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By Marlys Kruger
A pair of conference wins allowed the Mounder boys to head into the WIAA Division 3 basketball regional tournament riding a six game winning streak, which is just what a team wants.
After a blowout win over the short-handed Boyceville Bulldogs 80-25 Monday, February 8, in Boyceville, the Mounders returned home Thursday, February 11, to face a pretty solid Mondovi team but didn’t have much trouble with them, taking a 59-44 win in the regular season and conference finale.
Elk Mound finished the regular season with a 14-8 record and were 11-3 in Dunn-St. Croix action, one game behind champion Spring Valley. They began regional play by hosting Osseo-Fairchild Tuesday, February 16. A victory will send the third-seeded Mounders to St. Croix Falls to face the second-seeded Saints on Friday, February 19. The regional title game will be played on Saturday, February 20.
Due to some health issues,the Bulldogs didn’t have enough players for a junior varsity game, and didn’t have a whole lot of players for the varsity game either. It didn’t take long for the Mounders to wear them down and they held a 38-18 halftime lead. Elk Mound made five triples in the half, two from Ryan Bohl and it knocked down nine-of-12 free throws with Kaden Russo going four-for-four.
The triples kept falling in the second half with nine more by six players.
Ryan Bartig hit a pair to go with one in the first half, Ben Heath drained his second and third one and Bohl, Nate Lew, Brex Todd, Aiden Bartholomew, and Michael Jenson all had one. The Mounders finished 12-of-16 from the charity stripe on the night, led by Russo with a five-for-six performance. Heath was high scorer for the team with 17 points, Russo added 13 while Bohl, Bartig, and Lew all finished with 11 each.
“We played a solid game tonight,” coach Michael Kessler said, “Our boys really got out and created turnovers that led to buckets in transition. We also shot the ball really well in the second half,” he added.
The Buffaloes were on a pretty good roll having won seven of their last eight games, with the only loss coming against the high powered Fall Creek boys. Both the Mounders and Buffaloes were battling for second place in the Dunn-St. Croix Conference with three losses and both teams played a pretty solid 1-3-1 zone defense to help them get those wins.
Elk Mound figured out the best way to beat a zone was to shoot over it and they did just that.
Russo drained four triples in the first half and Bohl knocked down a pair while Heath drew several fouls on trips through the lane. He canned six free throws and the Mounders were up 33-22 at halftime.
“We did a nice job of forcing Mondovi into taking either contested shots or really deep three pointers,” coach Kessler said.
Elk Mound upped their lead to 20 points in the second half, forcing the Buffaloes to abandon their zone and go man-to-man with about eight minutes left. Bohl added two more shots from behind the arc and finished with 21 points on the night and Russo tied him for scoring honors by adding a couple of close range shots and a trio of free throws. Heath ended his night with 11 points including seven-of-eight from the foul line.
“We did a good job of attacking the basket in the second half,” Kessler said. “We were able to play with great patience and took advantage of their aggressive man-to-man defense,” he added.
All told, the Mounders connected for nine treys on the night and shot 82 percent from the charity stripe making 14-of-18 shots. Mondovi dropped in eight triples and shot six-for-nine from the stripe. Three players scored nine points each.