BENTON — Winning back-to-back conference titles is no small feat, but that didn’t stop the Potosi Chieftains from doing just that, with a Six Rivers West conference title last season, and another one this year.
Coach Mike Uppena’s Chieftains closed out the regular season last Thursday night with a league record of 11–1 after a scoring a 66–51 road win at Benton.
The Zephyrs (15–7, 9–3) were hoping for a share of the title, as a win over Potosi would have made for a three-way tie that would have included Shullsburg (18–4, 10–2).
For coach Uppena, it is his third conference title in 17 seasons at Potosi, the first coming in 2012–13.
“It’s never east to go back-to-back, every conference championship is tough,” said Uppena.
“This is a driven team with a lot of goals, and this was goal number one. We only had the one slip up against Shullsburg, otherwise they did what they needed to do.”
The Potosi boys had already wrapped up a share of the conference title the week before with their win over Cassville, but like last season, the Chieftains didn’t want to share this year’s title either.
“Our boys were hungry for that game Thursday night, and they wanted it. That was goal No. 1 at the beginning of the season,” Uppena reiterated.
The Chieftains controlled the first half and held a 30–22 lead at intermission, then overcame a little run by Benton in the second half to secure the victory and the outright conference title.
“It was a battle,” said Uppena. “Those guys didn’t back down. They made a nice little run in the second half on us, and we handled it.”
As a team, Potosi knocked down 26 of 55 (47 percent) shot attempts, including 3 of 13 (23 percent) from 3-point range. They were 11 of 13 (85 percent) from the free throw line, committed 11 turnovers and were out-rebounded, 32–31, by the Zephyrs.
Junior Nick Edge led the Chieftains with 16 points and two blocked shots, while senior Brady Curtis chipped in 14 points and five rebounds.
Fellow senior Ethan Groom finished with 10 points and five boards, while junior Ryan Kruser added nine points, to go along with a team-high four assists and three steals. Ben Udelhofen and Will Bierman each pulled down five rebounds.
“I think in the last five or six games, defensively they have been driven,” Uppena said of his squad. “That loss to Shullsburg was when they realized they needed to get back on track defensively, and they have.”
After accomplishing their first goal of the season with a conference title, it’s on to their next goal, which started this past Tuesday night in the WIAA Division 5 regional tournament.
The second-seeded Chieftains hosted No. 15 seed Belmont (2–20) this past Tuesday night, with the winner advancing to face either Seneca (14–6) or North Crawford (9–12) Friday night.
Potosi 66, Benton 51
(from Thursday, Feb. 21 @ Benton)
Potosi 30 36 — 66
Benton 22 29 — 51
Potosi (17–4, 11–1) — Ben Udelhofen 8, Will Bierman 5, Brady Curtis 14, Jaydon Carbone 2, Ryan Kruser 9, Ty Dressler 2, Ethan Groom 10, Nick Edge 16. Totals – 26-55 11-13 66.
Benton (15–7, 9–3) — Will Lawrence 6, Nathan Mowry 12, Nick Jansen 12, Brooks Tiedman 19, Wyatt Bastian 2. Totals – 19 8-13 51.
3-point goals — P: 3 (Bierman 1, Curtis 1, Kruser 1), B: 5 (Mowry 1, Jansen 4). Total fouls – P: 17, B: 11. Fouled out – B: Bastian.