DARLINGTON – The Iowa-Grant Panthers secured sole possession of the SWAL boys’ basketball title after defeating the Darlington Redbirds, 54-48, in a hard-fought conference clash at DHS on Friday, Feb. 19.
Senior guard Brayden Johnson poured in 15 of his team-high 17 points in the second half to rally the Panthers (20-1 overall, 13-0 SWAL) past the Redbirds (16-5, 10-3) for their 20th consecutive victory.
“To take nothing away from Iowa-Grant, we’re a better team than we played tonight. From the start, we were not mentally sharp, which baffles me to be honest. I can’t comprehend that at this time of year,” said Darlington head coach Mike Hopkins.
The Redbirds found themselves down 9-0 at the start of the game, but they fought back to take a 22-20 halftime lead by closing the half on an 18-6 scoring run.
Junior Will Schwartz extended the lead to 24-20 early in the second half when the Panthers caught fire following a charge call that went against Isaac Anderson. Caleb Hill buried back-to-back 3-pointers following the call to put the Panthers back on top to stay at 28-24. Those 3s ignited a 24-9 run that turned a four-point deficit into a 44-33 lead. Johnson added three more 3s and converted a three-point play during the run to give I-G its largest lead of the night.
Darlington got as close as six on a basket by junior forward Josh Soper with just over two minutes to play. However, Hill (4-of-6), Johnson (3-of-4) and Collin Price (3-of-4) combined to go 10-of-14 at the foul line over the final minute, 52 seconds to seal the victory.
“That’s the mark of a championship team. Whenever things go against you, you respond. That’s what they did,” Hopkins commented. “We showed our character as well. We played through some adversity. We just didn’t come out with any fire in the second half.”
Soper came off the bench to lead the Redbirds with a season-high 22 points. Schwartz chipped in with eight points, while Chad Golackson added seven and Trevor Johnson netted six.
Price tallied 13 for the Panthers. Anderson added 12 and Hill scored 10 for I-G.
At Boscobel, on Tuesday, Feb. 16, junior guard Ryan Glendenning went off for a season-high 21 points to help the visiting Redbirds defeat the Bulldogs, 68-54, in a SWAL contest.
The ‘Birds held a 33-29 lead at the intermission, and then pulled away with a 35-25 second-half run.
Trevor Johnson netted 11 points for Darlington, while Brayden Johnson and Josh Soper chipped in with 10 points apiece.
Hunter Reynolds scored 11 points and Tommy Monroe added 10 for the Bulldogs (10-10, 4-9).
At Darlington, on Monday, Feb. 22, Josh Soper sank the go-ahead free throw with 1.7 seconds remaining to lift the host Redbirds over New Glarus, 64-63, in a make-up non-conference clash from Feb. 2.
Darlington extended a seven-point halftime lead to a 20-point advantage midway through the second half, but the ‘Birds put on the cruise control a bit too early as the Glarner Knights (13-8) showed they have no quit in them.
Back-to-back baskets by Trevor Johnson put the ‘Birds ahead 63-58 with two minutes to play. The Knights answered back with a pair of free throws by Gavin Binger and a 3-pointer by Cullen Brooks to even the score at 63 all with 1:05 remaining on the clock.
The Redbirds held it for a final shot, which was off the mark. However, Soper was in position for the rebound and got fouled on a putback attempt with :01.7 to go. He hit the first free throw to put the ‘Birds back into the lead, and they held on for the win.
Will Schwartz scored 18 points to lead the Redbirds. Johnson and Chad Golackson chipped in with 11 points apiece, while Soper and Ryan Glendenning followed with nine each.
Binger finished with a game-high 21 for New Glarus.
Darlington closes the regular season hosting Riverdale (1-19, 0-13) on Thursday, Feb. 25.
The WIAA Division 4 tournament will begin on Tuesday, March 1. The Redbirds received the #3-seed will have a bye in the regional quarterfinal round.
Darlington will host the winner of the opening round game between #6 Cambridge and #11 Waterloo in a regional semifinal contest at DHS on Friday, Feb. 26, starting at 7 p.m.
If they win on Friday, they would face the winner of the semifinal game between the Mineral Point/Palmyra-Eagle quarterfinal winner and #2-seed Deerfield in the regional final game at the home of the highest remaining seed on Saturday, Feb. 27, also starting at 7 p.m.
Iowa-Grant… 20 34 – 54
Darlington…. 22 26 – 48
Iowa-Grant– Johnson 17, Anderson 12, Hill 10, Price 13, Stuckey 2. Totals – 16 16-24 54.
Darlington – Will Schwartz 8, Ryan Glendenning 7, Trevor Johnson 6, Tony Ruesga 2, Josh Soper 22, Chad Golackson 3. Totals – 22 2-3 48.
3-point goals– IG 6 (Johnson 2, Anderson 1, Hill 2), D 2 (Glendenning 1, Golackson 1). Total fouls– IG 13, D 21. Fouled out– D: Golackson.
Darlington… 33 35 – 68
Boscobel….. 29 25 – 54
Darlington – Will Schwartz 6, Tanner Evenstad 2, Brayden McDonald 10, Ryan Glendenning 21, Trevor Johnson 11, Josh Soper 10, Chad Golackson 8. Totals – 28 8-10 68.
Boscobel – Latham 9, Cushman 2, Monroe 10, Molzof 4, Marks 6, Davidson 8, Reynolds 11, Lucas 4. Totals – 19 9-14 54.
3-point goals– D 4 (McDonald 2, Glendenning 2), B 7 (Latham 1, Monroe 2, Davidson 1, Reynolds 3). Total fouls– D 16, B 15.
New Glarus….. 28 35 – 63
Darlington…… 35 29 – 64
New Glarus– Taylor 9, Binger 21, Krakow 6, Santamassino 1, Feller 5, Schlueter 9, Zimmerman 3, Brooks 9. Totals – 21 15-19 63.
Darlington – Will Schwartz 18, Brayden McDonald 6, Ryan Glendenning 9, Trevor Johnson 11, Josh Soper 9, Chad Golackson 11. Totals – 25 9-13 64.
3-point goals– NG 6 (Binger 1, Brooks 1, Feller 1, Schlueter 2, Taylor 1), D 5 (Glendenning 1, Johnson 1, Golackson 3). Total fouls– NG 13, D 18. Fouled out– D: Golackson.