MADISON — The Fort Atkinson prep boys basketball team controlled the paint Friday night.
Baraboo couldn’t do anything to move them, as the Blackhawks dominated inside on both ends of the floor to hand the Thunderbirds a 57-29 loss in the opening game of the Badger Challenge at Edgewood High School in Madison.
Baraboo’s zone defense forced the Blackhawks to put up 3-pointers, which they made only two of all night. But the first shot isn’t what killed the T-Birds, as Fort Atkinson grabbed 27 offensive rebounds to create numerous second-chance points.
“The fact that we kept them in the 50s while giving up 27 offensive rebounds... that was your game right there,” Baraboo head coach Tyler Fish said. “Between making contact, getting guys out (of the paint) and going up and getting it... we’re just struggling at doing that right now. It’s something we’re working on, we’ve just got to get tougher.
“They missed a lot of 3s. That was kind of our play coming in, we just couldn’t rebound the ball.”
It started right off the bat, as Greyson Wixom made a 3-pointer before a number of offensive rebounds brought Drew Evans to the free-throw line. The sophomore big man made them both to kick off a first half in which he controlled the paint to score 10 of his game-high 16 points.
Baraboo (3-11) was held scoreless for the opening 3 minutes, 50 seconds of action, a run that ended when Calvin Peterson hit a mid-range jumper to bring the T-Birds within 7-2.
Peterson added a free throw moments later, while Graham Langkamp assisted Jaykee Williams for a 3-pointer that cut the deficit to 12-6 with about 10 minutes remaining in the half. The T-Birds were held scoreless the rest of the way, as Fort Atkinson (2-11) forced them into jump shots that didn’t fall.
On the other end of the floor, Evans and the Blackhawks were dominating the glass to close the first half on a 16-0 run. Carson Baker scored inside in the closing seconds to give Fort Atkinson a 28-6 lead going into the locker room.
“We’re really struggling starting off games,” Fish said, noting his team shot just 2 of 23 from the field in the first half. “It’s kind of like, who’s going to come out and throw the first punch in the fight? They went on a 7-0 run to start the game and we struggled to score. ... We got some decent looks but couldn’t finish at the rim. Jump shots weren’t falling and we were kind of stagnant on offense at times.”
T-Birds adjusted on both ends of the floor in the second half. Gabe McReynolds scored inside, followed by a Peterson 3-pointer and a Max Koenig basket that brought Baraboo within 30-13. The T-Birds also showed different looks defensively, but could never cut into the deficit as Fort Atkinson held on for the wire-to-wire win.
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“We started pressing a bit, which gave us some energy,” Fish said. “It was just too much to overcome.”
The T-Birds made just 12 field goals and went 1 of 2 from the free-throw line. Peterson made two of Baraboo’s four 3-pointers to finish with 13 points. Koenig chipped in eight points, while Williams and Philipp each had three, and McReynolds finished with two.
Evans was the only player in double figures for a balanced Fort Atkinson team that also got seven points apiece from Wixom and Caleb Haffelder.
Baraboo fell to 3-4 in non-conference games, while both of Fort Atkinson’s wins this season have come against the T-Birds. The Blackhawks, who notched a 54-35 home win over Baraboo on Dec. 3, ended an 11-game losing streak by reaching the 50-point mark for just the second time in their last eight games.
The teams also met in the 2019 Badger Challenge, when Baraboo claimed a 49-46 win.
The T-Birds will return to Badger North Conference action Jan. 31 at Mount Horeb. Baraboo will look to avoid a season sweep, having suffered a 57-36 home loss to the Vikings on Dec. 10.
“Defensively, we’re just going to have to be ready to get tougher,” Fish said. “It starts in practice on Monday.”
Baraboo 6 23 — 29</&hspag4>
Fort Atkinson 28 29 — 57
BARABOO (fg ft-fta pts) — Williams 1 0-0 3, Koenig 4 0-0 8, Peterson 5 1-2 13, McReynolds 1 0-0 2, Philipp 1 0-0 3. Totals 12 1-2 29.
FORT ATKINSON — Fenner 1 0-1 2, Baker 3 0-0 6, Schweiger 1 0-0 2, Klingbeil 2 0-0 4, Haffelder 3 1-2 7, Wixom 3 0-0 7, Stiemke 2 0-0 4, Opperman 2 0-0 4, Kees 1 0-2 3, Evans 7 2-2 16, Encarnacion 1 0-0 2. Totals 26 3-7 57.
3-point goals: B 4 (Peterson 2, Williams 1, Philipp 1); FA 2 (Wixom 1, Kees 1). Total fouls: B 10, FA 6.