MCDONALD'S SWNEWS4U.COM CO-GAME OF THE WEEK (Jan. 3–10)
BOYS BASKETBALL: Southwestern 56, #6 Darlington 54 (OT)
By A.J. Gates, Tri-County Press/Herald Independent
HAZEL GREEN — With conference victories over Darlington and Boscobel last week, coach Clint Nemitz and his Southwestern Wildcats vaulted to the top of the Southwest Wisconsin Activities League standings. Nemitz then collected his 100th career victory with a 74–33 win over Belmont Monday night.
The Wildcats now share the league’s top spot with Cuba City (9–1) and Fennimore (6–5), all of which are 3–1 in league play, while Mineral Point and Darlington are lurking close behind at 2–1.
Last Tuesday night, the Wildcats gave their home crowd something to cheer about, as they took the league favorites from Darlington into overtime, and pulled out a 56–54 victory.
“That was a really good win for us for a lot of reasons,” said coach Clint Nemitz. “For one, we were coming off a game against Scales Mound where we more or less got taken to the woodshed. They got pretty easy transition buckets and we knew that had to be fixed. Knowing that Darlington had the athletes to get out and run just like Scales Mound, and seeing coach Uppena insist on them pushing against other opponents, we made some adjustments to our transition game."
Focusing on getting back on defense, the Wildcats limited the fast-break points for Darlington, and led the Redbirds, 23–17, at the half.
As expected, the Redbirds made a charge in the second half, outscoring Southwester, 35–29, tying the game at 52–52 at the end of regulation.
In the overtime session, the difference between winning and losing came down to free throws, where Southwestern went 4-of-4 from the line, and Darlington was 2-of-5. On the night, Southwestern made 10-of-18 (56%) attempts from the charity stripe, but made four straight in the extra session when it counted most.
Senior Nate Reiff scored a team-high 18 points on 5-of-14 shooting from the floor, including 3-of-6 from 3-point range. He also went 5-of-8 from the free throw line, while also pulling down a team-high 12 rebounds and blocking one shot.
“Nate played at a pretty high level against a very good post player in Carter Murray,” said coach Nemitz of his 6’7” forward. “We didn’t know how that match-up would end up in the plus or minus category, but having Nate get 18, and for us to limit Murray to two was big. Nate was able to hit some deep shots to stretch the defense as well as score in the post. He just had it going.”
Adding nine points to Southwestern’s victory was fellow senior Colson Splinter, while Peerson Kephart and Gavin Jochum each finished with seven, followed by Jace Mess and Anthony Martin with six each.
Kephart and Splinter each dished out four assists in the win, while Kephart also had a team-high three steals.
“Peerson played a complete game as a point guard. He didn’t have a great shooting night, but again the veteran experience he gives us just to get us in an offense is priceless,” said coach Nemitz.
“Nate and Anthony really did a good job of controlling the boards for us against a very physical Darlington team,” Nemitz added. “We had guys locked in, and everyone doing their role.”
Against the Redbirds, the Wildcats only committed 11 turnovers, which according to coach Nemitz, is a stat that can make the difference between winning and losing.
“Our stat of the year so far has been turnovers. If we keep that number around 10, we win games. If that number drifts near 15 we lose,” Nemitz explained. “I know that isn’t any big revelation, but it is a good reminder to our kids of how easy the game can be made.”
The Wildcats will next travel to Muscoda Thursday night to take on the Riverdale Chieftains, then will take the court against Lancaster at Saturday’s Wendy’s MidWest One Bank H.S. Basketball Classic held at the Loras College Athletic Wellness Center. Tip off between Southwestern and Lancaster is scheduled for 11:30 a.m.
Southwestern 56, #6 Darlington 54 (OT)
(from Tuesday, Jan. 4, at Hazel Green)
Darlington 17 35 2 - 54
Southwestern 23 29 4 - 56
Darlington - Will Murray 2, Carver Fitzsimons 3, Hunter Hardyman 16, Easton Evenstad 16, Brady Lang 14, Braden Davis 3. Totals - 21 6-10 54.
Southwestern - Peerson Kephart 7, Gavin Jochum 7, Jace Mess 6, Colson Splinter 9, Tyler Brotzman 3, Nate Reiff 18, Anthony Martin 6. Totals - 20-55 10-18 56.
3-point goals - D: Evenstad 2, Long 2, Hardyman 1; SW: (6-22) Reiff 3, Splinter 1, Jochum 1, Brotzman 1. Team fouls - D 16, SW 14. Fouled out - Hardyman (D), Reiff (SW).