ELROY — In the first half of their matchup of two of the Scenic Bluffs Conference’s top teams, Royall and Bangor went blow for blow. Early in the second half, the Cardinals served a reminder why they might be the favorites to win the Division 5 state title.
Bangor (8-0 overall, 4-0 Scenic Bluffs) used a 12-0 run to start the second half to help power its way past the Panthers (6-2, 2-2) 66-56 and remain unbeaten Tuesday, Jan. 9 at Royall High School. The Cardinals are the top-ranked Division 5 team in the Wisconsin, while Royall is currently ranked No. 3 in the state.
Though the Panthers were the underdogs coming into the matchup, they led throughout much of the first half, taking advantage of some uncharacteristic missed baskets at close range from Bangor.
Royall led by as much as six on a couple of occasions in the first half, thanks in no small part to the hot hand of Jaydyn Enzenbacher. The senior guard finished the night with a game-high 20 points, including going 5 of 8 from 3-point range.
Enzenbacher splashed several big threes in the first half and senior forward Tristan Welchlin added a breakaway dunk as the Panthers roared out to the lead. Though the Cardinals fought back and tied the game late in the half, Royall senior small forward Seth Brown corralled an offensive rebound off a missed free throw and made a putback basket to give the Panthers a 30-28 lead at halftime.
However, the tides would turn quickly early in the second half.
Bangor stormed out to a 12-0 run to start the half, quickly turning a two-point deficit into a 10-point lead.
Royall was stuck playing in catch-up mode the rest of the way.
The Panthers did use an 8-0 run at one point to whittle an 11-point deficit down to three in the latter stages of the game, but the Cardinals responded with a bucket, a defensive turnover and another bucket to push their lead back to seven and essentially secure the victory.
In addition to Enzenbacher’s 20 points, Welchlin and Brown added 12 points apiece as well for the Panthers. Meanwhile, for Bangor, senior guard Luke Reader led the way with 19 points, sophomore forward Grant Manke finished with 17 points and 13 rebounds for a double-double, senior guard Caleb Miedema scored 11 points and senior guard Drew Johnson chipped in 10 points.
Royall head coach Scott Uppena was pleased with his team’s overall effort, especially in the first half.
“We came out with energy, we were focused and all those things,” he said. “And still — it was a good half, it wasn’t a great half. There were still some things we cleaned up and we came out in the second half, and we were a little flat, which to me is a mental thing, not a physical thing. You can’t have those types of situations against a team that’s ranked number one in the state.”
Though Royall went toe-to-toe with the top Division 5 team in the state of Wisconsin, its slow start to the second half and a slew of unforced turnovers proved to be too much to overcome. The Panthers turned the ball over 21 times, compared to just 10 turnovers for the Cardinals.”
“(Twenty-one) turnovers against a team like that, you’re not going to win most of those games,” Uppena said. “We had (the deficit) down to three with about two minutes left to go, and we lost our composure. We started playing as individuals where we have to come together as a team and take great shots, not forced shots.”
Despite the disappointing loss, Uppena believes his senior-laden group can take a look at what went wrong and learn from it as they head into the second half of the season.
“We’re a senior-dominated team,” Uppena said. “The problem is most of the really good teams in the conference and in our area are also senior-dominated. So our time is now. There’s nothing to build toward for next year with this group (of seniors). The time is now for them, so they have to step back and evaluate, figure out where we can get better, start trusting each other a little bit more and then move to that next level.”