Style points matter little this time of year. And as far as Beaver Dam’s prep boys basketball team is concerned, that’s a good thing.
It is after how things unfolded against Milwaukee Madison, at least.
The second-seeded Golden Beavers saw their 18-point lead with 5 minutes, 20 seconds remaining crumble down to four only to put the life jacket on just in time and float to a 79-72 win over the seventh-seeded Knights in a WIAA Division 2 regional semifinal game Friday night at Beaver Dam High School.
The Golden Beavers (16-7) survived against the Knights (13-9). Now they get to advance.
“That’s all we’ve been saying all week,” said junior guard Cade Ferron, who led the way with 20 points and also had four rebounds. “And we’re just playing for the seniors right now. We have to play every possession like it’s our last, and to be able to play like this today and help them keep our season going, it’s just awesome.”
He played a big part — not just by scoring, either. As the team’s primary ball handler, it was Ferron who was tasked with the lion’s share of the work in trying to quell Madison’s frantic pressure down the stretch.
“You’ve just got to stay calm and keep your composure. We’ve been in games like this earlier (in the year) and the pressure’s no different, so we just played as a team and finished it out,” he said.
Beaver Dam went in front 61-45 with 7 minutes remaining on 6-foot-5 junior Marshal McGauley’s emphatic slam dunk, extended the lead to 18 when Dillon Livingston made a pair of free throws with 6:25 to go, and still led by 18 with 5:20 left following a bucket by Kyle Gable.
But then things started to unravel a bit as the Knights turned up the pressure and eventually got within four at 73-69 on a basket by Terrell Brown with a little under a minute to go.
That’s when Ferron got to the line and made a pair of free throws to make it 75-69, and the Knights came up empty on the ensuing possession despite getting two field goal attempts.
The rally was dead. The Golden Beavers hearts could stop racing.
“(The Knights) hit some shots and we put them on the line a little too much there at the end, but we made a couple quick adjustments defensively and I thought our guys responded well,” Beaver Dam coach Tim Ladron said. “That was not just a physically tough game but a mentally tough game, so I’m proud of our guys for withstanding it and getting through it.”
Ferron wasn’t alone in helping guide Beaver Dam to the regional finals tonight against third-seeded Glendale Nicolet ( 14-9) — he also got big assists from Livingston, Gabel, Justin Douma, and Connor Cullen.
Livingston nearly had a triple-double with 19 points, 10 rebounds, and eight assists; Gabel and Douma both played through ankle injuries that held them out of the previous two games and provided 14 points and seven points, respectively; and Cullen also flirted with a triple-double at nine points, seven rebounds, and seven assists.
“Those two guys certainly aren’t 100 percent and they gave us everything they’ve got,” Ladron said. “Both of those guys are seniors and they don’t want to go out; it would have been tough to keep those guys off the floor tonight.”
Said Gabel of coming up big after having to sit and watch because of the injury, “I just felt fresh and ready to go, and today’s atmosphere here was just amazing.”
It was indeed a lively crowd, and the adrenaline was pumping early and often on the court as well as McGauley and the Knights’ 6-3 freshman forward Kyran Gaines were both whistled for technicals on the same play after getting a little chippy in the opening minutes.
Beaver Dam had good reason to try and rattle Gaines a little bit, though, as he came in averaging 24.0 points and finished with 29 in this one.
“There’s no question he was a focal point for us. He got 16 free throw attempts tonight — he was a 15-of-16 from the line — so we obviously put him there too much,” Ladron said. “We were maybe a little too amped up … to try and take him out of the game. But give him credit, he played a great game. We did just enough (against him).”
The Golden Beavers did just enough, period.
And so they live to fight another day.
“Tomorrow night’s going to be a difficult one; Nicolet is very similar to Madison — more length, more athleticism than them — so we’ll have to play well,” Ladron said. “But watching us tonight, we’ve got a lot more (to offer). We can play better than we did tonight.
“But it’s tournament time and it’s survive and advance mode — and we did enough to advance.”
BEAVER DAM 79, MILWAUKEE MADISON 72
Madison 27 45 — 72
Beaver Dam 30 49 — 79
MADISON (72) — Terrell Brown 4, Tonnie Gregory 10, Brandon Leach 15, DeAnthony Johnson 9, Tanerrion Morgan 72, Kyran Gaines 29. TOTALS (FGM FTM-FTA PTS): 17 29-35 72.
BEAVER DAM (79) — Cade Ferron 20, Dillon Livingston 19, Kyle Gabel 14, Connor Cullen 9, Adam Bird 5, Justin Douma 7, Marshal McGauley 5. TOTALS (FGM FTM-FTA PTS): 24 23-33 79.
3-pointers: Madison 9 (Tonnie Gregory 1, Brandon Leach 2, DeAnthony Johnson 1, Tanerrion Morgan 1, Kyran Gaines 4), Beaver Dam 8 (Cade Ferron 4, Dillon Livingston 1, Connor Cullen 1, Adam Bird 1, Justin Douma 1). Total fouls: Madison 26, Beaver Dam 22. Fouled out: Madison — Brandon Leach, DeAnthony Johnson. Beaver Dam — Connor Cullen.