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No. 3 seed Lodi stops Platteville
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Junior Braden Nies scored a team-high 18 points in Plattevilles regional quarterfinal victory over Nekoosa last Tuesday.

     The Platteville boys basketball team played 1½ quality games in its two-game postseason.

     Unfortunately for the Hillmen, their one bad half, or more accurately their second opponent’s one good half, ended the Platteville season.

     Following the sixth-seed Hillmen’s 69–50 win over 11th-seed Nekoosa March 1, the Hillmen lost at third-seed Lodi 62–49 Friday, ending the Platteville season at 8–16.

     “This group as whole fought hard all season. We could never question their attitude or how hard they played,” said Hillmen coach Mike Huser. “That was on display again on Friday night as we fought all the way to the end. We kept battling but ultimately Lodi was a bit too much for us and they made timely free throws down the stretch.”

     Lodi was also a bit too much for second-seed Dodgeville, winning the regional final 60–59 Saturday night. The Blue Devils will play Southwest Wisconsin Conference champion Prairie du Chien in a sectional semifinal at Richland Center Thursday at 7 p.m.

     Platteville led from the start of its regional quarterfinal, with Jason Withrow scoring 34 seconds into the game. Nekoosa never even tied the game after that, as the Hillmen jumped out to a 16–6 lead thanks to five consecutive Donovan Blevins baskets for 10 of his 16 points.

     Three consecutive Braden Nies’ baskets expanded the lead to 33–17 with 5:39 left in the first half. Nies basket number four, following a Mitch Knockel basket, extended the lead to 37–18 with 4:06 left in the half, giving Nies eight of his total 18 points within a 2½- minute stretch.

     Platteville led 39–24 at the half, and Nekoosa never got closer than 14 points, 56–42 with 5:56 left in the second half.
The Hillmen used pressure defense to create turnovers, and were particularly effective on offense when the Papermakers went into a zone. The only player Platteville couldn’t stop was 6-foot-6 senior Andrew Melvin, who had 24 points.

     “Our ball movement on offense was great on Tuesday,” said Huser. “We had 17 assists on the evening and really stayed in a good rhythm on offense all night. Our kids were excited to be playing at home in the first round of the tournament and it showed as we had good energy all night. Any time a team shoots 57 percent from the field, everybody feels good about how we played as a group. It was an exciting night in the Platteville gym.”

     It was also exciting three nights later in Lodi as the Hillmen, whose past two football seasons ended at the hands of the Blue Devils, to take a 30–24 lead into the locker room at the half. Platteville used an 11–2 run over 3½ minutes to earn a 25–15 lead on Blevins’ basket with 4:34 left in the first half. Two baskets by 6–6 senior Derek Paulson sandwiched around a basket by 6-foot-6 senior Peyton Fulkerson trimmed the lead to 25–21, but Knockel’s three-point play and another Knockel basket extended the lead to 30–21 with 50 seconds left in the half.

     Garrett Schreiber’s three-pointer in the last moments of the first half started a 10–0 run that gave Lodi a 31–30 lead with 16:20 left in the second half. Withrow scored to give Platteville what turned out to be its last lead of the game, 32–31 with 15:04 left, but a 7–0 run gave Lodi the lead for good.

     “I thought Lodi made a point to really attack the paint and get the ball around the basket,” said Huser. “Paulson and Fulkerson were more aggressive with their dribble and getting the ball in positions where they were comfortable scoring. In the first half we did a good job taking that way, but in the second half they were much more aggressive and that opened some perimeter opportunities for them as well. We also cooled off a bit from the three-point line in the second half and we missed some looks we were able to make in the first half, so that all played into their run to start the second half.”

     The lead varied between five and nine points most of the rest of the way until two Fulkerson free throws and two Jackson Kolinski free throws in the last minute. Platteville didn’t score after Blevins’ basket cut the lead to 54–49 with 2:02 remaining.

     “We showed some grit and growth by answering their runs and staying in the game,” said Huser. “We made some timely shots but they seemed to have an answer every time we got some momentum going in the second half. Paulson and Fulkerson were long and athletic and they wore us down in the second half. They have guys that have played in state basketball tournaments and state football championship games, so there resolve was very good and when they got down they didn’t panic, they just kept playing, and that seemed to be the difference in the second half.”

     Paulson had 22 points, Fulkerson 16 and Schreiber 11 for Lodi. Blevins had 16 to lead Platteville, while Knockel had 10 points and six rebounds in his final Hillmen basketball game.

     “We saw growth throughout the whole season and the tough part is saying goodbye to the seniors and knowing when we start practice again next November, they won’t be with us,” said Huser. “However, we return a good core of our team and we are excited about the opportunities ahead, but right now it is tough because there is no more practice and we feel like we let a good opportunity to move on in the tournament slip away from us.”

WIAA Division 3 Regional Quarterfinal
Platteville 69, Nekoosa 50
(from Tuesday, March 1 @ Platteville)
11) Nekoosa       24    26     —  50
6) Platteville       39    30     —  69
Nekoosa (3–20) — Royce 1, Bohenstengel 6, Jared Olson 3, Mortel 14, Doeberiner 2, Melvin 24 . Totals – 19 11-15 50.
Platteville (8–15) — Mitch Knockel 4, Jason Withrow 4, Braden Nies 18, Alex Traxler 4, Cole Haas 2, Chase Bellmeyer 9, Dillon Shinee 10, Donovan Blevins 16. Totals — 27 11-15 69.
3-point goals — N: 1 (Olson); P: 4 (Nies 1, Bellmeyer 3). Total fouls — N: 17, P: 16. Fouled out — none.

WIAA Division 3 Regional Semifinal
Lodi 62, Platteville 49
(from Friday, March 4 @ Lodi)
6) Platteville    30    19     —  49
3) Lodi             24    38     —  62
Platteville (8–16) — Mitch Knockel 10, Jason Withrow 2, Braden Nies 8, Alex Traxler 4, Chase Bellmeyer 3, Dillon Shinee 6, Donovan Blevins 7. Totals — 21 2-3 49.
Lodi (16–7) — Kolinski 5, Schreiber 11, Fulkerson 16, Walzer 5, Paulson 22, Richards 3. Totals – 24 8-13 62.
3-point goals — P: 6 (Kolinski 1, Paulson 2, Richards 1, Schreiber 1, Walzer 1); L: 5 (Bellmeyer 1, Blevins 2, Nies 2). Total fouls — L: 6, P: 13. Fouled out — none.