DARLINGTON – Lancaster guard Nathan Tranel scored 11 of his game-high 19 points in the third quarter, including six during an 11-0 run to open the second half, to lift the #9-seeded Flying Arrows over #8-seed Darlington, 57-45, in a WIAA Division 4 regional quarterfinal boys’ basketball game held at DHS on Tuesday, Feb. 19.
“It was a microcosm of how our season’s gone. We’ve been really inconsistent this season,” said Darlington head coach Mike Hopkins. “You can’t have those (scoring droughts) against anyone in the playoffs. From an execution standpoint, let’s face it, that doesn’t cut it.”
Both the Redbirds (6-17 overall), who had lost 10 of their final 11 games and limped into the playoffs riding a five-game losing streak, and the Arrows (6-18), who were playing their best basketball of the season down the final stretch, had higher hopes for their seasons than their records showed, but the tournament was a chance for each team to start anew.
And, they both played with a renewed sense of vigor to open the game.
“In tournament play, win-loss records are meaningless. It’s who’s playing the best,” explained Hopkins.
After battling to a 12 all tie in the first quarter, the two squads juggled the lead six times during an entertaining second quarter.
Junior center Michael Ruf tallied nine of his 11 points in the period for the Redbirds, and he gave his team the lead on three separate occasions– the last coming on a three-point play with 2:42 to play in the half to put the ‘Birds ahead 23-21.
Darlington wouldn’t score again until the 3:12 mark of the third quarter as the Arrows netted 13 unanswered points during the hosts’ seven and a half minute dry spell to grab control of the game.
A basket by Tranel with 39 seconds remaining in the first half tied the score at 23 all, and a steal and layup by the sophomore early in the third stanza put Lancaster into the lead for good.
Tranel added a pair of second-chance baskets, another steal and layup and hit a 3-pointer as well in the third quarter to push the Arrows out to a 39-25 advantage.
Sophomore guard Cole McDonald hit back-to-back treys during a personal 8-0 scoring run to pull the ‘Birds within six at 39-33, but that would be as close as the hosts would get the rest of the night.
McDonald brought the ‘Birds back within six with under two minutes to play when he sank a pair of foul shots to trim the deficit to 51-45.
However, the Arrows made their own free throws down the stretch to seal the victory. Senior Kile Jerrett went 7-for-8 from the line over the final minute, 44 seconds to keep the ‘Birds at bay.
“The bottom line is we didn’t play 32 minutes of basketball,” Hopkins said.
Tranel led all scorers with 19 points and Jerrett finished with 14 for the Arrows, who took #2-ranked and top-seeded Cuba City into overtime in Friday’s regional semifinal before eventually falling by a score of 67-59.
Senior Winston Zenz added six of his 10 points in the fourth quarter for the Arrows, while senior A.J. Day chipped in with nine points for the guests.
McDonald led Darlington with 14 points. Ruf followed with 11, and junior guard Cade Hardyman tallied eight for the Redbirds.
Appearing in their final prep game at DHS on Tuesday were seniors Dylan Nyffenegger, Andrew Kelly, Brent Steinmetz and Griffin Heinberg. Fellow senior Storm Wiegel missed the entire season due to a knee injury suffered during the football season.
“They can hang their hats on the fact that they were involved in the program for all four years. They didn’t always get as much playing time as they wanted, but they stuck it out. They deserve a lot of credit for being loyal to the program,” commented Hopkins.
“I knew we’d have bouts of inexperience this year. My hope was that we’d keep progressing. It’s a mystery to me why that didn’t happen. We have a good core of players coming back next season who got plenty of experience this year. The off-season is when player development happens, so we’ll see what they put in during the off-season.”
Lancaster…. 12 11 18 16 – 57
Darlington… 12 11 10 12 – 45
Lancaster – Hentrich 1, Day 9, Jerrett 14, Snider 2, Zenz 10, Budack 2, Tranel 19. Totals – 21 12-19 57.
Darlington – Michael Ruf 11, Cody Hardyman 4, Dylan Nyffenegger 3, Tanner Wiegel 3, Cade Hardyman 8, Cole McDonald 14, Griffin Heinberg 2. Totals – 18 6-13 45.
3-point goals– L 3 (Day 1, Jerrett 1, Tranel 1), D 3 (Ca. Hardyman 1, McDonald 2). Total fouls– L 12, D 15. Fouled out–D: Hardyman.