WISCONSIN DELLS — Tempo can play a major factor in any game and it may be the biggest factor in the final result of Saturday’s WIAA Division 3 boys basketball sectional final between Wisconsin Dells and Prescott.
The Chiefs, who are making their first sectional final appearance since 2013, and Cardinals both feature an up-tempo style that could turn the game between the two teams into a shootout. Wisconsin Dells coach Brad Rohling knows that may not be the best thing for his team during the game in Menomonie.
“They might be a little bit better running than we are actually,” Rohling said. “I don’t know if we want to get into a running game with them.”
The top-seeded Chiefs (24-1) haven’t been able to get out and run much during their pursuit of their first trip to the state tournament since 2007. Wisconsin Dells edged Altoona 60-57 in the regional finals before holding off Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau 61-55 in Wednesday night’s sectional semifinal.
Rohling admitted that the Chiefs would like to run more and will see how things go in the early moments of the game. Even if successful, he knows they will still need to execute in the halfcourt.
“We have to make sure we run good offense and take care of the ball,” Rohling said. “We need to get it inside for sure; play inside-out, either through dribble penetration or post-ups.”
Rohilng believes that the Chiefs can be successful down low, creating mismatches with their taller post players. Senior Tanner Brandt, the team’s leading scorer at 18.1 points per game, stands 6-foot-7, while seniors Jackson Sveum (11.6 ppg) and Carter McCloskey are both 6-3.
Along with creating mismatches, Rohling knows that the Chiefs must keep possession off the ball.
“They put a lot of pressure on you in their halfcourt man defense, but if we can run offense, pass it and get ball reversals, we’ll be OK,” he said. “If we come down and have trouble getting into our offense and take quick, bad shots, then we’ll be in trouble.”
Defensively, Wisconsin Dells will have its hands full with the Cardinals (23-2) and their similar run-and-gun style. Prescott hasn’t lost to an in-state opponent this season and is averaging 77.3 points per game.
The Cardinals have scored 80 or more points 10 times this season, eclipsing the mark in the three of their last four games, including an 83-61 win over Middle Border Conference foe Ellsworth in Thursday’s sectional semifinal.
The catalyst for the Cardinals’ high-scoring offense is Peter Brookshaw. The 6-foot senior guard is averaging a team-high 30.1 points per game and has been held under 20 points just twice.
The North Dakota State University baseball recruit has made 83 3-pointers, shooting at a 42.8 percent clip from beyond the arc. Like Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau, the Cardinals are a strong 3-point shooting team with 214 combined made 3s this season.
Sophmore guard Parker Nielsen (16 ppg) and senior guard Joe Roosen (9.1 ppg) have combined to make 84 3-pointers. Rohling knows those players can hurt the Chiefs, but Brookshaw is the Dells’ chief concern.
“The whole key is him,” Rohling said. “We need to know where he’s at all times and keep him out of the lane for dribble penetration. All those things are easier said than done, but we’re going to try and make other kids try and beat us.”
While they have similar playing styles, the Chiefs and Cardinals’ recent playoff experience is very different. Wisconsin Dells is making its first sectional final appearance since 2013; Prescott is back in the sectional final for a fifth consecutive year. The Cardinals finished as the state runner-up last year and are looking for a third state trip in the last four seasons, but that doesn’t worry Rohling.
“I think they’re obviously playing with a lot of confidence, but so are we,” Rohling said. “It’s been a while since we lost a game and I think our kids are going to be confident, especially after beating a really good G-E-T team and having to win that one, instead of them lose it. We’ll be ready to play.”