LA CROSSE – Every great magician practices their art until they have it down perfect. Every great shooter does the same thing.
According to Shullsburg head coach Mark Lierman, senior guard Noah Wand has practiced shooting last-second, off-balanced 3-pointers over and over during practice, so it was no surprise when his game-winning shot swished through the net with 1.5 seconds remaining on the clock to send the #7-ranked Miners past the #5-ranked Bangor Cardinals, 60-58, in a thrilling WIAA Division 5 sectional final boys’ basketball game held at Logan High School on Saturday, March 11.
“People who know Noah know he can hit those type of shots. He practices those off-balanced threes in practice all the time,” explained Lierman.
Wand’s shot sent the Miners (25-2 overall) into the state tournament for the first time in 26 years. They will face #1-ranked and defending D5 state champion McDonell Central (24-0) in a state semifinal game at the Kohl Center in Madison on Friday, March 17. Tip-off is set for 9:05 a.m.
The Macks (24-3) have won 17 straight games on their way back to state and return four starters from last year’s championship team led by 6’5” senior forward Grayson Knowlton, 6’6” junior forward Hayden Baughman and 6’7” senior forward Alex Ohde. Other key contributors include 5’10” senior guard Austin Ameise and 6’0” senior guard Nathan Hoglund.
“We’re starting to play our best basketball at the right time,” said Macks’ head coach Archie Sherbinow. “I don’t know if we’ll hang anything on being the defending champs. It’s a whole new ball game.”
Six Rivers East champion and #3-ranked Barneveld (24-3) meets #4-ranked Columbus Catholic (25-2) in the other D5 semifinal on Friday morning, starting at 10:45 a.m.
The winners advance to the D5 state championship game back at the Kohl Center on Saturday, March 18. Tip-off for the final is set for 11:05 a.m.
“We’re just excited to be playing (the Macks). I hope the guys can relax, enjoy it and play loose like we have most of the year,” Lierman said.
Bangor (25-2) looked poised to end an 81-year state tournament drought early in Saturday’s sectional final after breaking off on a 17-2 scoring run to go up 25-12 with just 3:44 remaining in the first half, however a slam dunk by the Miners’ 6’9” senior center Joey Meyer woke up the offense.
Meyer added two more baskets down the stretch and Wand sank the second of his five treys during Shullsburg’s 11-4 stretch run to cut the 13-point deficit to 29-23 by the intermission.
“At halftime, we were positive. I told them we took Bangor’s best shot and we’re still in it,” noted Lierman. “In the second half, we were exceptionally patient. We worked the ball around and made them play defense for a long time.”
A pair of 3s by Wand tied the game at 31 all and another 3-ball by fellow senior Nathan Wedige tied it at 34 before an old fashioned 3-point play by Meyer gave the Miners their first lead since the 10-minute mark of the first half as they went ahead 37-34 with 13:44 left to play.
The teams tied were three more times over the next six minutes, and then swapped the lead eight times over the final 7:47 of the game.
A 3-pointer by Bangor junior Caleb Miedema tied the game at 56 all with 1:28 remaining, and junior guard Luke Reader– who led all scorers with 29 points– sank a pair of free throws to put the Cardinals up 58-56 with :26.4 to go.
Shullsburg called a timeout to set up their final play, which was designed to either go inside to Meyer for a 2-pointer or back outside to Wand for a 3. With Meyer blanketed by a Bangor defender and time running down, Wand got off an off-balanced trey over Reader and the ball swished through the net to put the Miners up 59-58 with just 1.5 seconds on the clock.
“Noah’s last shot was designed, kind of,” said Lierman with a smirk. “It was supposed to be a pinned down screen Noah on Joey, but the timing was off. Noah saw time running down and took the shot. I’m happy with the way we battled because it was a really physical game. We were kind of letting that get to us in the first half, and I thought in the second half we didn’t let it get to us as much and we finished strong.”
