DARLINGTON – Cuba City head coach Jerry Petitgoue took his team into Thursday’s SWAL opener fresh off his 900th career victory to start his 50th season, while Darlington head coach Tom Uppena entered the game seeking his first career victory in the Redbirds’ 2016-17 debut.
Experience may have been in the Cubans’ favor on the sideline, but on the court the experience-rich Redbirds gave their new coach a win in his debut with an eye-popping 69-20 victory over a young Cuba City squad at DHS on Thursday, Dec. 1.
“It feels really good to get my first win. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting it to go as well as it did. It was not an ideal situation, especially when you’re going up against the winningest coach in Wisconsin history. It’s a little intimidating,” said Uppena. “I was a little concerned with it being our first game with a week less of practice. After that tough loss at state in football, the guys were ready to get after it on the court. They were hungry and it showed tonight.”
The Redbirds (1-0 overall and SWAL) got the season off to a late start due to their fourth straight appearance in the WIAA Division 6 football championships, but they wasted little time getting off to a fast start on Thursday as they scored the game’s first seven points and raced out to an early 17-7 lead on the Cubans (1-1, 0-1).
The ‘Birds held a 32-12 lead at the intermission, and then used a 34-0 scoring run to open the second half to charge out to a 66-14 advantage. Senior guard Will Schwartz poured in 16 of his game-high 25 points during the run, while senior Trevor Johnson added six points and classmates Ryan Glendenning and Hunter Johnson added five points apiece during the scoring outburst.
A 3-pointer by Cubans’ junior Blake Robson ended the run with 4:58 remaining in the game, but by that time the damage was done. Robson sank two 3s and finished with a team-high eight points and two assists.
Schwartz pulled down 10 rebounds for a double-double and he also secured a team-best four steals along with T. Johnson, who added 12 points.
“We were able to take them out of a lot of stuff they wanted to do with our defense and we turned it into transition points,” noted Uppena. “Out assistant coaches did an incredible job preparing for them and installing some things that worked really well.”
Senior Josh Soper tallied eight points, seven rebounds and four of the team’s eight blocked shots. H. Johnson added seven points, five rebounds and six assists.
“This team is incredibly unselfish. They work their butts off. They are a lot of fun to coach,” Uppena stated.
Darlington has a pair of key SWAL games coming up. The ‘Birds host Fennimore on Friday, Dec. 9, and then head to Mineral Point to face the high-scoring Pointers on Tuesday, Dec. 13.
Cuba City…. 12 8 – 20
Darlington… 32 37 – 69
Cuba City – Blake Robson 8, Brayden Holzemer 1, Nathan Timmerman 2, Jacob Wagner 2, Sean McVay 2, Isaiah Oswald 4, Andy Clendenning 1. Totals – 6 6-8 20.
Darlington – Hunter Johnson 7, Will Schwartz 25, Tanner Evenstad 5, Ryan Glendenning 5, Josh Soper 8, Trevor Johnson 12, Stryker Fiztsimons 5, Tony Ruesga 2. Totals – 29 8-11 69.
3-point goals– CC 2 (Robson 2), D 3 (Schwartz 1, Evenstad 1, Glendenning 1). Total fouls– CC 10, D 14.