MADISON — When the top four teams in all five divisions converge at the Kohl Center in Madison every March, you can expect most of the games to be close and exciting. Such was the case in the Division 3 game between Elk Mound and the Lodi Blue Devils when they met in the semi final game March 14. The Mounders were ranked anywhere from third to sixth in D3 most of the year and entered the game with just one loss while Lodi,making their third straight trip to state were ranked second and also had only one loss on the season. But too many missed opportunities on the offensive end along with turnovers at crucial times (one on a very questionable call late in the game) by the Mounders allowed Lodi to pull out a 50-47 overtime win.
To say the Blue Devils had trouble with Mounder post player Dexter Curry early in the game would be an understatement as Curry scored the first nine points for the Mounders. After falling behind 9-6, the Mounders Travis Nelson found Curry under the hoop for his fourth deuce and this time he added a free throw, as he knotted the score at 9-9, but Lodi scored after grabbing an offensive rebound to lead 11-9 after the first quarter.
Three pointers that fell all season for Elk Mound were not finding the mark as they failed to connect three times in that opening quarter as well as on their first two attempts to open the second. But Hunter Kohls broke the streak as he drained a trey for a 12-11 Mounder lead and Curry tipped in a ball off a Zac Doll assist to up the lead to three. Lodi’s John Hatch, who missed on two ally oop slam attempts in the first quarter finally put one in to close the gap but Curry dished the ball out to Kohls who dropped in a short jumper for a 16-13 lead. Lodi countered again but Doll came up with the play he is noted for as he swiped the ball and scored on a layup. Lodi had back to back one and outs on the offensive end but the Mounders, after securing the rebound, threw the ball right back to them resulting in a deuce for Lodi the second time. Another Elk Mound three pointer was off the mark resulting in Lodi taking a 19-18 lead on a shot in the paint.But Kohls was the man of the quarter as he nailed another trey from a Doll assist to take the lead back momentarily for the Mounders at 21-19. Another Lodi bucket in the lane knotted it again but it was like instant replay as Kohls drained another triple, this time getting the ball from Adam Gottschalk, and was fouled on the play. He didn’t make the free throw but after Lodi missed from behind the arc, the Mounders worked their end of the quarter magic when they took the ball with over a minute left, and after missing their initial shot with three seconds left, Gottschalk slid through the lane and scored on a put back to give the Mounders a 26-21 halftime lead.
Elk Mound failed to connect again on their first two triple attempts in the third stanza but this time it was Doll who snapped the streak as he banked one in from long range to increase the Mounder lead to 29-21. Lodi drained one of their own and after three more empty shots on two possessions, Doll found the hoop on a lob pass from Kohls for a 31-24 lead and Lodi closed the gap again on a deuce and a couple of free throws.Doll drove the lane and appeared to score but was called for a charge instead, but Austin Hanson came up with a steal which led to another Gottschalk bucket. After Lodi scored from close range again, Curry continued to dominate, dropping in another shot for a 35-30 lead. Lodi’s leading scorer Jordan Shea then came up with five points on a trey and a fast break layup which came off a Mounder turnover and with 1:03 left in the quarter it was knotted at 35-35. After yet another missed three point shot by Elk Mound, Shea took the ball end to end for a deuce and made the free throw to go with it, but another slick Nelson to Curry connection ended the quarter with the Mounders down by a single point 38-37.
“We didn’t do a very good job of understanding where Shea was,” Elk Mound coach Chris Hahn said. “A couple of times he was able to go off the dribble and get into the paint. Obviously, he is a phenomenal basketball player.”
Both teams had trouble finding the hole early in the fourth stanza as the Mounders came up empty on two possessions and the Blue Devils on three trips down court. Nelson finally found a space in the lane and drove for a deuce and a 39-38 Mounder lead which was countered by two Shea free tosses. Curry took a pass from the top of the key for two points, then a few seconds later hit two freebies for a 43-40 lead. Nelson forced a Lodi turnover and with 2:51 left, they tried to slow the tempo down. Nelson found what looked like another opening in the paint, but what seemed to be a little stumble resulted in a traveling call instead and Lodi’s Derek Paulson promptly took the ball down court and canned a triple for a 43-43 score. After another shot by a teammate was off the mark, Doll fought hard for two rebounds and finally put the ball in, but Shea showed why he will be playing college ball at the Division 1 level next year as he calmly knotted things again with two free tosses.The ball was in the Mounders hands with 25 seconds left and a timeout with seven seconds left allowed coach Hahn to set up a final shot. What looked like a picture perfect game winner by Nelson bounced off the rim however and the game went into OT tied at 45-45.
Curry dropped in another deuce on the Mounders’ second possession of the OT but Gable Smith drove the lane and scored and tacked on a free throw. After Nelson and Doll combined for a phenomenal save which could have been a devastating turnover, the Mounders missed three shots from close range and Lodi collected the rebound with 18 seconds left.The Mounders came oh so close to stealing the ball back but a foul was called instead and a couple of free throws by Smith put the Mounders in the hole down by three with eight seconds left. Hahn called a timeout to set up another play, but a smothering Lodi defense didn’t allow the Mounders to even see the basket, much less attempt to get a final shot off as Hatch was credited with a final block to end the game.
“We were trying to get a three pointer on the backside with Kohls but we didn’t reverse the ball fast enough,” Hahn said in the post game press conference. “I thought Lodi came up and pressured Doll really hard and he wasn’t able to skip pass the ball to him. We had a double screen set up on the weak side but we weren’t able to get the pass off.”
Curry, who led the Mounders with 21 points and 19 rebounds, accompanied Hahn to the press conference and had the chance to reflect on the game and the past year with his teammates.
“My teammates always knew how to find me,” he said. “I have to give a lot of credit to them.Today was a fun day and it was a once in a lifetime experience. We really brought the community together and I will never forget it. My teammates and I played a lot of summer ball to get to this point. We won the Altoona and Elk Mound summer leagues and played a lot of weekend tournaments. I played with a great group of guys and I wouldn’t change anything,” he added.
Kohls collected 11 points, four rebounds, two assists and a steal in the game,while Doll added nine points, three assists and a pair of rebounds and steals. Nelson led the Mounders in assists with four and grabbed three rebounds. Elk Mound, after connecting on almost 34% of their shots from three point land during the season, hit just 4 of 22 for 18% in the game and were 3 of 4 from the foul line. The Mounders out rebounded the Blue Devils 32-29 but had 10 turnovers compared to nine by Lodi. The team ended the season with a 25-2 record. (Lodi lost the state championship game 59-37 to Brown Deer the next day).
“It has been a great journey the past couple of years with these seniors,” coach Hahn said. “These guys have been great role models to all the younger students in our school and we are certainly going to miss all they have contributed to the school district and community. They have set the bar high and that should give our younger kids something to strive toward. It has been 20 years since our team played at state and our community really embraced the trip. I thought there was unbelievable excitement and I know there were many people, both students and from the community that traveled here for the game. As a coach, you are so happy to see the support these players deserve from this wonderful school and community,” he concluded.
LODI (50) Shea 8-5-5-22, D. Paulson 4-0-0-11, G. Smith 2-5-5-9, Hatch 3-0-0-6, L. Mulcahy 1-0-0-2
ELK MOUND (47) Curry 9-3-3-21, Kohls 4-0-1-11, Doll 4-0-0-9, Gottschalk 2-0-0-4, Nelson 1-0-0-2
THREE POINTERS: Kohls 3, Paulson 3, Doll 1, Shea 1