ELK MOUND — After reaching the regional final game the past two years and losing to Fall Creek in 2012 and Colfax last year, the Elk Mound boys’ basketball team made sure that didn’t happen again as they took care of business at home with a regional semi final win over Arcadia 43-36 Feb. 28, then brought March in like a lion with a 68-49 win over West Salem just 24 hours later. It is the first regional title for the Mounder boys since 1996 when Dan Pedersen was the coach, and it is the first title for current head coach Chris Hahn.
Moving up to Division 3 this year meant the Mounders didn’t know a lot about the competition they would see. The Raiders play in the Coulee Conference and although they were the eighth seed, they gave Elk Mound all they could handle. In fact, they held the Mounders to their lowest point total of the season, shut them down from three point land and got them into some foul trouble, forcing the Mounders to make some adjustments to their player rotation.
None the less, the Mounders started strong as six different players scored in the first quarter with Dexter Curry hitting the first bucket of the game. Curry then came up with a steal then zipped a pass to Zac Doll for a layup, then he hit from under again for a 6-0 lead. Doll was on fire though as he put down a slammer then scored from close range again, Adam Gottschalk scored from the paint for a 12-5 lead and Austin Hanson and Logan Strom both hit from close range for a 16-8 first quarter lead.
The Raiders tried to crack the 1-3-1- Mounder zone defense with long and quick passes which allowed them to score some points from long range and from the foul line as they outscored Elk Mound 11-10 in the second stanza. Strom committed his third foul midway through the quarter, resulting in a visit to the bench, but the Mounders were up 26-19 at the break.
Although the Mounders were not connecting from behind the arc, it appeared they could still put the hammer down when they pulled ahead 31-19 on a free throw and deuce by Doll and a Hanson layup. Doll then added a put back along with a pair of free throws but Arcadia continued to put points up in between and the Mounder lead was back to nine at 35-26 heading into the final quarter.
The Raiders’ leading scorer, Justin Thomas, nailed a trey to cut the lead to six before Strom scored on a put back after his own miss and Curry hit the boards and scored on his own missed shot for a 39-29 lead. Thomas drained another triple and his teammate hit a short jumper to get fans from both teams buzzing as the Mounder lead went down to five points with just over two minutes left in the game. But Arcadia missed on a three point attempt, then committed their seventh team foul, allowing Strom and Doll to finish the win off as they both hit a pair of free throws.
“Arcadia had a good game plan and I give them credit for running it very well,” coach Hahn said. “We missed a lot of shots, especially from long range and we had to make some changes because of foul trouble. But every one adjusted and did their job and we lived to play another game,” he added.
Doll finished with 17 points while Curry added 10 as the Mounders were 7 for 9 at the charity stripe and the Raiders were 3 for 5.
ELK MOUND (43) Doll 6-5-7-17, Curry 5-0-0-10, Strom 2-2-2-6, Gottschalk 2-0-0-4, Hanson 2-0-0-4, T. Nelson 1-0-0-2
ARCADIA (36) Thomas 6-2-2-19, K. Rangel 3-0-0-8, R. Hoesley 2-0-0-4, B. Lettner 1-1-2-3, Z. Prochinski 1-0-0-2
THREE POINTERS: Thomas 2, Lettner 1
You can expect the competition to get tougher as the tournament goes on as the Panthers, also from the Coulee Conference, came to town with a 16-7 record as the fourth seed. All indications were they wanted to play at a fast pace and the Mounders were kept on their toes as the teams traded baskets throughout the first six minutes of the game. Kohls started the Mounders off with a put back, Curry hit from the post twice, Doll came up with a swipe and a layup, Strom canned a short jumper after a Curry put back but the Mounders were only up 12-11. Curry dominated over his shorter but more muscular defender with another deuce, Doll rattled home a triple and Curry made a slick move as he pivoted around his defender for another bucket for a 19-15 first quarter lead.
The Mounders were making up for lost points from the previous game as they poured in 17 more in the second quarter but the foul bug hit them again as they committed their seventh with 3:13 to go in the half while the Panthers had only three.
After the Mounders pulled out to a 29-19 lead, West Salem went on a five point run before Curry assisted Kohls for a deuce. The Panthers countered with a pair of free tosses and Travis Nelson used a Curry screen to drive the lane for a bucket. With seven seconds left in the half and the ball in their hands, the Mounders were looking for a final shot. Bremer Bank must have been open in downtown Elk Mound as Nelson nailed a triple off the glass as the horn sounded for a 36-26 halftime lead.
“That shot by Travis was huge for us,” Hahn said. “It gave us some energy and momentum going into the second half.”
West Salem tried to keep up the quick pace but the Mounders were ready for it and responded quite nicely in the third quarter. Doll performed a drive and dish off to Gottschalk who drained a trey for a 43-28 lead and with four points from Curry, three by Doll and two from Kohls, the Mounder lead was 14 starting the final quarter.
Just eight minutes away from the long awaited regional title, the Mounders showed no mercy as they poured in 20 more points. A pair of free throws by Hanson midway through the quarter gave them a 20 point lead at 60-40, and a couple of Doll freebies, a muscle move by Curry, two free tosses by Nelson and a final exclamation point slam by Doll brought the fans to their feet where they remained while the Mounders collected their regional plaque.
“I thought we played really consistent tonight,” Hahn said. “We were back and forth with them early on but we remained patient and everyone kept their composure. We cut down on our fouls the second half which also helped. We are just happy to win after how hard these kids have worked.They all know their roles and they played focused tonight,” he added.
Curry collected 22 points on the night while Doll again came up with 17. The team was 13 for 16 from the foul line and the Panthers were 11 for 14. The fouls evened out throughout the contest as Elk Mound ended with 16 and the Panthers had 15.
Elk Mound will travel to La Crosse for the sectional semi final Thursday, March 6 to face La Crosse Aquinas. The winner will play Saturday at Eau Claire North.
ELK MOUND (68) Curry 10-2-2-22, Doll 6-4-6-17, Nelson 3-3-4-10, Kohls 4-0-0-8, Gottschalk 1-2-2-5, Hanson 1-2-2-4, Strom 1-0-0-2
WEST SOLEM (49) B. Williams 6-4-6-16, T. Schauf 2-1-2-6, T. Kastenschmidt 3-0-0-6, M. Harris 2-2-2-6, S. Miller 2-0-0-5, B. Thompson 1-2-2-4, G. Johnson 1-2-2-4
THREE POINTERS: Gottschalk 1, Doll 1, Nelson 1, Schauf 1, Miller 1