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#7 Miners dig deep to top Highland for regional title
SHULLSBURG GUARD Jacon Berendes drives in for a layup in the Miners WIAA Division 5 regional semifinal game against Benton at SHS on Friday, March 3.

    SHULLSBURG – Senior guard Hunter Matye dropped in 18 of his game-high 24 points in the second half, including a 9-of-10 performance from the foul line, to lead the #7-ranked and #2-seeded Shullsburg Miners past the #3-seeded Highland Cardinals, 55-51, in a WIAA Division 5 regional final boys’ basketball game at SHS on Saturday, March 4.
    “I am very proud of this team for winning the regional title. Winning championships of any kind are difficult, but our men stuck together to get it done,” said Shullsburg head coach Mark Lierman after leading his Miners to their second regional crown over the past three seasons. “The key to pulling out this victory was our ability to maintain our poise. Highland gave us their best shot, but we didn’t flinch. That’s a sign of a mature team who can count on their teammates at all times.”
    After beating the Cardinals (16-8 overall) twice during the regular season, the Miners (23-2) knew they would have to battle down to the wire to earn a third win over Highland this season. And, they were right.
    The Cardinals fought their way to a 27-26 halftime lead and extended that lead to 39-32 with eight minutes remaining when the Miners mounted their comeback.
    A 3-pointer by Matye with 4:57 remaining capped an 11-2 scoring run that put Shullsburg ahead 43-41. Highland closed the gap to a point with a minute to play, but the Miners hit their free throws down the stretch to put the game away.
    Seniors Noah Wand (10 points) and Joey Meyer (eight) combined for 18 of the Miners’ 26 points in the first half to keep the hosts close. Wand finished with 17 points and Meyer added 10 in the win.
    Senior guard John Ross Linscheid scored 23 points to pace the Cards. Senior Bray Drury and junior Mitchell Welsh contributed 10 points apiece for Highland.
    Shullsburg advances to sectional play where they will meet #2-ranked Seneca (24-0) in a D4 sectional semifinal contest at Reedsburg High School on Thursday, March 9. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.
    “Obviously, Seneca is a very good team. When you get to this point, every team remaining is there for a reason. We just have to ‘lace em’ up’ and go play,” commented Lierman, whose team fell to the Indians, 64-54, in last year’s regional championship game.
    The winner advances to the sectional final against the winner of Thursday’s other sectional semifinal game between #5-ranked Bangor (24-1) and Augusta (17-8) at La Crosse Logan High School on Saturday, March 11, with a state tournament berth on the line. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.
    At Shullsburg, on Friday, March 3, the Miners met the Benton Zephyrs for the fourth time this season and improved to 4-0 against their Six Rivers West rivals by powering their way to a 63-38 victory in a D5 regional semifinal showdown.
    The Zephyrs (11-13) came ready to battle the Six Rivers West champs and gave them quite a tussle early on after grabbing the lead four times over the first six minutes of play.
    However, an 8-0 run thrust the Miners out to a 19-13 lead with 5:56 remaining in the opening half, and they would close the stanza with a 13-7 scoring spurt to take a 32-20 advantage into the locker room at the break.
    “Playing a team four times is very unusual and, with that, there really is way too much familiarity between the teams. Benton has some good young kids and played very confidently. With about seven minutes left in the first half, we hit our stride and started pulling away from them. In the second half, we continued our solid play and closed out the win,” noted Coach Lierman.
    The Miners erased any hopes of a Benton upset by starting the second half off on an 18-6 run to build up a 50-26 lead, and they coasted the rest of the way to earn their fourth 20-plus point victory over the Zephyrs this season.
    Meyer led a balanced Miners’ attack with a game-high 18 points. Sophomore guard Jacob Berendes came off the bench to score a career-high nine points– all in the second half. Matye followed with eight points, while Wand and fellow senior Lance Lierman netted seven each.
    Senior guard Aaron Coffey scored 10 points in his final prep game at Benton.
    At Shullsburg, on Tuesday, Feb. 28, the Miners raced out to a 33-16 lead in the first half and then outscored #15-seed Riverdale in the second half, 39-6, to breeze to a 72-22 victory in D5 regional quarterfinal action.
    Matye led four Miners in double figures with a game-high 21 points. Wand scored 18 points, Meyer added 14 and Lierman tallied 12 en route to the victory.
    Junior guard Dakota Fiebranz had 12 points to lead the Chieftains (2-21).

Highland………… 27    24 – 51
Shullsburg……… 26    29 – 55
    Highland – S. Linscheid 4, Welsh 10, B. Drury 10, JR Linscheid 23, Michek 2, Minter 2. Totals – 20  4-6  51.
    Shullsburg – Hunter Matye 24, Jeremiah Bailey 4, Noah Wand 17, Joey Meyer 10. Totals – 21  9-13  55.
    3-point goals– H 7 (Welsh 2, B. Drury 2, JR Linscheid 3), S 0 (). Total fouls– H 13, S 7. Fouled out– None.
Benton…………… 20    18 – 38
Shullsburg………. 32    31 – 63
    Benton – Nick Jansen 9, Aaron Coffey 10, Nick Wagner 2, Brooks Tiedeman 6, Nathan Mowry 3, Will Lawrence 2, Caleb O’Neill 6. Totals – 17  2-2  38.
    Shullsburg – Lance Lierman 7, Hunter Matye 8, Jeremiah Bailey 6, Jacob Berendes 9, Noah Wand 7, Nate Wedige 3, Joey Meyer 18, Cameron Doyle 5. Totals – 23  11-18  63.
    3-point goals– B 2 (Jansen 1, Mowry 1), S 6 (Matye 2, Berendes 1, N. Wand 1, Wedige 1, Doyle 1). Total fouls– B 11, S 9. Fouled out– None.

Riverdale………… 16      6 – 22
Shullsburg………. 33    39 – 72
    Riverdale –Haffner 2, Schaefer 3, Anderson 2, Fiebranz 12, Hougan 3. Totals – 5  10-13  22.
    Shullsburg – Lance Lierman 12, Hunter Matye 21, Jacob Berendes 5, Noah Wand 18, Joey Meyer 14, William Martin 2. Totals – 32  4-8  72.
    3-point goals– R 2 (Schaefer 1, Fiebranz 1), S 4 (Berendes 1, N. Wand 3). Total fouls– R 13, S 11. Fouled out– None.