MINERAL POINT – For the past three seasons, the Darlington vs. Mineral Point boys’ basketball rivalry has been lopsided heavily in Darlington’s favor, and the Redbirds were hoping to keep up their winning ways heading into their first meeting with the Pointers at Mineral Point High School on Thursday, Dec. 15.
But, the Pointers had other plans.
Mineral Point stormed out of the gates early behind the pinpoint shooting of senior guard Dakota Poad, then took advantage of the strong inside presence of 6’5” senior Travis Steffes and 6’6” junior Cory Schultz to end Darlington’s nine-game winning streak in the series by putting away the visiting Redbirds, 60-47, in a Southwestern Wisconsin Activities League clash.
“Since this a conference game against a rival team that we should have been well-prepared to play, this is highly disappointing,” said Darlington head coach Mike Hopkins. “We did not have the same energy or intensity as Mineral Point from the start, and we did not play with any sense of urgency until into the fourth quarter.”
Poad nailed a 3-pointer less than two minutes into the game to put the Pointers (4-3 overall, 1-2 in SWAL) ahead for good, and the senior added the final five points of the opening stanza, including another trey before the final horn to give the hosts a 13-7 lead.
Poad sank two more baskets early in the second quarter to extend the Pointer lead to 19-9 midway through the period, but the Redbirds (4-3, 1-2) fought back into the game by closing the half on a 9-2 run to cut the gap to 21-18 by the intermission.
The ‘Birds turned up the defensive pressure in the third quarter, converting a pair of steals into layups by Brandon Hardyman and Mitchell Whalen to pull within 26-24; however, the increased defensive intensity also came with the cost of fouls as the Pointers reached the bonus by the end of quarter.
“As a coach, I was not pleased with our overall defense. Even though we did have 10 steals, we fouled them way too much, especially in the act of shooting instead of hustling to get into position and take away the driving opportunities,” Hopkins noted. “This has been a season-long concern. Teams have shot 50 more free throws than us, largely because they are getting inside and we are fouling them in the act of shooting too often.”
Freshman point guard Sy Staver closed the third with a pair of free throws to put the Pointers back up by six, while Poad knocked down four more free throws and another trey during a 9-0 spurt by the hosts to start the fourth quarter to up their lead to 42-27.
From there, Point put the game away at the foul line, converting 13-of-14 free throw attempts in the final three minutes of the game to post their first victory over Darlington since Feb. 12, 2008. No members of this year’s team were in high school the last time the Pointers beat the Redbirds.
“We had a season’s low in rebounds (out-boarded 26 to 15) and a season’s high in turnovers (23),” added Hopkins. “The turnover rate is alarming considering we were not being pressed or even facing a man-to-man defense. Simply said, we need to have a better focus, make better decisions with the basketball in our hands, and protect the basketball more by using our God-given talent more fully.”
Poad led all scorers with 27 points. Steffes chipped in with 16 points, while Schultz added six off the bench and Staver followed with five.
Hardyman paced the Redbirds with 19 points, five steals and a blocked shot. Whalen netted nine points, while Kent Miehe, Zach McArthur and Cedric Flesher added five points apiece.
Miehe also led the team with seven assists, and Flesher matched Griffin Heinberg with a team-high three rebounds.
Darlington is off to Monroe on Thursday, Dec. 22, for a non-conference showdown.
Darlington……. 7 11 9 20 - 47
Mineral Point… 13 8 12 27 - 60
Leading Scorers: Brandon Hardyman 19, Mitchell Whalen 9, Kent Miehe 5, Zach McArthur 5, Cedric Flesher 5, Griffin Heinberg 4.