plans, though, when the WIAA canceled the rest of the basketball season shortly after the Cubans’ 55-48 win over Darlington in a Division 4 sectional semifinal.

“I really felt bad for the kids,” said Petitgoue, a retired history teacher. “I met with them the next day, and there were all kinds of tears, especially my two seniors, Brady Olson and Jackson Noll. I felt extremely bad for them.

“I told them, there’s going to be setbacks in your life. But because you’ve played athletics, you’re going to pick yourself up off of the floor and get back into the game of life.”

For Petitgoue, that means beginning preparations for a new season when he will be 80 years old.

But for now, it ends with his selection as AP boys basketball coach of the year.

“That is absolutely tremendous,” Petitgoue said upon receiving the honor for the first time in his career. “I’m humbled. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this honor.”

The Cubans finished the season champions of the SWAL and undefeated overall at 25-0.

The team also spent the entire year ranked No. 1 in Division 4 by the AP.

Petitgoue, who has posted a state record mark of 963-256 in 53 years, including 901-236 in 49 years at Cuba City, was selected from a stellar group of nominees.

That included Blair-Taylor’s Randy Storlie, Chippewa Falls’ Jason Proue, Glendale Nicolet’s Allan Hanson, Madison La Follette’s Curtrel Robinson, Milwaukee King’s Doug Lewis, Onalaska’s Craig Kowal, Racine St. Catherine’s Nick Bennett, Sheboygan Lutheran’s Nick Verhagen and Stratford’s Curt Schmidt.

“I just knew that this was a special team,” Petitgoue said. “This was the best team I’ve had. That’s not taking anything away from my (three previous) state champs. Today’s kids, when you get athletes, they’re bigger, faster, stronger. Our chemistry was unreal. I just really loved this team.”

Petitgoue said naturally it was disappointing not being able to cap the season with a gold ball.

“But the WIAA made the only decision that they could make,” he said. “They made the right decision. There are a lot more important things in life than sports. I just reminded them of that and thanked them for a tremendous year.”

The fast-break driven Cubans averaged 81 points per game — ranking second in the state regardless of division — and played only two games decided by 10 points or less.

“We know in our hearts we would have been the state champs,” Petitgoue said. “You can carry that with you the rest of your life. In that respect, we tried to make a positive out of a bad situation.”

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