RICHLAND CENTER — Platteville’s first trip to sectionals since 1997 ended in heartbreaking fashion, leaving Hillmen faithful wondering what could have been.
Platteville dominated the first half with tenacious man-to-man defense and by picking apart Adams–Friendship’s shifting 2–3 zone, and led by as many as nine points entering intermission 24–15.
But the second-seeded Green Devils rallied in the final 18 minutes and senior Alex Ramirez converted the game-winning layup with 20.2 seconds left to lift Adams–Friendship to a 45–43 victory in last Thursday’s WIAA Division 4 sectional semifinal at Richland Center High School.
Platteville had one final chance to steal the win, but sophomore guard Cade Rohrbach’s potential game-winning 3-pointer rimmed out and time expired as both team’s battled for the rebound.
Rohrbach was the hero just moments earlier, when he buried a game-tying 3-pointer on a similar play with 39 seconds left, but the final shot wouldn’t go down.
“The last play was designed to get Braden [Nies] open for a 3-point shot, but we got what we wanted and knew Adams–Friendship would probably run two guys at Braden,” said Platteville head coach Mike Huser. “He made the right basketball play, to pass to Cade out of the double team, but the shot just rimmed out. We wanted to give ourselves enough time for an offensive rebound opportunity and we got a couple of hands on the ball but time expired on the tip try.”
Platteville scored the game’s first nine points and was in control early on. Adams–Friendship finally got on the scoreboard on a putback by senior Donnell Kelly with 12:34 left in the half.
Platteville junior Donovan Blevins, who scored nine of his team-high 15 points in the first half, converted a layup on a nice feed from senior Dillon Shinee to give the Hillmen their largest lead of the game at 24–15 with 1:42 left in the opening half. Neither team scored the rest of the half.
Adams–Frienship, champion of the South Central Conference, opened the second half on 17–6 run, taking their first lead at 32–30 on a layup by sophomore Jaiquon Ingram with 8:48 remaining.
Shinee tied the game with a pair of free throws on Platteville’s next possession, but the senior center picked up his fourth foul with 7:40 left and went to the bench. The Green Devils attacked the paint with Shinee out of the game and scored back-to-back layups to build a 36–32 lead. Huser didn’t wait long and Shinee was back in the game.
Platteville responded with a 6–2 run and tied the game at 38–38 on a Blevins layup with 3:40 to play, but Ramirez converted a key three-point play on the ensuing possession to make it 43–40. Shinee answered with a jumper in the lane, but Ramirez struck again inside to make it 3-point game once again at 43–40 with 2:39 left. Ramierez scored Adams–Frienship’s final nine points and finished with a game-high 19.
After a an ill-advised 3-point attempt by senior Joe Duty with two minutes left gave Platteville a sliver of hope, the team’s traded turnovers.
Platteville called a time out with 52.7 seconds left and Rohrbach buried an open 3-pointer from the right wing to tie the game at 43–43 with 39 seconds left.
Adam–Friendship raced down court and Ramirez got loose for a moment and converted a layup, while being fouled, for the eventual game-winner. Ramirez missed the free throw and Platteville called time out to set up the final sequence of the game.
“I thought Adams–Friendship did a good job of adjusting their zone to take away some of the advantages we had in the first half with size and athleticism,” said Huser. “They played tremendous defense on Braden all night and forced our post players away from the basket in the second half. To our guys credit, they were able to make some adjustments on the fly and find a way to continue to attack but ultimately we did not make quite enough plays.”
Nies was held scoreless in his final game for Platteville, and finished with three rebounds and two assists.
Blevins led the Hillmen with 15 points and Shinee added 13 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Rohrbach finished with eight points and junior Zach White scored six big points off the bench in the first half on a pair of 3-pointers.
Platteville held Donnell, who entered the game averaging over 19 points a game, to just six. Duty added seven for Adams–Frienship (20–4), which advanced to Saturday night’s D3 Waunakee Sectional final, where it ended the season with a 50–47 loss to second-ranked Lake Mills (24–2).
Platteville finished the year 16–9 overall, after going 7–3 to place second in the Southwest Wisconsin Conference.
“I felt bad for our kids who had competed so hard all night and all the players for the time they put into preparing for this game, just as they had all year,” said Huser. “It wasn’t the outcome that we wanted, but I was so proud of our team, coaches and community the way they conducted themselves the whole night and whole season for that matter.
“What everyone saw in the gym is what is great about high school athletics. Everyone enjoying a great high basketball game between two teams, whose kids were doing their very best to represent their respective communities. I hope everyone that played, coached and attended realize how special it is to be a part of something like this. Even though the outcome was disappointing, the experience was tremendous.”
WIAA Division 3 sectional semifinal
No. 2 Adams–Friendship 45, No. 4 Platteville 43
(from Thursday, March 9 @ Richland Center)
Adams–Friendship 24 19 — 43
Platteville 15 30 — 45
Adams–Friendship (21–3) — Donnell Kelly 6, Jaiquon Ingram 7, Seth Sparby 3, Alex Ramierz 19, Seth Ward 2, Joe Duty 7. Totals — 20 3-4 45.
Platteville (16–9) — Donovan Blevins 15, Cade Rorhbach 8, Conner Riley 2, Dillon Shinee 13, Zach White 6. Totals — 16 7-9 43.
3-point goals — AF: 2 (Duty 1, Sparby 1); P: 4 (Rohrbach 2, White 2). Total fouls — AF: 11, P: 9. Fouled out — none.