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MCDONALD'S SWNEWS4U CO-GAME OF THE WEEK (SWAL Boys Basketball): #6 Darlington 73, #4 Mineral Point 70, OT
Overtime thriller keeps #6 Redbirds rolling past previously undefeated #4 Pointers
Will Murray
Darlington junior Will Murray scored 21 points and eight rebounds in the Redbirds' 73–70 overtime victory over Cuba City last Thursday night.

SWAL BOYS BASKETBALL: #6 Darlington 73, #4 Mineral Point 70

By Casey Lindecrantz, Republican Journal / Tri-County Press

Overtime thriller keeps #6 Redbirds rolling past previously undefeated #4 Pointers

DARLINGTON — Recent memory for the Darlington varsity boys’ basketball squad against Mineral Point recalls that the Redbirds narrowly fell in both of last season’s matches by a total of three points between the two, the first of which ended in at 77-76 following a grueling, two-overtime contest. 

The Redbirds' Jan. 12 SWAL home game saw them return to their winning ways against the previously undefeated Pointers in a thrilling overtime victory, 73-70, a matchup that would take the Darlington squad everything they had as the clock ticked down to zero to pull out the win.

Darlington improved to 13–1 overall and remained perfect in the SWAL at 5–0 with its 11th straight win, while the Pointers fell to 10–1 overall and 4–1 with its first loss of the season.

The matchup started somewhat inconspicuously as both squads raced to a halftime score of 32-23 in favor of the Redbirds, who were led by the staggeringly-accurate senior Carver Fitzsimons, as well as junior Will Murray, who went 12 of 15 and 8 of 16 from the field throughout the night, respectively. There’ll be more on Fitzsimons in a bit.

Mineral Point had an accurate shooter of their own in their junior guard, Bryce Vamstad, who shot five-of-seven from the field, and exclusively from beyond the arc - more on Vamstad in a bit as well.

The buzzer for the half rang and when both squads went into the locker rooms, the Redbirds were concerned with extending their lead and making sure the Pointers didn’t claw their way back into the match. 

For the better part of the second half, Darlington’s plan worked to perfection, and then the five minute mark hit, as did Vamstad’s five three-pointers, along with junior Landon Thousand’s, junior Alex Ross’, and sophomore Cooper Palzkill’s combined eight three-pointers. 

As the final minutes wound down, the Redbirds suddenly found themselves down, by three points to be exact.

This is where Fitzsimons came back into play; with the clock winding down and the game on the line, he took the shot. As the ball floated through the air, the BZZZT of the final horn rang, and the only thing that mattered was the swish of the ball through the net as the clock showed zeroes, sending the game to overtime.

It was in this final, four-minute overtime period that Darlington junior guard, Brady Long, had a significant impact, scoring-wise. A leader in the scoring department as of late, averaging 11.4 points per game to this point in the season, Long had a relatively quiet game with four points from the field. 

As the overtime minutes ticked down, Long would see six attempts from the free throw line that he’d convert into five points for the Redbirds, five points that’d put them over the edge to win the match with a three point advantage.

“This was a classic Darlington versus Mineral Point game,” said Darlington head coach Tom Uppena. “They always seem to come down to the wire. They got us twice last year in close games, so it felt good to get this one. Carver and Will were huge all night, and Brady was 5 of 6 from the line in overtime to put us ahead for good. A great win for us against a very good Mineral Point team.”

Fitzsimons finished with a game-high 28 points and 13 rebounds, while Murray added 21 points and eight boards to lead the Redbirds. Long finished with nine points, six rebounds and six assists, while freshman Broker Buschor finished with seven points and seven boards for the winners.

Vamstad finished with a team-high 21 points to lead the Pointers, while Thousand posted a near-triple–double of 18 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. Luke Kisgen finished with 15 points in the loss.

Mineral Point 70,  Darlington 73
(from Thursday, Jan. 12 @ Darlington)
Mineral Point..........23  37   10 — 70 
Darlington................32  28   13 — 73  
Mineral Point (10–1, 4-1) — Tremaine Kennicker 3, Alex Ross 6, Landon Thousand 18, Bryce Vamstad 21, Luke Kisgen 15, Cooper Palzkill 7. Totals — 22-58 13-25 70. 
Darlington (13–1, 5-0) — Carver Fitzsimons 28, Will Murray 21, Reagan Jackson 6, Brady Long 9, Carter Murray 2, Broker Buschor 7. Totals — 27-60 16-25 73.
3-point goals — MP: 13-26 (Ross 2, Thousand 4, Vamstad 5, Palzkill 2), D: 3-13 (Fitzsimons 1, W. Murray 1, Buschor 1). Team fouls — MP: 19, D: n/a. Fouled out — none.