Is Appleton North better than last year's state title team?

Kari Brekke and Appleton North shoot for their second straight state title this week. (Doug Ritchay/WLUK)

GREEN BAY (WLUK) -- Looking at the records it would seem obvious.

Last year's Appleton North team went 28-0 and won the Division 1 state title. Certainly, last year's team is better than this year's squad, which is an impressive 22-4 -- but not 28-0 -- and looking to defend its state championship this weekend, right?

Let's see what coach Joe Russom says: "I'm more impressed with this year's team than last year's team," he said. "I know going 28-0 people might be a little shocked at that, but they had a target on their back; everybody gave them their best punch. We set ourselves up for a very, very tough schedule and I think that paid dividends when it came to sectionals ... pressure never seemed to rattle our kids."

North's losses have all come on the road or neutral. The Lightning lost at Appleton East and Milwaukee King and dropped two games in Florida during December.

North's scoring margin last year was 19.7 points per game and this year's it's 19.4 and that includes four losses.

Friday, North plays at the Resch Center in a state semifinal against Arrowhead. The Lightning has finally reached the part of the season it has longed for since holding up the gold ball last year.

Since the first tip of the season, North was expected to be at the state tournament for a third year in a row and Russom didn't deny that this week. Winning the Fox Valley Association was a goal, but the postseason is what North has been pointing to all season and it looks like it was ready.

North has won four postseason games, including the smallest margin being 18 points against Appleton East in a sectional semifinal, and 24 points against Kimberly in a sectional final, a margin Russom admitted he was surprised about. The Lightning has left no doubt it's entering the state tournament with momentum and just showing up isn't enough.

"I think a lot of teams' goal is to just make it to state and once they get there, it's however we do is we're happy," North senior guard Kari Brekke said. "For us, we're looking at it as a business trip and our goal is to defend our state title. We want to play our best basketball on Friday and hopefully Saturday."

The Lightning is on pace to do just that.

Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay

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