LIVINGSTON – Iowa-Grant solidified its spot atop the SWAL boys’ basketball standings by rallying past the visiting Darlington Redbirds, 49-44, at IGHS on Thursday, Jan. 14.
The Panthers (11-1 overall, 6-0 SWAL), who are ranked #10 in the latest Wissports.net Division 4 State Coaches Poll, grabbed a two-game lead in the SWAL with the victory, while the Redbirds (9-3, 4-2) remain in second-place although they are now tied with Cuba City and Mineral Point.
Darlington trailed 24-20 early in the second half until junior guard Will Schwartz sparked a 15-4 run that put the ‘Birds ahead 35-28 with 12:08 to play.
But, the Panthers would answer right back. Senior Isaac Anderson’s two-handed slam dunk ignited the home crowd and lit a fire under his teammates. Anderson added nine more points and senior Caleb Hill chipped in with five more as the hosts used an 18-4 run of their own to turn a seven-point deficit into a 46-39 lead with 1:09 to play.
A 3-pointer by Brayden McDonald brought the ‘Birds back within four with 29 seconds remaining, but they would get no closer as the Panthers put the game away at the foul line.
“I told them in the locker room after the game that it’s a game of spurts. We had ours to go up by seven early in the half. Unfortunately, they had theirs closer to the end of the game,” said Darlington head coach Michael Hopkins.
The Redbirds also started off hot in the first half with junior forward Chad Golackson scoring seven of the game’s first nine points to put the guests up 11-6.
The Panthers charged back with a 14-3 run to build up a 20-14 lead, however baskets by Golackson and Schwartz cut the gap to 20-18 by the intermission.
“We’re competitors and they are too,” stated Hopkins. “They have some seniors on their team, but experience-wise we’re basically the same.”
Schwartz scored 14 of his team-high 18 points in the second half keep the Redbirds on the Panthers’ heels. Golackson scored all 12 of his points in the first half.
Trevor Johnson and McDonald each netted six points for the ‘Birds, who came into the night riding a four-game winning streak.
Junior Ryan Glendenning, the team’s second leading scorer, left the game in the first half and did not return; while junior Hunter Johnson, who briefly saw his first action of the season against Platteville on Tuesday before leaving that game with an injury, was unable to play in Thursday’s game and is out indefinitely.
“We don’t have anything to be ashamed of, but we also have to look at ourselves in the mirror. There are some things that we can do better. We have to be much more balanced and much more consistent,” Hopkins admitted.
Anderson finished with a game-high 27 points to lead I-G. Brayden Johnson scored seven of his 11 points in the first half, while Hill scored all seven of his points in the second half.
“It would have been nice to win this one and pull ourselves into a tie for the conference lead. But, there is still plenty of season left. We have to get a little bit of help, but most of it is still in our hands,” said Hopkins.
At Darlington, on Tuesday, Jan. 12, Coach Hopkins picked up his 350th career varsity victory after leading the Redbirds to a 54-45 non-conference victory over the Platteville Hillmen.
The score was deadlocked at 41 all when the ‘Birds reeled off 11 unanswered points to pull away for the victory.
Darlington led by as many as 14 points in the first half and held a 26-19 advantage at the half, but they couldn’t put the Hillmen (5-9) away until their late run.
Will Schwartz pumped in a game-high 14 points to lead the Redbirds. Chad Golackson, Trevor Johnson and Ryan Glendenning chipped in with nine points apiece, while Brayden McDonald and Josh Soper added six points each for the ‘Birds.
Donovan Blevins paced the Hillmen with 11 points.
Darlington opens up the second-half of the SWAL season hosting Cuba City (8-4, 4-2) on Friday, Jan. 22. The two teams are currently tied with Mineral Point for second-place in the league behind I-G.
On Monday, Jan. 25, the Redbirds host #9-ranked Shullsburg in a non-conference contest. The ‘Birds have won two in a row over the Miners, who are currently tied for the lead in the Six Rivers West.
“We really don’t have an easy games left on our schedule. We have to execute and be prepared every night,” Hopkins said.
Darlington…. 18 26 – 44
Iowa-Grant… 20 29 – 49
Darlington – Will Schwartz 18, Brayden McDonald 6, Trevor Johnson 6, Josh Soper 2, Chad Golackson 12. Totals – 17 6-9 44.
Iowa-Grant– Johnson 11, Anderson 27, Hill 7, Stuckey 4. Totals – 18 11-14 49.
3-point goals– D 4 (Schwartz 1, McDonald 2, Golackson 1), IG 2 (Johnson 1, Hill 1). Total fouls– D 14, IG 8.
Platteville…. 19 26 – 45
Darlington… 26 28 – 54
Platteville – Knockel 2, Withrow 4, Nies 7, Schambow 4, Traxler 4, Bellmeyer 5, Shinee 7, Blevins 11. Totals – 18 5-9 45.
Darlington – Will Schwartz 14, Tanner Evenstad 1, Brayden McDonald 6, Ryan Glendenning 9, Trevor Johnson 9, Josh Soper 6, Chad Golackson 9. Totals – 16 18-26 54.
3-point goals– P 4 (Nies, Bellmeyer, Shinee), D 4 (Schwartz, Golackson, Johnson). Total fouls– P 14, D 15. Fouled out– P: Shinee.