PRAIRIE DU SAC — Shooting can be contagious and the Baraboo boys basketball team couldn’t do anything to slow it on Tuesday night.
The 11th-seeded Thunderbirds ran into a sixth-seeded Sauk Prairie team that got hot and cruised to a 72-45 home win over Baraboo in a WIAA Division 2 regional quarterfinal game.
“They got kind of whatever they wanted on offense and they hit shots,” Baraboo coach Darrin Berger said after the season-ending loss. “We had a hard time guarding them off the dribble. We tried to do some zone stuff and they screened us a little bit in the zone to get some 3-point shots. It’s a tough matchup if we’re having a hard time keeping guys in front of us and they’re hitting shots from the outside.
“Good offense by them and we weren’t quite good enough on defense.”
Despite three early 3-pointers from Sauk Prairie’s Carson Radl, the game was tied at 11 after Baraboo’s Connor Grogan made a layup with a little over 9 minutes remaining in the first half.
Baraboo (4-19) trailed the rest of the way, as Sauk Prairie (13-10) went on a 19-2 run to open up a 30-13 lead on a Jacob Vieth 3-pointer. Elijah Jorgenson carried the Eagles through the middle of the run, taking over where Radl left off and hitting a pair of 3-pointers and a mid-range jumper to give Sauk Prairie a 23-13 lead.
“We talk all the time about how shooting is contagious,” Sauk Prairie coach Levi Massey said. “When you make shots more guys feel comfortable taking shots because they see the ball go through (the net) and they see an opportunity for them. When you miss shots it’s also contagious. So Carson has big shoulders, steps up and takes those shots and it gave opportunities for other guys to feed off that rhythm.”
Sauk Prairie eventually took a 32-17 lead into halftime behind 11 points for Radl and eight points for Jorgenson. The Eagles also forced Baraboo into tough shots, as the T-Birds made just 3 of 15 3-point attempts in the first half.
Radl didn’t cool off at halftime, scoring the first six points of the second half with a pair of 3-pointers that gave the Eagles a 38-17 lead.
Mason Peterson and Justus Neuman did what they could to keep Baraboo in the game. The seniors each hit a pair of second-half 3-pointers as they each scored 10 second-half points.
“In the second half we had a stretch where we managed to do some good things,” Berger said of the offensive effort. We had a run in the first 12 minutes of the second half where offensively did some pretty good things.”
However, Sauk Prairie was too efficient on the offensive end of the floor. The closest the T-Birds got was when Neuman ripped away an offensive rebound and made a free throw to cut the deficit to 40-28 with 12:36 remaining.
Sauk Prairie responded by taking it inside, going to Spencer Breunig on three consecutive possessions before Spencer Kostroski found Jack Henderson inside to give Sauk Prairie a 48-28 lead and force a Baraboo timeout with 10:14 to go.
“Spencer made some great plays off the dribble that got us some easy baskets, and that momentum of those baskets at the rim makes the baskets even bigger when it’s going through in those tight spots,” Massey said.
Baraboo responded with 3-pointers from Austin Burkhalter, Peterson and Grogan but the T-Birds couldn’t get the stops they needed to get within striking range.
Sauk Prairie continued to pull away and claimed a 72-45 win to sweep the season series with Baraboo, also notching a 56-45 road win on Jan. 9 and a 63-39 home win on Feb. 16.
“Basketball is basketball,” Massey said of playing a team three times in one season. “We focus so much on ourselves and how we need to play. We do scouting reports and we go through those things, but for us it’s like, ‘what are the things we need to be good at? What are the things we control? Let’s control those and then react to those other intangibles that we don’t control. We controlled all of the things we needed to control to create momentum.”
Baraboo’s four seniors combined to score 43 of the T-Birds’ 45 points. Peterson led the way with 18 points, while Neuman added 12, Burkhalter had eight and Grogan chipped in five.
“Those guys played a lot of games,” Berger said. “They played for three years and did some good things. It’s going to be really different without them. Every game, every practice, every workout for all three years that I’ve been in Baraboo have been with those guys. So it’s going to be different, for sure.”
Radl made five of Sauk Prairie’s 10 3-pointers on the way to scoring a game-high 19 points.
“They played a ton of zone tonight,” Massey said. “Early for us, it was just getting into that rhythm of where they’re at and where they’re gonna be. But Carson’s a zone killer from the outside when he gets a spot where he can set his feet and shoot.”
Breunig and Jorgenson added 14 points and 10 points, respectively, for the Eagles.
The Eagles knocked the T-Birds out of regionals for the third straight year, also earning home wins over Baraboo in the opening round of the 2016 and 2017 postseason. Baraboo hasn’t won a playoff game since earning a 63-62 regional final win over Watertown in 2009.
The Eagles will look to keep their momentum going after closing the regular season in a rough stretch, losing seven of their last nine games since their nine-game winning streak ended in late January.
Sauk Prairie will visit third-seeded DeForest (14-8) on Friday. Sauk Prairie split with DeForest during the regular season, earning a 56-46 win at DeForest on Dec. 1 and suffering a 64-52 home loss to the Norskies on Jan. 23. Friday’s winner will advance to take on second-seeded Stoughton or seventh-seeded Monroe in Saturday’s regional final.
“We won at DeForest earlier in the year, so our guys can be confident in the fact that that’s not an impossible feat for us,” Massey said. “That’s something that we’ve done already this season with the guys that we have on this team.”
SAUK PRAIRIE 72, BARABOO 45
Baraboo 17 28 — 45
Sauk Prairie 32 40 — 72
BARABOO — M. Peterson 7 0-0 18, Neuman 4 2-3 12, Grogan 2 0-0 5, Burkhalter 3 0-0 8, Blum 1 0-0 2. Totals 17 2-5 45.
SAUK PRAIRIE — Spray 1 0-0 2, Radl 7 0-0 19, Evert 1 2-2 4, Jorgenson 4 0-0 10, Kostroski 1 2-2 4, Vieth 3 0-0 8, S. Breunig 7 0-0 14, Hertzfeldt 1 0-0 2, Henderson 3 0-0 6, Rothmann 1 0-0 3. Totals 29 4-4 72.
3-point goals — B 9 (Peterson 4, Neuman 2, Burkhalter 2, Grogan 1), SP 10 (Radl 5, Jorgenson 2, Vieth 2, Rothman 1). Total fouls — B 10, SP 9.