SHULLSBURG – After being held to a season-low 16 points in the first half, Darlington turned to its defense to jump-start the offense and preserve their unbeaten record.
The Redbirds turned four Shullsburg turnovers into a 10-0 run to start the second half and went on to run away from the host Miners, 58-34, in a non-conference boys’ basketball showdown in front of a sold-out crowd at SHS on Saturday, Feb. 11.
“The first half was dictated by Shullsburg. They slowed it down, got the ball inside and made things tough on us,” said Darlington head coach Tom Uppena. “We kind of flipped the script in the second half. We were able to create some turnovers with our press and make them uncomfortable with the ball. That was really the difference.”
The Redbirds (19-0 overall), who came into the night ranked #2 in Division 4, trailed at the half for the first time this season as the Miners (17-2), who were ranked #6 in D5, took an 18-16 lead into the locker room at the intermission.
Darlington’s 10-0 run to start the second half turned a two-point deficit into a 26-18 lead with 15:50 remaining, and the ‘Birds didn’t ease up as they scored six more baskets off nine Miner turnovers the rest of the way to run away with a 24-point victory.
“We panicked a little bit. When you give them those live-ball turnovers, they turn them into points and you don’t get to play defense. When we get to play half-court defense we have a chance to play against anybody,” admitted Shullsburg head coach Mark Lierman. “We got a little out of character. Give credit to Darlington. A lot of it had to do with them and their pressure.”
Senior forward Josh Soper and senior guard Trevor Johnson each scored 12 of their game-high 24 points in the second half to help the ‘Birds outscore the Miners 42-16 over the final 18 minutes of the game. Senior guards Will Schwartz and Ryan Glendenning chipped in with 10 and seven points, respectively, for the Redbirds.
“We were playing their game in the first half and that’s not the game we want to play. You have to give a lot of credit to our boys. They played their butts off in the second half,” commented Uppena.
Shullsburg used a 10-3 run late in the first half to open up their largest lead of the night at 18-14, however a putback by Soper at the final horn sent the ‘Birds into the half down by only two.
“The guys played a great first half. They did a good job of not having those live-ball turnovers. We took care of the basketball and played great defense,” Lierman said. “Hopefully we’ll learn from this and get it under control for the road ahead. We’ll regroup and be fine.”
Senior center Joey Meyer scored eight of his team-high 13 points in the first half. Senior guards Hunter Matye and Noah Matye scored six points apiece for the Miners.
At Hazel Green, on Thursday, Feb. 9, the Redbirds moved one game closer to clinching the conference crown after rolling over the host Southwestern Wildcats, 70-48, to improve to 11-0 in the SWAL.
Darlington can lock up the 2016-17 SWAL title outright on Friday, Feb. 17, when they travel to Livingston to meet Iowa-Grant (9-10, 7-4) in a conference clash.
At Shullsburg, on Tuesday, Feb. 7, the Miners charged out to a 44-16 halftime lead and remained unbeaten in the Six Rivers West with a 67-32 victory over the visiting Cassville Comets.
Shullsburg hosts Highland (13-5, 8-1) in a key Six Rivers West game on Friday, Feb. 17. Depending on what happened in the SRW games played on Tuesday, Feb. 14, a win by the Miners against the Cardinals would give them sole possession of the league crown for the third straight season. However, a Highland victory would forge a tie atop the conference standings with just one league game remaining for each team.
Darlington………….. 16 42 – 58
Shullsburg…………. 18 16 – 34
Darlington – Hunter Johnson 3, Will Schwartz 10, Brayden McDonald 3, Ryan Glendenning 7, Josh Soper 16, Trevor Johnson 16, Stryker Fitzsimons 1, Chad Golackson 2. Totals – 25 4-12 58.
Shullsburg – Lance Lierman 5, Hunter Matye 6, Jeremiah Bailey 4, Noah Wand 6, Joey Meyer 13. Totals – 14 6-11 34.
3-point goals– D 4 (McDonald 1, Glendenning 1, T. Johnson 2), S 0. Total fouls– D 16, S 15. Fouled out– None.
Darlington………….. 41 39 – 70
Southwestern……… 21 27 – 48
Darlington – Hunter Johnson 3, Will Schwartz 17, Tanner Evenstad 2, Brayden McDonald 2, Ryan Glendenning 7, Hayden Hardyman 1, Josh Soper 8, Trevor Johnson 16, Stryker Fitzsimons 7, Tony Ruesga 2, Kameron Blosch 2, Chad Golackson 3. Totals – 31 6-11 70.
Southwestern –Schneider 6, Wilson 4, Kuhl 3, Jochum 14, Lopez 3, Cooper 2, Rieken 9, Stangl 7. Totals – 17 5-10 48.
3-point goals– D 3 (Glendenning 2, Fitzsimons 1), S 9 (Kuhl 1, Jochum 4, Lopez 1, Rieken 2, Stangl 1). Total fouls– D 13, S 12. Fouled out– None.
Cassville……………. 16 16 – 32
Shullsburg…………. 44 23 – 67
Cassville – Bausch 12, Reynolds 2, Jensen 6, Infield 5, Kinyon 7. Totals – 12 0-0 32.
Shullsburg – Lance Lierman 7, Alex Wand 3, Hunter Matye 11, Jeremiah Bailey 3, Jacob Berendes 2, Noah Wand 14, Griffin Wiegel 4, Nate Wedige 2, Joey Meyer 17, William Martin 4. Totals – 27 8-12 67.
3-point goals– C 8 (Bausch 4, Jensen 2, Infield 1, Kinyon 1), S 5 (Matye 3, N. Wand 2). Total fouls– C 14, S 3. Fouled out– None.