GAME OF THE WEEK (Dec. 19–25)
BOYS BASKETBALL: #1 Darlington 70, #1 New Glarus 64
The battle-tested Darlington Redbirds boys’ basketball team was back at it on the court last week, knocking off two more ranked Division 4 teams on the road to remain unbeaten on the season at 8-0 and alone atop the SWAL at 4-0.
The Redbirds defended their first-place standing in the SWAL by defeating the #8-ranked Fennimore Golden Eagles, 61-50, at FHS on Tuesday, Dec. 18, and then headed to New Glarus on Thursday, Dec. 20, where they rallied from behind in the second half to take down the #1-ranked Glarner Knights by a score of 70-64.
Through their first eight game, the ‘Birds have beaten four state-ranked D4 opponents, including a pair of wins against teams who were ranked #1 coming into the game.
“Our schedule has definitely been a grind these last few weeks, so I’m glad we have a bit of a break coming up with Christmas to rest up and get refocused,” said Darlington head coach Tom Uppena. “We do have Lancaster (coming up), so we still have some work to do over break before jumping back into conference play.”
At New Glarus, on Thursday, Dec. 20, Stryker Fitzsimons scored all 23 of his points in the second half while Carter Lancaster added 13 of his 16 points in that same stanza to rally the Redbirds over the top-ranked Glarner Knights, 70-64, in a non-conference shootout.
“New Glarus was a great road win for us. It was a playoff atmosphere and a great test for us to see how we would be able to handle that kind of defensive pressure. I was really happy with how our bench responded when we got into some foul trouble. Michael Riley and Cade Murray, who haven’t seen big minutes this year, stepped up in a big time game and kept it to a one-point game at the half,” said coach Tom Uppena.
The Redbirds trailed 25-24 at the half, but came back to outscore the Knights (7-1) by a 46-39 in the second half after sinking 18-of-20 on their 2-point attempts following a concerted effort to work the ball inside.
“We certainly weren’t perfect handling the pressure, but we were better the second half in being a bit more patient and then getting into our half-court offense. We felt we had a big advantage in the post, so the emphasis was to get it inside to Stryker and Carter and let them go to work. Stryker missed a lot of the first half with foul trouble, but was a man on a mission in the second half. We were able to get high percentage shots and get to the free throw line,” explained Uppena.
Darlington went 16-for-31 from the foul stripe on the night to finish six points better than the Knights, who shot 10-of-14 on the night.
Matthew Douglas contributed 11 points for the balanced 'Birds, while senior Carson Evenstad added eight points and Trae Schilling netted six in the win.
Senior Zach Feller led the Knights with 19 points after connecting on five shots from beyond the 3-point arc.
Senior Jaden Kreklow, who recently became New Glarus’ all-time leading scorer, was limited to 12 points on the night, while sophomore Darrin Schuett added nine points.
Darlington will host Lancaster in a non-conference boys’-girls’ doubleheader at DHS tonight (Thursday). The varsity boys’ game will start at 6 p.m. with the varsity girls’ game to follow at approximately 7:30 p.m.
Darlington 70, New Glares 64
(from Thursday, Dec. 20 @ New Glarus)
Darlington…….. 24 46 – 70
New Glarus…… 25 39 – 64
Darlington– Cayden Rankin 4, Trae Schilling 6, Carson Evenstad 8, Stryker Fitzsmons 23, Carter Lancaster 16, Michael Riley 2, Matthew Douglas 11. Totals – 26 16-31 70.
New Glarus– Craker 5, M. Martinson 5, Zach Feller 19, Schuett 9, Janssen 2, Jaden Kreklow 12, Siegenthaler 5, Gassman 7. Totals – 23 10-14 64.
3-point goals– D 2 (Douglas 2), NG 8 (Feller 5, Craker 1, Siegenthaler 1, Schuett 1). Total fouls– D 17, NG 28. Fouled out– NG: Siegenthaler, Martinson.