SHULLSBURG – The Shullsburg trio of Pierce Russell, Collin Hauser and Connor Crotty combined for 21 of their team’s 24 second-half points to rally the Miners from a seven-point halftime deficit to defeat the visiting Darlington Redbirds, 41-39, in their season opener at SHS on Monday, Nov. 19.
“It is always good to start off your season with a victory. It looked like it was our first game and Darlington’s second. I knew that Coach (Mike) Hopkins would make some adjustments after their loss at Black Hawk and that they would be prepared for us. That being said, I like the way that my team competed throughout the entire contest,” said Shullsburg head coach Mark Lierman.
The Redbirds (0-2 overall) came out firing from long-range with Dylan Nyffenegger, Cody Hardyman, Cole McDonald and Cade Hardyman each nailing a 3-pointer to shoot the guests out to a 14-9 lead by the end of the first quarter.
Cade Hardyman added four more points and Nyffenegger sank another trey in the second quarter to push the ‘Birds lead to 25-17 at the intermission.
“We made our 3-pt. shots in the first part of the game when we had good looks at the basket due to proper spacing on offense and hitting the open man. In the second half, Shullsburg upped their intensity and we fought that resistance instead of using it to our advantage by cutting backdoor and reversing the ball more. These are correctable errors that will come with more experience,” explained Hopkins.
Darlington still held a seven-point lead midway through the third quarter, but the Miners (2-0) closed the period on an 11-2 run to erase the deficit and grab their first lead of the night at 34-32. Hauser netted five points and Russell added four points and an assist to fuel the hosts’ rally.
Shullsburg kept it going at the start of the fourth quarter, outscoring the Redbirds 6-2 to build up a 40-34 advantage with 4:52 to play.
The Miners’ defense, which held the ‘Birds without a field goal for the final four-plus minutes of the third quarter, continued to turn up the pressure in the fourth quarter as they kept their guests without a field goal the entire stanza.
“At halftime, we talked about being in better position defensively and emphasized being patient on offense. I don’t think anyone ever plans on shutting a team out from the field for that long, so when something like that happens you have to compliment the entire group for playing good team defense. That is exactly what we did, played team defense,” said Lierman.
Darlington stayed in the game by nailing 5-of-6 free throws to cut the gap back to 40-39 with 2:48 remaining.
The Miners had chances to put the game away at the foul line down the stretch, but missed the front end of two bonus situations to give the ‘Birds some life.
With :06.1 to go, Hauser made 1-of-2 free throws to push the lead to 41-39.
The Redbirds got off a good shot at the buzzer, however McDonald’s game-tying shot rimmed out giving the Miners the win.
“Our shot selection in the second half was not the same as the first half, as well as, the execution. There are going to be nights when teams shoot poorly– and not due to being tired or fatigued. If we were tired and fatigued, I believe our foul shooting would have dropped off. We were 13-of-14 at the line,” Hopkins noted. “Defensively, we held a fairly athletic team, with a proven scorer in Pierce Russell to 41 points. That effort will be sufficient to win most basketball games at the varsity level.”
Hauser finished with a game-high 14 points and pulled down seven rebounds for the Miners. Crotty added 12 points and three steals, while Russell tallied 10 points, nine rebounds, three steals and two assists. John Meyer led the team with two blocks.
Cody Hardyman and McDonald each netted 10 points to lead the Redbirds with McDonald adding seven rebounds, three steals and two assists. Cade Hardyman chipped in with seven points and two assists, while Griffin Heinberg blocked two shots.
Darlington returns to the court against Riverdale in Muscoda on Thursday, Nov. 29, and the Redbirds return home to host Cuba City on Tuesday, Dec. 4.
The Miners head to Highland for their Six Rivers West opener against Shullsburg alumnus Chad Paquette’s Cardinals on Tuesday, Dec. 4.
At Albany, on Tuesday, Nov. 20, senior point guard Pierce Russell recorded a double-double with a game-high 22 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Miners over the host Comets, 51-44, in a non-conference game.
The Miners appeared to have the game well at hand after outscoring the Comets, 18-7, in the second quarter to open up a 28-15 halftime lead, but the hosts fired out of the locker room at the start of the second half, using an 18-2 run to erase the Miners’ lead and grabbed 33-30 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
“We were in control of the game, and the momentum, going into the locker room at halftime. Albany, to their credit, changed their defense to start the third quarter and we got impatient leading to a lot of turnovers which they turned into points,” said Coach Lierman.
Shullsburg regained the momentum in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Comets 21-11 in the final frame to lock up their second victory in two days.
“In the fourth quarter, we did a much better job of attacking their defense and picked up our own defensive intensity. We started to work the ball, causing their defense to shift, creating advantageous opportunities that we capitalized on. So much of it was patience. Early in the season one can expect there to be games like this. I like the way the Miners are responding to adversity, so far, in this early season,” noted Lierman.
Junior Connor Crotty tallied 14 points, nine rebounds, three steals and two assists for the Miners. Senior Collin Hauser netted six points, and senior Bret Doyle chipped in with five points and six rebounds.
Isaiah Shell paced the Comets with 18 points.
Darlington…. 14 11 7 7 - 39
Shullsburg… 9 8 17 7 - 41
Scoring Leaders: Darlington- Cody Hardyman 10, Cole McDonald 10, Cade Hardyman 7, Dylan Nyffenegger 6, Griffin Heinberg 2, Riley Ray 2, Riley Gallagher 2. Shullsburg- Collin Hauser 14, Connor Crotty 12, Pierce Russell 10, Reid Schwartz 2, Nate Houtakker 2, Kyle Hoppman 1.
Shullsburg… 10 18 2 21 - 51
Albany…..…. 8 7 18 11 - 44
Scoring Leaders: Pierce Russell 22, Connor Crotty 14, Collin Hauser 6, Bret Doyle 5, John Meyer 2, Nate Houtakker 2.