By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
MCDONALD'S CO-GAME OF THE WEEK (WIAA D5 Boys Basketball): Potosi 64, #3 Wauzeka–Steuben 57
Chieftains stun undefeated Wauzeka–Steuben to win D5 regional final
Potosi senior Levi Groom (23) jostles for rebounding position against Wauzeka–Steuben’s Garett Kapinus as the ball bounces high off the rim in first-half action of Saturday night’s WIAA Division 5 regional final. Gavin Wunderlin (34), Dayton Udelhofen (3) and Sam Udelhofen (1) also prepare to rebound for the Chieftains. (photos by Ted Pennekamp / Courier Press)

WIAA D5 BOYS BASKETBALL: Potsoi 64, #4 Wauzeka–Steuben 57

By A.J. Gates, Herald Independent

WAUZEKA —  Potosi boys’ basketball coach Mike Uppena took less than half a second to answer the question.

“No question we are playing our best ball at this point in the season,” he said without hesitation.

Uppena and his band of talented Chieftains are riding an 11-game win streak, which included a stunning 64–57 WIAA Division 5 regional final victory over #1-seeded previously unbeaten Wauzeka–Steuben (24–1) last Saturday night. The Chieftains take a record of 17–10 into Thursday night’s D5 sectional semifinal against #3 seed Southwestern (19–7).

After losing four straight games in the month of January, coach Uppena’s squad closed out the regular season with eight straight victories. As the #5 seed in their D5 half-sectional bracket, they have since picked up three tournament wins and a regional title.

“We stayed the course, I think as far as keeping our thoughts where they needed to be,” Uppena explained. “We just kept grinding and kept working and had confidence in ourselves. We took care of some teams that we needed to and also stuck some out that were going to be tight. We did what we needed to do down the stretch,” he added. “Momentum can carry you a long ways against really tough opponents.”

That momentum carried the Chieftains into last Saturday night’s regional final against the top-seeded Hornets. In a game where both teams had nearly identical numbers on the stat line, the difference between winning and losing came down to the team that capitalized on opportunities late in the game.

After holding a halftime lead of 29–22 over the host Hornets, coach Uppena’s squad was unable to add any distance to their lead in the second half.

Potosi’s largest lead of the second half came with 4:48 to play when senior Logan Uppena completed an old-fashioned three-point play to give his team a 56–48 advantage.

In the proceeding three minutes, Wauzeka–Steuben put together a 9–0 scoring run to take a 57–56 lead on a Seth Bunders 3-pointer with 1:58 to play in the contest.

Potosi junior Sam Udelhofen answered with a turnaround jumper in the lane to reclaim the lead at the 1:37 mark, and the Chieftains never trailed again.

While the Hornets missed five 3-point shot attempts in the final minute and a half, the Chieftains were a perfect 6-for-6 from the free throw line to seal the victory.

“Down the stretch we really were playing tough defensively, and they bought into the fact that that creates a lot of offense for them,” said Uppena. “They bought into the fact that defensively is how we get ourselves going. We were also able to withstand the many runs that happened throughout the game. We didn’t falter, we came right back at them."

Leading Potosi past the Hornets were Udelhofen and Gavin Wunderlin, who each finished with 17 points, and each going 5-of-11 from 3-point range. Both also dished out a five assists each, while Udelhofen pulled down seven rebounds and Wunderlin had two.

During their team’s 11-game win streak, Udelhofen has averaged a team-high 17.2 points per game, while Wunderlin comes in at 12.3.

Chipping in 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting from the floor and a perfect 4-for-4 from the line last Saturday nigth was Levi Groom, while Logan Uppena finished with nine points on 3-of-6 shooting from the floor and 3-of-3 from the line.

On the night, Potosi made 23-of-54 (43%) shot attempts, including 10-of-28 (36%) from downtown. They were 8-of-9 (89%) from the free throw line, including a perfect 7-of-7 in the final five minutes.

Perhaps the most impressive stat is Potosi’s nine turnovers, which coach Uppena couldn’t be happier about.

“I feel like with this team, if we can be under 10 turnovers then we’re probably going to win the game, or at least have a great shot,” Uppena said.

Thursday night’s sectional semifinal played at Lancaster High School will be a battle between two of the hottest teams in the area, as Southwestern is riding in with a seven-game win streak of their own.

The Wildcats enter Thursday night’s sectional semifinal averaging 53.3 points per contest, and are led by the trio of Nate Reiff, Peerson Kephart and Anthony Martin.

Reiff (6’7”) leads the Wildcats in scoring with an average of 16.8 points per contest, while Kephart comes in at 12.6 and Martin(6’3”) at 9.1.

“Southwestern has a ton of length,” said coach Uppena of the Wildcats. “They’re strong and physical and they have some guys that can shoot it.”

“I feel we can match up with them even though we’re not as long as they are, but we need to limit them to one shot and take care of the ball,” he added.

Coach Uppena’s Chieftains come into the game averaging 58.9 points per game and are led by four players who all average nearly double figures when it comes to scoring.

Gavin Wunderlin leads the way with 14.9 points per game, while Sam Udelhofen is right behind at 13.4. Logan Uppena comes in with an average of 9.6 points per game, while Levi Groom is close behind at 9.3.

Potosi 64,  Wauzeka–Steuben 57
(D5 regional final from Saturday, March 5, at Wauzeka)
#5 Potosi........................29 35 — 64
#1 Wauzeka-Steuben..22 35 — 57
Potosi - Sam Udelhofen 17, Dayton Udelhofen 2, Joe Vogelsberg 5, Levi Groom 14, Gavin Wunderlin 17, Logan Uppena 9. Totals - 23-54 8-9 64.
Wauzeka-Steuben - Caydon Lomas 19, Garett Kapinus 10, Seth Bunders 18, Isaac Reichmann 3, Jonah Reichmann 7. Totals 22-54 4-5 57.
3-point goals - P: (10-28) S. Udelhofen 5, Wunderlin 5; WS: (9-25) Lomas 3, Bunders 4, I. Reiiiiichmann 1, J. Reichmann 1. Team fouls - P 13, WS 9. Fouled out - None.