Fresh off winning their first District 10 championship in 12 years, the Wilton-Wing Miners are looking for more postseason success this week in the Region 5 tournament.
The Miners got off to a good start on Tuesday, outlasting the Flasher Bulldogs 49-44 in quarterfinal round play at the Event Center. The game was tied at 42-42 with under a minute remaining, but Wilton-Wing took command with a 6-0 run that made it 48-42 with 21.2 seconds left.
It was the sixth straight victory for the Miners, who improved to 14-9.
“It’s been kind of a roller coaster ride for us, but it looks like we’re getting it all straightened out at the right time,” said Wilton-Wing senior Nick Backman, a 6-foot-5 forward who scored nine points, collected seven rebounds and blocked four shots. “We’re excited about winning the district tournament for the first time in a long time and now we’re hoping to keep the ball rolling. This was a tough opening game, but we fought through it, finished strong and put ourselves in the semifinals.”
Wilton-Wing won a region tournament game for the first time since 2014.
The Miners advanced to Thursday’s semifinals despite squandering an early 12-0 lead. They led 14-5 at the end of the first quarter, but the Bulldogs – the No. 4 team out of District 9 – chipped away at the deficit and pulled even at 25-25 on a Cody Ruscheinsky basket with 4:48 remaining in the third quarter. Ruscheinsky scored the first six points of the frame. Seventy-four seconds later, Brett Gabrielson swished a 3-point shot from the left baseline to give the Bulldogs a 28-25 lead.
Nick Backman said the Flasher comeback was no surprise.
“(The Bulldogs) are known for their scrappy play. They work really hard, they’re physical and they never give up,” he said. “I don’t know what happened to us after the first quarter. We started so well, but then we kind of lost it. But a lot of it was because of Flasher. They made it really hard for us to get back on track.”
The Miners carried a 29-28 lead into the final eight minutes after closing out the third quarter with a Tate Dickson basket and two Nick Backman free throws. The lead changed hands twice early in the fourth before a 3-pointer by Jaron Reis tied the score at 33-33 with 6:47 left.
Later, a Reis basket made it 39-39 with 2:53 remaining, and after Nick Backman scored three points over the next 1:10, Gabrielson drained his third 3-pointer of the game with 1:34 left to even things up at 42-42.
After a Wilton-Wing miss and a Flasher turnover, the Miners’ Slade Schatz sank a 15-foot jumper with 44 seconds remaining to start the decisive 6-0 run. Flasher’s next possession ended with Nick Backman blocking Hunter Frederick’s shot inside the paint, and with 30 seconds left, Tanner Miller netted a pair of free throws to make it 46-42.
Flasher turned it over eight seconds later, and Dickson finished off the run with two free throws.
“We made some big stops and at the other end we got to the line and made our free throws,” Nick Backman said. “We managed to put together a little run late, and it was enough.”
Dickson led the Miners with 19 points. Miller added 10 points and a team-high eight rebounds.
Frederick and Gabrielson tallied 14 and 13 points, respectively, for the Bulldogs.
Standing Rock 73, Underwood 47
The Standing Rock Warriors rode a strong start to a 73-47 victory over Underwood in the final quarterfinal round game of the day.
Andrew Brown scored 13 of his game-high 18 points in the first half as the Warriors – the No. 2 team out of District 9 – built a 36-24 lead. Seven players scored for Standing Rock, which led by as many as 15 points, 36-21.
“If we have a good start, we usually have a good game,” said Standing Rock coach Cyril Archambault. “Tonight we started well and stayed in control the rest of the game. We came ready to play and it showed.”
It was more of the same in the second half. Standing Rock led 44-32 before finishing off the third quarter on a 14-1 run that saw six Warriors score.
“It’s always nice to see so many of our players contribute,” coach Archambault said. “We try to get as many of our players into the game as possible, and we have confidence in all of them. They give 100 percent 100 percent of the time.”
The Warriors stretched the margin to 29 points, 62-33, early in the fourth quarter.
Trevor Kuntz and Riley Hodgkiss added 12 and 10 points, respectively, for the Warriors.
The Comets had three players score in double figures – Travis Reinbold 11, Kayden Hornberger 10 and Parker Christenson 10.
Standing Rock will play Wilton-Wing in Thursday’s late semifinal game. The two teams clashed on Feb. 6, with the Warriors winning 66-63.
“(Wilton-Wing) had a strong start in that one. I think they led by 20 points at one time but we came back and won the game,” coach Archambault said. “But that was then. It should be another tight game.”