SENECA — The top-seeded Seneca Indians used a strong second-half scoring outburst to rally past the #4-seeded Shullsburg Miners, 64-54, in a WIAA Division 5 regional championship boys’ basketball game at Seneca High School on Saturday, March 5.
The Ridge and Valley champion Indians (23-2) trailed by four at the intermission before rallying to outscore the Six Rivers West champion Miners (20-5) in the second half, 43-29, in the second half to capture the regional crown.
“We ran up against a very good team playing on their home court. Seneca is well-schooled and disciplined, and they shot the ball very well,” said Shullsburg head coach Mark Lierman. “We played a little tentative. Our passes weren’t very crisp and we had a difficult time finishing at the rim.”
Junior center Joey Meyer tallied 14 of his game-high 25 points in the opening half to lead the Miners out to a 25-21 halftime lead. Junior forward Lance Lierman added eight of his season-high 15 points in the opening half as well, including five during a 10-0 run by the guests at the end of the period.
Seneca came out firing to start the second half, scoring 18 of the 22 points in the stanza to grab a 39-29 advantage. Freshman Jared Payne’s 3-pointer with 12 minutes remaining put the Indians into the lead to stay at 30-27, and then Brady Fernette and Kilian Boland added treys along with a three-point play by Noah Allan to extend the lead to 42-31 midway through the half.
The Indians grabbed their largest lead at 48-33 with 5:30 to play, but the Miners refused to go down without a fight. Hunter Matye hit a pair of 3s and Lierman added another five points to spark an 18-9 run that pulled Shullsburg within 57-51 with under a minute to play, however the hosts sealed the victory by going 7-for-8 at the foul line over the final 53 seconds.
Lierman pulled down a team-best seven rebounds, while Meyer registered five boards and a steal to go along with his 25 points.
Matye finished with 12 points and dished out seven assists for the Miners, who will not graduate any players from this year’s team
“I thought we had an outstanding season! To win back-to-back conference championships is a huge accomplishment. I thought the way we finished the season, securing the outright conference championship and advancing to the regional championship without two of our significant players, says a lot about the resiliency of these young men. Back-to-back 20-win seasons is quite and accomplishment also,” commented Lierman.
Nick Payne scored 15 points and Boland added 14 to lead a balanced scoring attack for the Indians, who advance to sectionals where they will face Six Rivers East champion Barneveld (21-4) in a semifinal contest at Reedsburg on Thursday, March 10, at 7 p.m.
“I think this group will work very hard in the off-season. They are a competitive group. If we can develop some more depth over the off-season, it will bode well for our team going forward,” stated Lierman. “It is always a letdown to end the season before the state championship, but without having any seniors I am extremely excited for next season. If they all continue to ‘grow their game’ we should have a really good season next year.”
At Shullsburg, on Friday, March 4, the host Miners used a balanced scoring attack to stay just ahead of Belmont (16-8) for much of the night as they advanced to the regional final game for the second straight season after defeating the #5-seeded Braves, 55-51, in a D5 regional semifinal contest.
“This was a classic packed-house basketball game. It’s what high school sports should be all about,” said Belmont head coach Glenn Gaulke. “Defensively, we played them exactly how we wanted. Unfortunately, it is hard to win a game with our poor shooting percentage.”
Belmont (16-8 overall) grabbed its first and only lead of the night at 14-12 on a three-point play by senior Lane Kamps with 5:01 remaining in the first half, but the #9-ranked Miners (20-5) regained lead on back-to-back baskets by Lance Lierman and Hunter Matye less than a minute later and closed the half on a 12-6 run to grab a 24-20 halftime lead.
“Senior-laden teams, that are good, always portray poise. We knew that they weren’t going to be easily rattled. I think the fact that both previous games were close helped keep my guys focused on the task at hand. This was a hard-fought game that we were happy to win,” said Coach Lierman.
The Braves closed to within two early in the second half on a free throw by senior Quinn Cushman, but the Miners answered back with an 8-2 scoring spurt to open up a 32-24 advantage and the Braves never got closer than three the rest of the night.
Belmont had trouble hitting the key shots that they needed to overtake the Miners over the final 23 minutes of the game. The Braves cut the deficit to 49-45 on a pair of free throws by senior Josh Logsdon with 2:02 remaining, however they would get no closer as they missed five 3-point shots in the final minute of the game.
“The biggest key to the outcome of this game was our inability to finish shots. For some reason, we could not shoot well and they were good looks too,” Gaulke noted.
Shullsburg did just enough at the foul line down the stretch to hold off the Braves, connecting on six of their 12 free throw attempts in the final minute, 13 seconds to seal their third victory over the Braves this season and their 13th consecutive win over the Braves since 2006.
“We played really good defense and rebounded well for the most part versus Belmont. I thought we did a good job of mixing up our offenses and executed those offenses well. The boys were very focused during each possession,” said Lierman.
Hunter Matye scored 14 points and grabbed nine rebounds to lead the Miners. Lance Lierman added 12 points and three assists, while freshman Alex Wand netted a season-high 10 points– all in the second half– and dished out three assists.
Meyer finished with nine points, seven rebounds, four assists and two blocked shots, while junior guard Nathan Wedige matched his season-high with nine points and also had three assists.
“We do not run a ‘star’-system here. Every player has opportunities within the framework of our offenses to make contributions. Alex and Nate took advantage of those opportunities. I’m proud of them for not shying away from the moment. They kept their poise and made some great decisions for us. I think it says a lot about our (team) culture that players feel comfortable taking those shots,” Lierman explained.
Senior forward Raine Voigts made up for a scoreless first half by pouring in a team-high 18 points in the second-half to keep the Braves in the game. He also pulled down five rebounds.
