Elmwood survives and adavnces to sectional finalsThe grit and guts of the Elmwood High School boys' basketball team was on display again for the second tournament ballgame in a row.
NEILLSVILLE - The grit and guts of the Elmwood High School boys' basketball team was on display again for the second tournament ballgame in a row.
Trailing by seven at halftime and again throughout the third quarter, the No. 1 seeded Raiders outscored No. 3 Cochrane-Fountain City 25-17 in the fourth quarter for a 55-51 WIAA Division 5 sectional semifinal win Thursday.
It was only a few nights before the Raiders rallied from seven points down in the last three minutes of the ballgame to win the regional title over Eelva-Strum in overtime and once again they rallied to finish strong after a slow start.
"The kids mental toughness now is so well developed because they've played through games where they were forced to respond in order to win and they did so," Elmwood head coach Chris Segerstom said. "If you're a confident team, you're going to be a tough team and that's what we've shown the past two games."
EHS, 22-4 overall, will play the No. 1 seed in the other half of the sectional bracket, No. 8 ranked Royall, 23-3 overall, Saturday afternoon at La Crosse Logan High School starting at 1 p.m. The Panthers dispatched No. 10 ranked Cassville, 22-4 overall, 61-56 last night in Reedsburg in the other sectional semifinal.
Elmwood led 14-13 after the first quarter but had a hard a very time adjusting to the speed and quick first steps of C-FC's guards, senior Parker Lyga and junior Cale Lisowski. They repeatedly tore through Elmwood's defense either on the press or through dribble penetration in the half-court. Even Elmwood's size wasn't enough early on as the Pirates sped past them for rebounds. Their quick hands also forced several EHS turnovers, especially in the first half. It didn't help Elmwood's cause when one of the team's top defenders, senior guard Eli Fredrickson, was on the bench in foul trouble. The Raiders were able to get into the bonus in the first half but shot a miserable 1-for-6 from the free-throw line.
The end result was 12-4 second quarter margin in favor of the No. 3 seeded Pirates, 19-7 overall, and a 25-18 halftime lead. Lyga finished with 16 points to lead C-FC in scoring.
But what happened for the Red and Black Attack - and what needs to happen for any basketball team to make a tournament run - is other players stepped up when call3ed upon. In EHS's case, senior Tom LaFlex scored 11 points and senior David Rhy filled Fredrickson's role on defense.
"It hurt not having Eli in the game but we were able to offset it," Segerstrom commented after the game. "Tom hit some big shots for us and David was huge for us on defense."
Elmwood made good use of their height advantage in their comeback. Cochrane-FC, who didn't have a player bigger than 6-3 on the roster, simply could not stop Elmwood's 6-5 athletic center Kyle Webb from scoring at will inside when he got the ball, either off passes from teammates or off rebounds. Webb finished with a double-double 19 points and 19 rebounds.
"Give them (C-FC) a lot of credit, they play really good defense," Webb said. "We just took advantage of the match-ups which favored us when we had the chance and my teammates set me up really well," Webb said.
Elmwood whittled the deficit down to 34-30 at the end of the third quarter and took control in the fourth, outscoring Cochrane-Fountain City 25-17.
A pair of three-pointers by LaFlex tied the game at 36-36 and a basket by Webb put the Red and Black in front to stay. C-FC hung around to the end trailing only 52-51 with :26.4 seconds to play. EHS stayed in front with made three-throws by Wolf and Jones. The Raiders also forced a critical turnover by Lyga with the Pirates down two with less than 15 seconds to go with a chance to tie or take the lead.
Seth Jones got in on the act for the Raiders by scoring the bulk of his nine points in the final eight minutes along with having a team-high five assists. EHS was able to win despite having leading scorer Logan Wolf held to just nine points for the first time since a win over Plum City back on Jan. 18. Despite a less-than-stellar free-throw stat of 14-for-26 for the ballgame, EHS was accurate when they needed to be, 11-for-15 in the fourth quarter. Elmwood also held C-FC to just one three-pointer on 1-of-17 shooting.
Elmwood will now play for its first trip to the state tournament since 1996.