Bigger Eleva-Strum beats Elmwood at own game
EAU CLAIRE -- As three Eleva-Strum starters were all called for two fouls in the first quarter of Saturday's Division 4 boys basketball regional final against Elmwood, Head Coach Rich Roginski was faced with an obvious choice.
Instead of his traditional man-to-man defense, Roginski went to a 1-3-1 zone defense in the second quarter to keep those starters in the ballgame.
The strategy paid off as the Cardinals outscored Elmwood 25-5 in that quarter, fueling its 67-45 victory in front of a capacity crowd at Eau Claire Memorial.
"We don't use it much, but as you can see, we play it well," Roginski said, referring to the zone.
In that second quarter, the Raiders had fits with the zone as they only managed one field goal the last six minutes and were outscored 19-3 during that stretch.
"Hats off to Eleva-Strum," Elmwood Coach Jon Hinzman said. "They're big and aggressive and forced us out of our comfort zone."
Indeed as Elmwood, who came into Saturday's game averaging over 70 points, scored a season-low 45.
"Elmwood's an exciting team and very well-coached," Roginski said. "We had a ton of respect for them and their kids are class act on the floor."
Fouls were also a key factor for Elmwood as Cody Rose had to sit a significant portion of the first half as he picked up two early fouls. He was held scoreless in that half and ended up with six.
"It hurt us because Rose is super aggressive when attacking the basket," Hinzman said.
E-S went into halftime with a 36-21 lead, but Elmwood twice cut the lead into single deficits during the third quarter. However, Adam Walker hit a long two-pointer as the horn sounded, ending the quarter, stretching the Cardinal lead back to 11.
Eleva-Strum then put the game out of reach with a 21-10 fourth quarter.
All game long, Elmwood struggled from beyond the arc as it finished with only two three-pointers. Lucas Wolf, in particular, had a rough night as he was 1-for-9. He ended up leading Elmwood with 11 points as Michael Brunner tossed in 10.
Hinzman said he keep telling Wolf to keep shooting because "you're going to miss 100 percent of the shots you're not going to take."
After a scoreless first quarter, E-S' Jordan Petersen, one of those three starters who were in foul trouble, took off in the second as he scored nine points. He ended up with a game-high 19.
"He's very capable of stepping up when we need him to," Roginski said. "People in his generation wouldn't understand, but in my generation, he's our Jerry West."
Lance Rongstad chipped in with 18 points and nine rebounds, while Walker added 14.
For E-S, 22-1 overall, they'll next play Blair-Taylor Thursday at Osseo-Fairchild in a sectional semifinal with the tip-off set for. The sectional final is in Onalaska on Saturday.
Meanwhile, for the Raiders, who suffered their first loss after 22 victories, it's an unfortunate end to a memorable season that saw them win their first Dunn-St. Croix conference title since 1993.
"They have an awful good group of kids over there," Roginski said. "They've got a lot to be proud of."