DARLINGTON — After leading on the scoreboard for the first 29 minutes of the game, the Darlington Redbirds closed the game on a 9-1 run over the final two minutes to put down the visiting Cuba City Cubans, 71-65, in a SWAL boys’ basketball nail-biter held at DHS on Tuesday, Jan. 30.
“It was a good team effort on both ends. We certainly got off to a good start and maintained the lead throughout most of the game, but seeing how we responded when they hit some shots to take the lead was a testament to the grit and determination that we can have,” said Darlington head coach Tom Uppena.
Darlington (11-5 overall, 7-3 SWAL) scored the first seven points of the game and held the lead the entire first half. The Redbirds went into the intermission sporting a 34-27 advantage after the Cubans shot 12-for-14 from the foul line in the opening half to keep things close.
The Cubans (10-6, 6-3) started the second half with a 9-2 run to pull even at 36 all, but the ‘Birds charged back with a 14-3 run of their own to build up their largest lead of the night at 50-39 on a 3-pointer by Trae Schilling with 10:14 to play.
Three minutes later, sophomore guard Jackson Noll buried his own 3-pointer to give the Cubans their first lead of the game. That lead switched hands seven more times with freshman Carter Lancaster giving the Redbirds back the lead twice on putbacks.
Noll fired back with back-to-back baskets 27 seconds apart to put the Cubans ahead 64-62 with 2:53 to play, however junior Stryker Fitzsimons answered with back-to-back baskets to put the ‘Birds back on top to stay at 66-64 with 58 seconds remaining.
After the Cubans connected on 24 of their 31 free throw attempts on the night to keep on their heels, the host Redbirds showed their skills from the foul line by going 5-for-6 from the stripe over the final 41 seconds of play to seal the victory.
Cuba City had a turnover and missed two 3-pointers over the final 18 seconds of the game.
“I was very happy with how we played against Cuba City. I felt like our defensive intensity was great and we did a great job rebounding. I was also very happy with how we played offensively. We shared the ball and had great spacing in the half court,” Uppena commented.
Fitzsimons finished with 19 points to lead three Redbirds in double figures. Lancaster followed with 16 points and senior Tanner Evenstad netted 13 for the ‘Birds.
Brady Olson scored 11 points in each half to finish with a game-high 22 points for the Cubans.
Noll chipped in with 12 points, and senior Blake Robson added 11 for Cuba City, who went on to defeat Fennimore, 71-49, on Thursday to thrust the Redbirds into a tie for second-place in the SWAL with the Golden Eagles behind Mineral Point (9-1), The Pointers beat the Eagles, 93-81, on Tuesday night.
At Darlington, on Friday, Feb. 2, the Redbirds had 13 different players score en route to a 76-28 drubbing of Riverdale in a SWAL contest.
Darlington bolted out to a 44-11 lead on the Chieftains (0-15, 0-10) in the first half, and then went on to outscore Riverdale, 32-17, in the second half.
“The win over Riverdale was great in that we showed up from the tip and took care of business. We were able to go deep into the bench and everyone played well when they got their opportunities. Our team defense was solid and we were able to create a lot of scoring from turnovers we created,” said Coach Uppena.
Stryker Fitzsimons scored 13 of his team-high 14 points in the first half. Tanner Evenstad added 13 points and Bryce Stone came off the bench for a career-high 10 points for the Redbirds.
Cody Sperry led the Chieftains with 14 points.
Darlington has SWAL games at Fennimore (14-3, 7-3) on Thursday, Feb. 8, and at home against Boscobel (2-15, 1-9) on Tuesday, Feb. 13. The Redbirds will also host Black Hawk (11-5) in a non-conference make-up game from Jan. 2 on Saturday, Feb. 10, starting with the junior varsity game at 1 p.m. followed by the varsity game at 2:30 p.m.
Cuba City……….. 27 38 – 65
Darlington………. 34 37 – 71
Cuba City – Blake Robson 11, Brayden Holzemer 3, Jackson Noll 12, Jack Misky 8, Preston Bousley 2, Brady Olson 22, Jake Langmeier 7. Totals – 18 24-31 65.
Darlington – Tanner Evenstad 13, Trae Schilling 3, Tucker Lange 7, Carter Lancaster 16, Bailey McGuire 2, Stryker Fitzsimons 19, Tony Ruesga 5, Matthew Douglas 6. Totals – 27 13-15 71.
3-point goals– CC 5 (Robson 3, Noll 1, Olson 1), D 4 (Schilling 1, Fitzsimons 1, Ruesga 1, Douglas 1). Total fouls– CC 17, D 19. Fouled out– None.
Riverdale………… 11 17 – 28
Darlington……….. 44 32 – 76
Riverdale – Schaefer 6, Mueller 6, Sperry 14, Pulvermacher 2. Totals – 10 6-9 28.
Darlington – Cole Roelli 5, Kameron Blosch 1, Tanner Evenstad 13, Trae Schilling 5, Cade Murray 3, Tucker Lange 4, Carter Lancaster 8, Bryce Stone 10, Carson Evenstad 2, Stryker Fitzsimons 14, Tony Ruesga 5, Brogan Evenstad 2, Cayden Rankin 4. Totals – 28 10-12 76.
3-point goals– R 2 (Schaefer 2), D 7 (Roelli 1, T. Evenstad 1, Schilling 1, Murray 1, Stone 2, Ruesga 1). Total fouls– R 12, D 13. Fouled out– None.