There was no rah-rah speech from Platteville head coach Wayne Jentz before Thursday’s de facto SWC conference championship game with Prairie du Chien.
Apparently none was needed.
“We just talked about increasing our pressure on the ball with our press, playing with intensity on defense and getting back to playing our kind of basketball,” said the Hillmen coach. “We also talked about it being Senior Night and that it was important first and foremost to play well for our seniors.”
The subdued message was heard loud and clear.
Platteville forced nine turnovers in the first quarter alone and converted them into a virtual layup line en route to a dismantling 48–31 victory that was more of a Valentine’s Day massacre than the expected heavyweight clash between conference co-leaders.
Prairie du Chien (10–9, 7–2 SWC) scored a narrow 38–35 win over the visiting Hillmen on Jan. 11, but Thursday’s holiday bloodbath wasn’t even close.
“The kids were pretty fired up and alert to start the game,” said Jentz.
That might be the understatement of Platteville’s season.
The Hillmen (18–3, 8–1 SWC) scored the games first 12 points, eight by 5-foot-10 senior Elisa Bilderback, and never looked back.
Platteville led 21–6 at the end of the quarter and by as much as 21 points early in the second as the stunned Blackhawks were left to ponder what might have been.
So much for showing their opponents love on the international day of celebration for that very emotion.
With the win the Hillmen claimed their conference title in program history. Platteville won the 1984 Class B state title, but Cuba City won the Southern Eight crown that winter.
“It’s pretty thrilling for our kids,” said Jentz. “When we got done we talked about the seniors developing a legacy and the fact that they will always be remembered for winning the first conference title. Then I told them they have to be a little selfish this week so we don’t have to share it.”
Platteville can claim the outright SWC crown Thursday night with a victory at Richland Center (7–14, 5–4).
Prairie du Chien closes out the regular season Thursday at Dodgeville (14–6, 6–3).
The key to Thursday’s quick start was Platteville’s full-court diamond press.
Sophomore Cassie Hamer converted a fast-break layup a minute into the game, then Bilderback scored eight straight on two free throws, a jumper and two layups that came as a direct result of Platteville steals in the backcourt.
“Elisa has such great length and she created a lot of turnovers at the head of our press,” said Jentz. “She makes it tough to inbound when she is on the ball, and tough to reverse it if they do get it inbound.”
Hamer made a steal and breakaway layup immediately after a Prairie timeout to make it 10–0 at the 4:23 mark of the first quarter.
Senior Stephanie Philipps made a free throw and a jump shot, fellow senior Julia Lawinger buried a three, then Hamer closed the quarter with a triple of her own in the closing seconds.
Philipps led three Hillmen in double figures with 13 points and four rebounds.
Bilderback finished with 12 points and seven rebounds, while Hamer added 11 points, three rebounds and three steals.
Lawinger grabbed a team-high nine rebounds.
“We had a lot of balance and got contributions from everybody on Thursday,” said Jentz. “We had three players score in double figures, Ashley Budden played strong defense, and Julia didn’t score much but she did her thinf grabbing rebounds and forcing steals. I thought it was more of a team effort than any one individual standing out. That’s the nice thing about this team we have a lot of balance.”
Platteville tuned up for Thursday’s showdown with a 44–34 non-conference loss to once-beaten Cuba City (19–1) Tuesday night.
The Cubans led 25–10 at halftime and by as much as 20 in the fourth quarter, but battled back to make it a game late.
“That game really prepared us for Prairie on Thursday,” said Jentz. “It showed us that we have to play hard from the very beginning of the game. It’s all a part of the learning process. And I think it showed Thursday night. I like how we bounced back.”
Platteville earned a second seeed and will have an opening round bye when WIAA Division 3 playoffs begin Tuesday. The Hillmen will then host either 10th seed River Valley or seventh seed Nekoosa in Friday’s regional semifinal.
Platteville 48, Prairie du Chien 31
(from Thursday, Feb. 14 @ Platteville)
Prairie du Chien 6 5 9 11 — 31
Platteville 21 8 6 13 — 48
Prairie du Chien (10–9, 7–2) — Skemp 6, Ariss 9, White 2, Banasik 8, Moret 2, Rickleff 4. Totals — 12 6-16 31.
Platteville (17–2, 7–1) — Stephanie Philipps 13, Elisa Bilderback 12, Cassie Hamer 11, Holly Kasper 2, Ashley Budden 7, Julia Lawinger 3. Totals — 17 12-22 48.
3-point goals — PdC: 1 (Ariss 1); Pla: 2 (Hamer 1). Team fouls — PdC: 19, Pla: 18. Fouled out — none.
Cuba City 44, Platteville 34
(from Tuesday, Feb. 12 @ Platteville)
Cuba City 14 11 13 6 — 44
Platteville 7 3 9 15 — 34
Cuba City (19–1) — Hoppenjan 2, K. Marti 7, J. Marti 9, Pustina 4, Lierman 8, Kaiser 2, Wedige 12. Totals — 16 10-20 44.
Platteville (17–2, 7–1) — Stephanie Philipps 2, Elisa Bilderback 11, Cassie Hamer 3, Holly Kasper 2, Ashley Budden 2, Julia Lawinger 14. Totals — 11 10-20 34.
3-point goals — CC: 2 (K. Marti 1, Lierman 1; P: 2 (Lawinger 2). Team fouls — CC: 15, P: 18. Fouled out — P: Hamer.
1); Pla: 2 (Hamer 1). Team fouls — PdC: 19, Pla: 18. Fouled out — none.