Bangor turned the ball over on their ensuing inbound pass, and Meyer hit one of two free throws in closing moments to give the Miners their final margin of victory over the Cardinals, who had won 19 games in a row coming into the night.
Wand and Meyer finished with 17 points apiece to lead the Miners, while senior forward Lance Lierman chipped in with 12 points and senior Jeremiah Bailey came off the bench for five points.
Senior guard Hunter Matye, the team’s leading scorer was limited to just five points due to foul trouble. He went to the bench with 12:17 remaining in the second half with no points, but came back with six minutes remaining to hit a clutch 3-pointer and a pair of free throws. He would foul out with three minutes to play.
“We played a lot of the game without him, which should give him a lot of confidence that his teammates can help carry this team,” Lierman commented.
The Miners return to state for the first time in 26 years. That Miner team brought home the gold ball with current assistant coach Bob Boettcher as their head coach and Lierman as their assistant coach. The two coaches reversed roles and have the team back in Madison.
“This is great for the kids and for the community. The pressure is off the kids a bit. These guys deserve all the credit for getting us to state,” said Lierman.
Junior Drew Johnson scored 11 of his 18 points in the first half for the Cardinals, who have now lost two sectional final games in a row. They were seeking their first state appearance since 1936.
At Reedsburg, on Thursday, March 9, the Miners advanced to Saturday’s sectional championship game by taking down the #2-ranked and previously undefeated Seneca Indians, 68-63, in a hard-fought semifinal affair.
Shullsburg flexed its defensive muscles in the first half, limiting the Indians (25-1) to just 18 points, and the Miners’ offense used a late barrage of 3-pointers by Cameron Doyle and Hunter Matye to build up a 27-18 halftime lead. After Shullsburg started off 0-6 from 3-point range, the two seniors connected on two treys apiece during four-minute span as the Miners closed the half on an 18-9 scoring run.
Seneca fought back to take a brief 34-33 lead on a basket by sophomore guard Jared Payne with 11:22 to play, but a 3 by Noah Wand 17 seconds later put the Miners back into the lead. The Indians tied the game at 36 all on another bucket by J. Payne, however Lance Lierman put Shullsburg ahead to stay with 10:30 remaining.
Doyle added back-to-back treys and Matye knocked down a basket to put the Miners ahead 46-36.
Seneca stayed right on Shullsburg’s heels the rest of the way, cutting the deficit down to two twice in the final minute, 22 seconds, but the Miners held off every push by the Indians by sinking enough free throws down the stretch to put the game away.
Shullsburg went 7-for-12 at the foul stripe in the final 40.4 seconds to shoot down Seneca, who topped the Miners, 64-54, in last year’s regional championship game. The Miners went 11-for-23 from the line in the second half and 14-for-27 at the line for the game.
“When you have a group of seniors who have been successful and have been in big games before, the poise comes out. We never panicked. We made enough free throws down the stretch to get it done,” said Coach Mark Lierman.
Doyle sank five 3s to finish with a career-high 15 points to match Matye for the team high. Joey Meyer added 11 and Wand tallied 10, while Lierman netted nine and Jeremiah Bailey scored eight to round out the balanced attack.
Senior Nick Payne poured 14 of his game-high 21 points in the second half, while J. Payne added 15 of his 19 points in that same half. Senior Gavin Greene chipped in with 13 points for the Indians.
WIAA D5 SECTIONAL FINAL
Bangor…………… 29 29 – 58
Shullsburg………. 23 37 – 60
Bangor – Miedema 7, Ellenburg 2, Johnson 18, Reader 29, Manke 2. Totals – 19 15-18 58.
Shullsburg – Lance Lierman 12, Hunter Matye 5, Jeremiah Bailey 6, Noah Wand 17, Nathan Wedige 3, Joey Meyer 17. Totals – 22 9-13 60.
3-point goals– B 4 (Miedema 1, Reader 3), S 7 (Matye 1, N. Wand 5, Wedige 1). Total fouls– B na, S na. Fouled out– S: Matye.
