PRAIRIE DU CHIEN — For the first time in 20 years, Platteville High School is home to a regional champion boys basketball team.
The fourth-seeded Hillmen used a gritty defensive effort and a tremendous performance at the free throw line to upset top-seeded, fourth-ranked Prairie du Chien 52–38 in Saturday night’s WIAA Divison 3 regional final at Prairie du Chien High School, earning Platteville’s first regional crown since 1997.
“It has been a long drought, so for us and to be able to go on the road and win a championship game against such a well-coached team like Prairie Du Chien, really says a lot about our kids,” said Platteville head coach Mike Huser. “Prairie du Chien has been the standard in our league for a long time, but our guys were tremendous the whole night, but it was really indicative of how they have prepared all season. To see them able to raise the championship plaque after the game was really special and our crowd was absolutely outstanding. It was a great night to be a part of the Hillmen Nation. I am extremely happy for all the current players and coaches as well as former players and coaches and everyone that has put in a tremendous amount of time to make this happen.”
Platteville (16–8) held the host Blackhawks (21–3) to just two points over the final 11:17 seconds of the first half during a tide-turning 17–2 run that gave the Hillmen a 19–13 halftime lead they never relinquished.
Prairie du Chien, a senior-dominated team that played its was to the Kohl Center a year ago, jumped out to an 11–2 lead seven minutes into the game and looked like it was on its way to its third victory over Platteville this season.
Sophomore Cade Rohrbach steamed the tide with a 3-pointer from the wing. Senior forward Dillon Shinee scored in the post a minute later and junior Donovan Blevins’ layup made it a two-point game.
Senior Braden Nies’ three-point play with 7:58 left in the half gave Platteville its first lead of the night at 12–11.
Shinee added a pair of free throws, Blevins scored on a fast break and Nies split a pair of free throws with 4:31 left in the half to cap Platteville’s 15–0 run.
Senior Josh Lenzendorf ended Prairie du Chien’s seven-minute scoring drought with a putback, but the Blackhawks didn’t score the final 4:12 of the half.
Platteville held Prairie du Chien to just 30.2 percent (13-for-43) from the field, including just 2 of 21 from 3-point land, just one night after the Blackhawks drained 13 triples in a 69–42 regional semifinal victory over Richland Center.
“Defense had been an emphasis all week and getting Alex Traxler (back injury) back after being out three weeks really helped,” said Huser. “We did a great job of limiting them to one shot on possessions. We didn’t change a lot with our defense, but more focus was put on the details within our concepts on both offense and defense. Our senior leadership was outstanding and I get the sense this group is not content with just winning the regional championship. This is a hungry team that is now understanding how to win and how much fun that can be on the big stage."
Prairie du Chien pulled within four at 23–19 early in the second half on a driving basket from senior Wesley Schwager.
Blevins split a pair of free throws, then scored in the post.
Shinee drew his second charge of the night, and fifth charge in two day, then scored on a putback on the ensuing possession, and senior point guard Braden Nies hit a floater in the lane with 9:21 left to make it 30–21. The Blackhawks got as close as seven on a 3-pointer by senior point guard Chas Sagedahl, but Shinee converted a three-point play with 5:55 to play and the Hillmen made 16 of 19 from the free throw line in the final 4:50 to close out the win.
Blevins finished with a game-high 16 points, Shinee added 15 points and seven rebounds, and Nies finished with 13 points and four assists.
Schwager had a team-high 13 points for Prairie du Chien, while senior Nathan Banasik added 11 in his final game playing for father Andy Banasik.
Platteville will now face South Central Conference champion Adams–Friendship (20–3) in a D3 sectional semifinal Thursday night at Richland Center High School at 7 p.m.
“Adams–Friendship is a really good team with good players, but as we told our guys at this level every team has good players so you can’t get caught up in statistics,” said Huser. “This time of year the teams that execute their schemes the best will move on. Adams–Friendship is traditionally a 1–3–1 zone program, but this year they are playing more 2–3 zone and are very well coached to play to their schemes. This will be an intriguing matchup because it is an uncommon opponent and one we are really excited about participating in.”
Huser picked up his 100th career win as Platteville opened the playoffs with a dominating 74–58 regional semifinal victory over visiting fifth-seeded Dodgeville (11–12).
The Hillmen led by a slim 31–27 margin at the half time break after leading by as many eleven points in the first half.
Platteville opened up a nine-point lead on a three point basket by Traxler and a layup by Blevins, but the Dodgers fought back to tie the game at 36–36 with 13:40 left.
Sophomore Conner Riley gave the Hillmen a lift of the bench, scoring all nine of his points over the next four minutes to spur a 13–5 run.
Dodgeville made one final run to pull within two at 51–49 with 6:22 to play, but Belvins converted a three-point play, Nies buried a 3-pointer and Blevins brought the crowd to his feed with a breakaway dunk to make it a 10-point game at 59–49. Blevins added another breakaway layup moments later and Nies made 9 of 10 from the free throw line in the final two minutes as the Hillmen pulled away from the 16-point win.
Nies finished with a career-high 27 points, four rebounds and three assists. Blevins added 15 points and four steals, and Shineer finished with 14 points and eight rebounds.
WIAA Division 3 regional semifinal
No. 4 Platteville 74, No. 5 Dodgeville 58
(from Friday, March 3 @ Platteville)
Dodgeville 27 31 — 58
Platteville 31 43 — 74
Dodgeville (11–12) — Josh Shepler 2, Isaac Nagel 5, Nate James 11, Brantley Eastman 11, Houston Stanek 6, Bryce Prochaska 23. Totals — 20 15-25 58.
Platteville (15–8) — Donovan Blevins 15, Braden Nies 27, Cade Rorhbach 2, Alex Traxler 5, Dillon Shinee 14, Zach White 2, Conner Riley 9. Totals — 26 9-23 74.
3-point goals — D: 3 (Eastman 2, James 1); P: 3 (Nies 2, Traxler 1). Total fouls — D: 20, P: 19. Fouled out — D: Nagel; P: Blevins. Technical fouls — D: Prochaska.
WIAA Division 3 regional final
No. 4 Platteville 52, No. 1 Prairie du Chien 38
(from Saturday, March 4 @ Prairie du Chien)
Platteville 19 33 — 52
Prairie du Chien 13 25 — 38
Platteville (16–8) — Donovan Blevins 16, Braden Nies 13, Cade Rorhbach 6, Alex Traxler 2, Dillon Shinee 15. Totals — 14 22-27 52.
Prairie Du Chien (21–3) — Chas Sagedahl 5, Nate Banasik 11, Josh Lenzendorf 9, Wesley Schwager 13. Totals — 14 10-11 38.
3-point goals — Pla: 2 (Rohrbach 2); PdC: 2 (Sagedahl 1, Lenzendorf 1). Total fouls — Pla: 15, PdC: 19. Fouled out — none.