BENTON — The first-place trophy from the Mike Alexander Christmas Classic came home with the Shullsburg boys’ basketball team for the fourth year in a row after the Miners rallied from behind to beat the host Benton Zephyrs, 58-50, in the championship game played at Benton High School on Friday, Dec. 29.
Juniors Jacob Berendes and Alex Wand combined for 14 of Shullsburg’s 17 points over the final four minutes to lead the Miners (4-5 overall) to their fourth consecutive Alexander title. It was the second year in a row the Miners defeated the Zephyrs (8-3) for the tournament crown.
“We’ve had some good teams here in the past, so I’m glad to keep that tradition going. I’m happy to keep the title in Shullsburg,” said first-year Miners’ head coach Luke Tyson. “I’m very excited for the guys. We finally got some momentum going here.”
Berendes scored six straight points to lead the Miners out to an early 8-0 lead, but two quick fouls forced the Shullsburg guard to sit for nearly half of the opening half.
The Zephyrs fought back to tie the score at 19 all on a 3-pointer by Nick Jansen with 1:20 to play in the first half, however Shullsburg junior Joseph Turpin answered back with a trey of his own and a pair of free throws to put the Miners ahead 24-22 at the intermission.
The Miners started off the second half much like the first, scoring nine unanswered points in the first five minutes of the half to build up their largest lead of the game at 33-22.
But, once again, the Zephyrs rallied back. Juniors Brooks Tiedeman (five points) and Wyatt Bastian (four) helped Benton cut the deficit down to 37-33 with 7:28 to go, and then Jansen scored six straight points to give the hosts their first lead of the night at 39-37 with under six minutes to play.
A trey by Jansen put Benton up 44-41 with 4:31 remaining, but Berendes– who had to sit for over six minutes in the second half after getting called for his fourth foul– struck right back with a 3 of his own to tie the score at 44.
Wand followed with three baskets and Berendes added a layup off a steal to put the Miners up 52-47 with 1:06 to go.
“We feed off of Jake. His offense is something that keeps us going. And, Wand is always solid for us down the stretch,” noted Tyson.
The Miners put the game away at the foul line with Berendes (3-for-4), Griffin Wiegel (2-for-2) and Wand (1-for-2) combining to go 6-for-8 at the stripe over the final 43 seconds to seal the victory.
Berendes finished with 16 points and Wand chipped in with 10 to lead Shullsburg. Turpin added eight points, while Wiegel and Nolan Strang netted six points apiece for the Miners.
“We have guys stepping up and playing hard. It’s working very well for us,” Tyson commented.
Jansen tallied 16 points to lead the Zephyrs. Tiedeman followed with 14 points, and Bastian followed with 12 for Benton.
Shullsburg advanced to the championship game by defeating Southwestern, 51-40, to open the tournament on Thursday, Dec. 28.
The Miners held a 21-18 lead at the half, and then went on to outscore the Wildcats (6-3) by a 30-22 margin in the second half, including a 13-for-16 performance from the foul line, to pull out the victory.
Jacob Berendes went 5-for-5 at the foul line and scored seven of his 10 points in the second half for the Miners, who had previously lost to the Wildcats by a score of 46-40 in their season opener.
Alex Wand added 10 points and Kyle Klotz dropped in nine points to aid the balanced Shullsburg attack. Griffin Wiegel had six points and Joseph Turpin had five for the Miners.
“Every night lately, it’s been a new guy stepping up. We had some new guys step up (against Southwestern). We had a really quality game where everybody contributed in the win. I hope that continues,” said Coach Tyson.
Brecklin Schneider and Shaun Cooper scored nine points apiece for Southwestern, who went on to defeat Scales Mound, 49-39, in Friday’s consolation game.
Benton defeated Scales Mound, 54-43, in Thursday’s other semifinal game.
Shullsburg has a non-conference game at Galena on Thursday, Jan. 4, and the Miners will also have a girls and boys doubleheader at Black Hawk on Saturday, Jan. 6. The girls’ junior varsity game will start at 1 p.m. on Saturday, followed by the boys’ JV game at 3 p.m., the girls’ varsity game at 5 p.m. and the boys’ varsity game at 7 p.m.
“I think as the season goes on we’re going to see a lot of improvement with this team. I’m excited to see what 2018 has in store for us,” remarked Tyson.
Shullsburg…….. 24 34 – 58
Benton…………. 22 28 – 50
Shullsburg – Jacob Berendes 16, Alex Wand 10, Nolan Strang 6, Joseph Turpin 8, Griffin Wiegel 6, Logan Glasgow 2, Kyle Klotz 2, Oren Charles 4, Oscar Ortiz 2, Isaac Hoppman 2. Totals – 20 14-21 58.
Benton – Will Lawrence 6, Nathan Mowry 2, Nick Jansen 16, Brooks Tiedeman 14, Wyatt Bastian 12. Totals – 15 16-27 50.
3-point goals– S 4 (Berendes 1, Strang 1, Turpin 2), B 4 (Jansen 2, Tiedeman 1, Bastian 1). Total fouls– S 23, B 21. Fouled out– B: Lawrence.
Southwestern…… 18 22 – 40
Shullsburg………. 21 30 – 51
Southwestern – Brecklin Schneider 9, Cayden Splinter 5, Justin Wilson 2, Grant Jochum 6, Shaun Cooper 9, Dylan Rieken 6, Sam Reiff 3. Totals – 15 6-12 40.
Shullsburg – Jacob Berendes 10, Alex Wand 10, Nolan Strang 3, Joseph Turpin 5, Griffin Wiegel 6, Kyle Klotz 9, Oren Charles 2, Oscar Ortiz 3, Isaac Hoppman 3. Totals – 16 14-23 51.
3-point goals– SW 4 (Schneider 1, Splinter 1, Jochum 1, Rieken 1), SH 5 (Berendes 1, Strang 1, Turpin 1, Klotz 1, Ortiz 1). Total fouls– SW 15, SH 15. Fouled out– SW: Cooper.