WIAA D5 SECTIONAL SEMIFINAL
Seneca…………… 18 45– 63
Shullsburg………. 27 41– 68
Seneca – Allan 9, Clark 1, Greene 13, J. Payne 19, N. Payne 21. Totals – 23 12-19 63.
Shullsburg – Lance Lierman 9, Hunter Matye 15, Jeremiah Bailey 8, Noah Wand 10, Joey Meyer 11, Cameron Doyle 15. Totals – 23 14-27 68.
3-point goals– SE 5 (Greene 3, J. Payne 2), SH 8 (Matye 2, N. Wand 1, Doyle 5). Total fouls– SE 23, SH 16. Fouled out– SE: allan, N. Payne.
LA CROSSE, Wis. — Two years ago, the Shullburg boys’ basketball team watched a second-half lead and a trip to state disappear in a sectional final loss to Hillsboro.
This time around, with those sophomore starters now seniors, they made sure to walk out of the La Crosse Logan gymnasium with a different outcome.
The Miners battled their way back from a 25-12 first-half deficit and used a Noah Wand off-balance 3-pointer with 1.5 seconds remaining to earn a 60-58 win over Bangor on Saturday night in a WIAA Division 5 sectional final.
The Miners (25-2) advanced to state for the first time since 1991, and will face top-ranked McDonnell Central (24-3) in a state semifinal on Friday at 9:05 a.m at the Kohl Center in Madison.
“I’m just ecstatic for these kids,” said Shullsburg coach Mark Lierman, who was an assistant on the 1991 team under Bob Boettcher — who is now Lierman’s assistant. “They are all like my sons, and I’ve helped coach them in football and basketball for four years. To see a team mature in front of my eyes like this one has done … there aren’t words for how proud I am of them.”
The Miners found themselves in a hole early Saturday night behind the hot-shooting of Bangor’s Luke Reader, who scored 14 of his 29 points in the first half as the Cardinals (25-2) used a 15-0 run to jump out to a 25-12 lead. The Miners then used an 11-2 run to pull back within four at 27-23. Shullsburg trailed Bangor, 29-23, at the half.
“We were pretty positive in the locker room at halftime,” Mark Lierman said. “We felt that we absorbed their best shot and just needed to be a little bit more physical in the paint.”
The Miners opened the second half on another run, this time with a basket from Lance Lierman and a pair of 3s from Wand to knot the game at 31. Wand finished the game with 17 points for Shullburg.
A three-point play from Joey Meyer gave the Miners their first lead with 13:43 remaining, but Reader answered right back with a three-point play of his own. Shullsburg took a four-point lead — its largest of the game — with 4:07 remaining on a cutback from Meyer, who also finished the game with 17 points.
Back-to-back layups from Reader again tied the score at 52 and the Miners lost senior point guard Hunter Matye, who fouled out with 3:03 remaining.
“Hunter is our leader out here, and we were all a little worried when he went out,” Wand said. “We huddled together right away and said that this was for him, and we needed to find a way to get it done.”
Added Mark Lierman: “Although it was a big hit to lose Hunter, it was also comforting to see the look in the other guys’ eyes letting me know they weren’t about to quit. When one of their teammates is down, they all step in to pick him up. And Hunter was right there on the bench cheering on his teammates.”
The Cardinals reclaimed the lead on a pair of Reader free throws with 26 seconds remaining following a Shullsburg missed field goal attempt, putting Bangor up, 58-56.
With time winding down, the Miners looked to get the ball down to Meyer for a last-second shot. With Meyer heavily guarded in the post, Wand struggled to get open and forced up an off-balance 3-pointer with 1.5 seconds remaining.
“I knew I was running out of time, and I just had to throw up a shot,” Wand said. “It felt good when it left, but I still can’t believe it went it.”
The Cardinals turned the ball over on the inbounds pass, and were forced to foul, sending Meyer to the line where he made one of two attempts to account for the final margin.
“This feels a lot different than making it to state in football just because of how it happened,” Wand said. “To make it to state in two sports your senior year, not too many people can say that. It’s a great feeling, that’s for sure.”
