DARLINGTON – Darlington was in a charitable mood on Friday night when they hosted Mineral Point for their annual Hoops For Hope fundraiser. However, the Redbirds were not about to give away a victory.
The #2-ranked Redbirds have had their share of challenges during their 17-game winning streak to open the 2016-17 season, but the ‘Birds have not had a scare like the one the Pointers gave them at DHS on Friday, Feb. 3.
Darlington got a career-high 23 points from senior guard Trevor Johnson and a season-high 20 points from fellow senior Ryan Glendenning to hold off the visiting Pointers, 72-67, in a SWAL boys’ basketball clash and grab a two-game lead atop the conference standings.
“It was a good win for us against a very good team. Mineral Point battled really hard and made us uncomfortable, so you have to give them a lot of credit for how they executed their game plan,” said Darlington head coach Tom Uppena.
The Pointers (13-5, 7-2) jumped out to an early 11-2 lead behind Chase Wendhausen’s nine points, but the ‘Birds closed the half on a 31-22 scoring run to even the score at 33 all at the intermission.
Darlington grabbed hold of the lead early in the second half and held onto it for the rest of the game, however the Pointers didn’t go away without a fight.
The guests stayed within one possession of the ‘Birds for much of the second half, but the ‘Birds never surrendered the lead as they pulled away late for their closest win of the season.
“For us, we needed a close game to see how we would respond when things got tight. It was a playoff atmosphere and I’m happy with how we responded down the stretch to close out the win. We still scored our season average, but our defense was pushed more than it has been all year. We definitely still have some things to work on,” stated Uppena.
Senior Josh Soper dropped in 15 points for the Redbirds, while senior Will Schwartz– the team’s leading scorer this season– was limited to six points. Senior Brayden McDonald came off the bench to match his season-high with six points for the ‘Birds.
“Obviously I’m very happy with where we are in the SWAL. Friday night’s win was big for us to get that two-game cushion, but with four games yet to play we still have some work to do. When you get to this point in the season, it is easy to look ahead. We just need to stay focused on our next game,” Uppena commented.
Wendhausen finished with a game-high 26 points to lead the Pointers, who scored a season-high total against the Redbirds’ D. Isaac Lindsey added 15, Jack Warrick chipped in with 10 and Mason Dailey tallied nine for MP.
Darlington opened last week with one of their largest margin of victories this season when they rolled over the Riverdale Chieftains, 84-30, in a make-up game at DHS on Tuesday, Jan. 31.
The Redbirds opened the game by scoring 15 unanswered points to take a lead they would never lose; and then, after building the lead up to 27-11 midway through the first half, the ‘Birds closed the stanza on a 25-0 run to open up a 52-11 halftime cushion.
The hosts continued to build upon their lead in the second half as they cruised to a 54-point win over the winless Chieftains (0-16, 0-10).
Schwartz poured in 17 of his game-high 22 points in the first half and T. Johnson added 12 of his 17 points in the first half to help fuel the rout.
Hunter Johnson, Hayden Hardyman and Tony Ruesga each netted seven points as 12 team members placed their name in the scorebook on the night. For Hardyman and Ruesga, the seven points represented their season-high.
Darlington has upcoming SWAL games at Southwestern on Thursday, Feb. 9, and at home against Boscobel on Tuesday, Feb. 14. The Redbirds face another tough challenge when they travel to Shullsburg on Saturday, Feb. 11, to face the 16-1 Miners in a non-conference clash at SHS.
Mineral Point………. 33 34 – 67
Darlington………….. 33 39 – 72
Mineral Point – Dailey 9, Gorgen 2, Lindsey 15, Steffes 5, Warrick 10, Wendhausen 26. Totals – 26 8-11 67.
Darlington – Hunter Johnson 2, Will Schwartz 6, Brayden McDonald 6, Ryan Glendenning 20, Josh Soper 15, Trevor Johnson 23, Stryker Fitzsimons 1, Tony Ruesga 3, Kamern Blosch 3. Totals – 31 10-15 72.
3-point goals– MP 7 (Dailey 3, Lindsey 2, Steffes 1, Wendhausen 1), D 0. Total fouls– MP 12, F 10. Fouled out– none.
Riverdale…………… 11 19 – 30
Darlington………….. 52 32 – 84
Riverdale – Schaefer 7, Anderson 3, Fiebranz 4, Mueller 6, Hougan 4, Sperry 6. Totals – 12 3-6 30.
Darlington – Hunter Johnson 7, Will Schwartz 22, Tanner Evenstad 4, Brayden McDonald 2, Ryan Glendenning 5, Mason Stone 2, Hayden Hardyman 7, Josh Soper 3, Bailey McGuire 2, Trevor Johnson 17, Stryker Fitzsimons 6, Tony Ruesga 7. Totals – 36 9-17 84.
3-point goals– R 3 (Anderson 1, Mueller 2), D 3 (Glendenning 1, T. Johnson 1, Ruesga 1). Total fouls– R 15, D 8. Fouled out– none.