KIMBERLY (WLUK) -- The Fox Valley Association boys basketball race promises to once again be a good one, despite the fact Jordan McCabe and Tyrese Haliburton are now in college.
That's mainly because the depth of the conference is good and that includes Kimberly and Appleton West who met each other Tuesday in their FVA opener.
While Appleton West was coming off a 93-77 season-opening win over Bay Port, this was Kimberly's first game, but the Papemakers managed to hold their own.
Levi Nienhaus-Borchert scored 26 points and Jake Buchanan added 25 to offset Appleton West's Will Mahoney's 30-point outing as the Papermakers topped the Terrors 92-86.
"We knew it was going to be a tough a one coming in, Appleton West is a good team; they're have some good players," Nienhaus-Borchert said. "We obviously want to do a better job defensively than we did. We know our offense is going to be strong, no matter what, but we need to clean up our defense going into the next game. It's nice to get a win."
"Appleton West is a real nice team," Kimberly coach Lucky Wurtz said. "You have Mahoney, but you have shooters. They're just hard to cover. It's hard to defend. We have work to do, no doubt about it."
Kimberly is no slouch either. Nienhaus-Borchert can dominate inside as he did Tuesday, while point guard Buchanan can shoot and drive. Furthermore, Marshfield transfer Reed Miller (6 feet 6), who recently committed to Minnesota-Crookston, has an inside-outside game and scored 11 points in his Kimberly debut.
"They're good players," Wurtz said. "The key is going to be who we find to put in with them. We expect them every night to be solid, get good shots."
This trio is a big reason Kimberly is picked to win the FVA. However, the Papermakers are trying to downplay the prediction.
"I guess we feel a little pressure because obviously, not obviously, but we know we are picked at the top of the conference," Nienhaus-Borchert said. "We feel a little bit of pressure but we're just going to to take it game by game."
"It's a tough thing when you're picked to win and do that, you got to embrace the pressure; kids at Kimberly do that," Wurtz said. "Those are predictions. We got a lot of work to do. Whatever's on paper doesn't matter to me.
"It's going to come down at the end of the year, how good are we? How good are we tomorrow? I love my team. I wouldn't go to war with anybody else."
Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay