Ever since a 54–43 loss to Bangor on Feb. 5, the Hillsboro boys basketball team has been looking forward to a rematch with the Scenic Bluffs Conference champion Cardinals.
But that anticipated sectional semifinal match-up never materialized.
The Tigers did their part, steamrolling the competition with three consecutive blowouts culminating with a 57–38 victory over Wonewoc–Center in Saturday’s WIAA Division 5 regional final.
But Bangor (21–3), which went a perfect 14–0 in the SBC and lost just two regular season games, suffered a 52–51 upset loss to third-seeded Gilmanton in Saturday’s Bangor regional final.
Consequently, Hillsboro will now face Gilmanton (18–5) in a D5 sectional semifinal tonight at La Crosse Central High School at 7 p.m.
Gilmanton went 10–4 and finished second in the Dairyland Small behind Eleva–Strum (11–3). Offensively the Panthers average 66 points per game and shoot 36 percent (96 of 270) from 3-point range averaging 4.2 makes from behind the arc per game. Defensively they allow 52.7 point per game.
Six-foot-3 senior guard Devin Oesau is Gilmanton’s leading scorer at 18.4 points per game. Oesau scored a game-high 24 points in Saturday’s win over Bangor.
Senior forward Desmond Davis averages a double–double of 11.6 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. Brody Larson (11.0 ppg) is also averaging double digits in scoring.
“They are a very talented team, especially offensively,” said Hillsboro head coach Curt Hildreth. “We are definitely going to have impose our will defensively. I think the game will come down to who wins on the boards. Like us, I know they take great pride in limiting their opponents to one shot. Whoever can do that Thursday night will have a big advantage.”
The winner of tonight’s sectional semifinal will face either Shullsburg (23–2) or Fennimore (9–16) in Saturday’s sectional final at La Crosse Logan High School.
“We are very excited,” said Hildreth of his team’s opportunity. “Winning the regional was one of our goals at the start of the season. We accomplished that and now we are excited to see what we can do this week.”
Hildreth’s Tigers (20–5) got of to a fantastic start Saturday night in front of the home crowd.
Senior Max Stockwell scored nine of his 14 points in the opening quarter and Ethan Thorson came off the bench to score five points as Hillsboro opened up a 20–8 lead and never looked back.
“We got off to a nice start and Wonewoc was playing catch up the rest of the night,” said Hildreth. “We made some outside shots early and also went inside against their zone. We did a lot of nice things and we really moved the ball effectively.”
Junior Joey Helgerson had the hot hand making 4 of 9 from 3-point land. He finished with a game-high 16 points, three rebounds and three assists.
Stockwell five rebounds, four assists and three steals to go along with his 14 points. Thorson finished with a season-high eight points. Hunter Stanek added seven points and six rebounds.
Casey Krueger scored 13 points to lead the Wolves (14–10).
Hillsboro routs Weston in regional opener
The Tigers opened the D5 playoffs last Tuesday night with a 70–50 victory over eighth-seeded Weston (5–18).
Stanek finished with 14 points and four rebounds to lead four Tigers in double figures.
Senior forward Avery Rueckheim had a very nice game with 10 points on 5 of 6 shooting, five rebounds and two blocks.
Stockwell chipped in 12 points, eight rebounds and four boards.
Stockwell eclipses 1,000-point mark in win over Royall
Stockwell and Helgerson each scored 16 points to lead Hillsboro to a 66–42 regional semifinal victory over Royall last Friday night.
In the process Stockwell eclipsed the 1,000-point mark for his career, finishing the game with 1,001 points in his three-year varsity career. (He now has 1,015 points going into tonight’s sectional game).
After the game Stockwell was presented a 1,000-point scorer t-shirt, as well as the game ball.
“That’s obviously very impressive to score over 1,000 points in a career in your junior year,” said Hildreth. “Max works very hard for all his success. But the best part was that he got to celebrate with his team after a win. Max did a nice job of including all his teammates. I’m proud of him and we all know he’s got a few more baskets to score in his career here at Hillsboro.”
Royall (7–17) jumped out to an 18–12 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Freshman Seth Brown scored 10 of his 14 points in the quarter, but Hillsboro didn’t panic.
“They came out and punched us in the mouth, but that was good for us,” explained Hildreth. “No one panicked. We just regroup and talked about what we had to do the rest of the way. We just didn’t play the kind of defense we needed to in the first eight minutes.”
The Tigers pulled ahead by three at halftime on the strength of an 18–9 second quarter, then pulled away with a 26–9 third-quarter burst.