Lance Lierman added 12 points for the Miners while Drew Johnson scored 19 for the Cardinals.
Noah Wand’s final two warm-up shots before the game started were ugly. The first caromed off the side of the rim, well off the mark. The second fell two feet shy of the rim entirely. Not exactly a good omen.
But omens can be misleading. In his case, that’d be putting it lightly.
With a state-tournament berth in the balance, the Shullsburg High School senior buried an off-balance 3-pointer in the final seconds of Saturday’s WIAA Division 5 sectional final, and the seventh-ranked Miners clinched a 60-58 win over No. 3 Bangor at Logan High School.
“At first I thought I banked it, but when I saw it go straight in, it was just the greatest feeling ever,” said Wand, who buried four 3-pointers on his way to a team-high 17 points.
His final 3-pointer was one to remember.
Trailing by two points after a pair of Luke Reader free throws, the Miners took a timeout with 19.4 seconds remaining. The plan was to feed 6-foot-9 senior Joe Meyer in the post, but the Cardinals prevented that option.
“I was actually the second option on that,” Wand said. “We had big Joe Meyer in the post. He’s supposed to post up, and I was supposed to get the ball on the wing and dump it to him or get a ball screen. And then they trapped me as he came up.
“So I just put it up.”
Flanked by defenders on either side with time dwindling, Wand found just enough space to let fly his game-winning basket.
“Noah got stuck with the ball, and you have to give him credit for taking the shot, do or die,” Shullsburg coach Mark Lierman said. “We could have gotten in to (Meyer), but Noah saw it, he saw the clock going down, and he knocked it down. I’m so happy for him.”
“Their kid just hit a heck of a shot,” Bangor coach Jordan Laufenberg said. “Defensively, we were there. He was fading away, hand in the face, and the kid just made a play. Give credit to him. I was really proud of the way our guys battled.”
The game was a battle throughout.
An initial flurry from Reader helped Bangor stretch an early 5-3 lead, but after that, both the Cardinals and Miners were held scoreless for a 3-minute, 55-second stretch.
That’s when the Cardinals rediscovered their scoring touch at Shullsburg’s expense.
After both sides played to a 5-5 tie, Bangor ripped off an 18-5 run over the next four minutes to seize its biggest lead of the first half. Reader — who led all scorers with 29 points — poured in nine points over the same stretch.
Down 23-10 with 6:21 to play in the opening period, Shullsburg punched back with their big man.
Meyer — a NCAA Division II Minnesota-Crookston recruit — jumpstarted the Miners’ resurgence. He scored six of his 11 first-half points over the final 3:36, including a two-handed dunk to bring Shullsburg back within single digits.
The Miners were down six at halftime after trailing by as many as 13.
“I thought we were in it once we made a run in the first half and got it close, because I know this team,” Lierman said. “I like how patient we were. We weren’t going to get back in it with a close shot, so we just took our time, and we took some really good shots.”
Shullsburg came out on fire in the second half, quickly closing Bangor’s six-point lead with a pair of Wand 3-pointers, the last of which made it 31-31.
From there, the Cardinals and Miners traded leads for the remainder of the game, and found themselves tied on six different occasions down the stretch.
But when the final horn sounded, the latter found itself on top.
“They’ve been methodical with what they try to do. They really try to execute their stuff, and they do a good job of it. That’s why they’re here,” Laufenberg said of Shullsburg. “Defensively, I was happy with the way we stayed in position for most of their possessions.
“But like I said. Their kid just hit a shot at the end of the game.”
NOTES: Junior guard Drew Johnson added 17 points for the Cardinals, 11 of which were scored in the first half. Caleb Miedema added seven, including a late 3-pointer that tied the game with 1:29 remaining. ... Meyer scored 17 points for the Miners, followed by senior Lance Lierman with 12. ... Bangor has now lost two sectional finals in as many seasons, and is still searching for its first state-tournament berth since 1936.