Senior guard Jon Bahr tallied 12 points, five boards, three assists and three steals in the game, while senior guard Lane Kamps contributed 11 points and seven rebounds for Belmont.
In addition to Voigts, Bahr, Kamps, Cushman and Logsdon, Friday’s game was also the final prep appearance on the hard-court for Belmont seniors Cole Johnson, Nate Knebel and Nick Willborn.
“This group of seniors are a wonderful group to work with, their work ethic, personalities, and will to succeed was tremendous. I will miss everything about them. They have taken Belmont basketball a step up and in the right direction. They have made our school and community very proud,” stated Gaulke. “The season as whole was very rewarding and successful, but I think we will always have little regret on letting the conference title slip away.”
At Shullsburg, on Tuesday, March 1, Joey Meyer went off for a career-high 30 points to outscore visiting Benton all by himself as the #4-seeded Miners kicked off their tournament run with a 67-29 victory over the #13-seeded Zephyrs (5-18) in a D5 regional quarterfinal contest.
Benton was in the unenviable position of facing the Six Rivers West champion Miners with their leading scorer, junior guard Aaron Coffey, on the sideline.
Shullsburg, who was without a pair of starters themselves, doubled up the Zephyrs in the first half, 32-16, and then continued to pour it on in the second half as they closed on a 35-13 scoring run.
“This was a good way to start the tournament series. I thought we were very sharp. We played with an edge that I really liked to see,” said Coach Lierman.
Hunter Matye chipped in with 18 points for the Miners, while Lance Lierman followed with 12 points.
Junior forward Jeremiah Bailey led Benton with a double-double after scoring 11 points and pulling down 10 rebounds to go along with an assist, a steal and a blocked shot.
Freshman guard Brooks Tiedeman tallied eight points and seven boards for the Zephyrs, while senior guard Joel Fawcett added five points.
At Belmont, on Tuesday, March 1, the Braves opened the post-season with a 52-39 victory over #12-seeded River Ridge in a regional quarterfinal affair.
Belmont jumped out to a 30-16 lead at the half, and then held off a spirited second-half effort from the Timberwolves (7-16) to move on in the tournament.
“We were able to handle the zone defenses they were throwing at us and we shot and rebounded very well,” said Coach Gaulke. “Ridge did not want to go quietly. They really played their hearts out against us. It was a solid effort by our boys and a nice win.”
Raine Voigts poured in a game-high 25 points and pulled down a team-best six rebounds to lead the way. Quinn Cushman tallied 12 points, four rebounds, four assists and two steals for the Braves, while Jon Bahr added six points, six assists and four steals.
Josh Logsdon also scored six points, and Lane Kamps provided four rebounds and four assists for Belmont.
Preston Clarke netted 11 points to lead River Ridge.
“As a coach, I was able to be part of a 1,000-point scorer, win a good part of our games, challenge for the conference title, enjoy a wonderful senior night and spend time with the parents who were always part of the team. For me, it ranks as one of my most memorable seasons of coaching. Quality people make coaching a whole lot easier,” Gaulke added.
WIAA DIVISION 5 REGIONAL FINAL
Shullsburg…. 25 29 – 54
Seneca……… 21 43 – 64
Shullsburg – Lance Lierman 15, Alex Wand 2, Hunter Matye 12, Joey Meyer 25. Totals – 22 1-3 54.
Seneca – Boland 14, Allan 7, Johnson 2, Greene 9, Fernette 8, J. Payne 9, N. Payne 15. Totals – 24 12-16 64.
3-point goals– SH 9 (Lierman 4, Matye 3, Meyer 2), SE 8 (Boland 2, Greene 3, Fernette 2, J. Payne 1). Total fouls– SH 16, SE 8.
WIAA DIVISION 5 REGIONAL SEMIFINAL
Belmont………. 20 31 – 51
Shullsburg…… 24 31 – 55
Belmont – Cole Johnson 3, Quinn Cushman 5, Lane Kamps 11, Jon Bahr 12, Raine Voigts 18, Josh Logsdon 2. Totals – 16 15-19 51.
Shullsburg – Lance Lierman 12, Alex Wand 10, Hunter Matye 14, Chris Trejo 1, Nathan Wedige 9, Joey Meyer 9. Totals – 20 10-21 55.
3-point goals– B 4 (Bahr 2, Voigts 2), S 5 (Lierman 2, A. Wand 1, Matye 1, Wedige 1). Total fouls– B 20, S 14. Fouled out– S: Lierman.
WIAA DIVISION 5 REGIONAL QUARTERFINAL
Benton……... 16 13 – 29
Shullsburg… 32 35 – 67
Benton – Joel Fawcett 5, Jeremiah Bailey 11, Brooks Tiedeman 8, Wyatt Bastian 3, Tyler Hilby 2. Totals – 11 1-1 29.
Shullsburg – Lance Lierman 12, Alex Wand 3, Hunter Matye 18, Nathan Wedige 2, Joey Meyer 30, Nicholas Ludwig 2. Totals – 30 1-8 67.
3-point goals– B 2 (Bailey 1, Bastian 1), S 6 (Matye 4, Meyer 2). Total fouls– B 8, S 6.
River Ridge… 16 23 – 39
Belmont…….. 30 22 – 52
River Ridge – Ertz 12, Moravits 4, Clark 11, Redman 2, Irish 2, Steiber 8. Totals – 18 3-5 39.
Belmont – Cole Johnson 3, Quinn Cushman 12, Jon Bahr 6, Raine Voigts 25, Josh Logsdon 6. Totals – 21 7-11 52.
3-point goals– RR 0, B 3 (Johnson 1, Cushman 2). Total fouls– RR 15, B 10. Fouled out– RR: Ertz, Irish.