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Friday, December 26, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 45.0° F  Mostly Cloudy
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Back to the high school hardwood

Keith Stewart got the job as head coach of Madison West's boys basketball team about a month and a half ago. Taking over for Boyce Hodge (who resigned after an ineligible player forced a state tournament forfeit), Stewart coaches his first home game on Saturday. West will face Madison Memorial, the defending state champs and winner of the last six Big Eight Conference titles.

Don't expect Memorial senior Vander Blue, a Marquette recruit and the state's best player, to show the Regents any mercy. "Can Saturday come please??" he posted to Facebook earlier this week. "It's time to do work, Memorial. Workin' on a 2 peat" - a second consecutive state championship.

In recent years, the Big Eight has eclipsed Milwaukee as the state's toughest conference, thanks in part to Memorial's impressive run. This includes two state titles and three second-place finishes.

As Memorial dominated Racine Horlick in the state finals last year, some hoopheads in the Kohl Center were overheard wondering how much better the game would be if it included Madison East, which lost a close one to Waunakee in the sectional semifinals. The Purgolders, led by Marquis Mason and Nimrod Hilliard IV (both back in the lineup), were the only team to beat Memorial last year.

On Saturday, East hosts perennial contender Middleton, whose defense should test East's impatient, high-flying offense. After hosting Memorial, Stewart's West will play away games against Middleton, East and Milwaukee Vincent before Christmas. So much for easing into the job.

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