Nate Abel is no slouch when it comes to scoring, more than evident in the fact he averaged 20.4 points per game over the first 20 games of the season.
The junior on Beaver Dam’s prep boys basketball team took it to another level in game No. 21 of the year.
Abel poured in a career-high 40 points, four more than his previous best of 36 earlier this season in a game against Reedsburg, to lead the host Golden Beavers to a 79-58 non-conference victory over Port Washington on Saturday night in the finale of the inaugural Badger Conference/North Shore Conference Challenge.
“Our guys did a good job of finding him,” Beaver Dam coach Tim Ladron said Sunday of Abel, who shot 54.2% (13-of-24) overall and 57.1% (8-of-14) on 3-pointers. “He had some really nice open looks early on out of our offense and he just kind of rode the wave the whole game.”
Abel also had nine rebounds while Broden Boschert had a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds.
Beaver Dam (9-12) led 41-31 at halftime and never took its foot off the gas following the break.
“Our tempo was really good again. We wore them down in the second half — played at the pace we wanted to play at against these guys,” Ladron said.
A big reason getting up and down the court in a hurry was so important is because Port Washington’s (3-17) roster is littered with players 6-foot-4 or taller and in fact only two of the Pirates are under 6 feet tall.
The size disadvantage on this night wasn’t an issue for the Golden Beavers as they were able to get out in transition early and often — scoring 24 points that way — in order to not let Port Washington’s height affect their rhythm on offense.
“Their smallest starter was bigger than our biggest starter, so we knew that tempo was really important for us,” Ladron said. “Our transition led us to some open shots and I thought our pressure gave them some problems — we rushed them into some shots that they didn’t want to take.”
No one other than Abel and Boschert scored in double figures but Ty Bunkoske had seven points and six rebounds, Brady Helbing had five points and five assists and Alex Soto had four points and four steals.
Despite giving up quite a bit in the height department, Beaver Dam still out-rebounded Port Washington 42-31. And the Golden Beavers won the turnover battle as well, 12-8.
Confidence is high for Beaver Dam right now, winners of two straight and 7-4 — a five-game winning streak provided the first five of those wins — in the last 11.
That comes after the Golden Beavers won just two of their first 10 games of the year, a trying start to the season to be sure.
But many of those losses were close losses and so coupled with playing better over the second half of the year, Beaver Dam was able to get a No. 8 seed — postseason seedings were determined over the weekend — and a home game against No. 9 seed West Bend East (7-14) in the WIAA Division 1 regional quarterfinals on March 3.
Much like Beaver Dam, East’s record doesn’t reflect how good the Suns can be.
“West Bend East is really talented. They showed it Saturday,” Ladron said of how the Suns blew out Mount Horeb (12-9) by the score of 83-62 in the first game of the Badger/North Shore Classic.
Regardless, Ladron is happy his team gets the chance to lace ’em up for one last game this season at the Beaver Dam High School fieldhouse.
“We get a home game for our kids, which is awesome,” he said. “Starting out the season 2-8, to think that we would get a home game in the playoffs would be maybe a stretch. That’s a positive for our kids.”
The seeding meeting was Saturday morning and the rest of the day only got better, with Beaver Dam’s win over Port Washington capping off what Ladron said was a very successful first Badger/North Shore Challenge.
West Bend West followed East’s win with a 70-67 overtime victory over Fort Atkinson and then Cedarburg defeated Oregon 66-47 before the Badger evened up the challenge — all six games took place at Beaver Dam — by winning the next three, with Monona Grove winning 51-49 over Slinger and DeForest winning 66-52 over Hartford to precede the Golden Beavers’ win.
“It was a great day of basketball — it was a lot of fun to be up there all day,” said Ladron, who along with assistant coach Chris Smith and team manager Andrew Wallace led the charge in conceiving the event and then getting it up and running. They even had to reschedule the whole thing when a predicted snowstorm on Jan. 11 forced it to be postponed, not an easy task considering they were non-conference games for all 12 teams involved.
The Golden Beavers return to action Thursday night when they head to Baraboo for their Badger North Conference finale.
BEAVER DAM 79, PORT WASHINGTON 58</&hspag3>
Port Washington 31 27 — 58
Beaver Dam 41 38 — 79
PORT WASHINGTON — (fgm ftm-fta pts): McKoy Jackson 7 4-6 20, Melka 3 0-0 6, Lippe 1 0-0 2, Lilly 4 0-0 11, Niehoff 2 0-0 4, Williams 0 0-2 0, Ross 4 0-0 10, N. Burmesch 2 0-0 5. Totals: 23 4-8 57.
BEAVER DAM — Broden Boschert 4 5-6 14, Brady Helbing 2 0-0 5, Alex Soto 2 0-0 4, Evan Sharkey 2 0-0 5, Ty Bunkoske 3 0-0 7, Nate Abel 13 6-7 40, Mason Ferron 1 0-0 2, Braxton Davis 1 0-0 2. Totals: 18 11-13 79.
3-pointers: PW 8 (Jackson 2, Lilly 3, Ross 2, Burmesch 1), BD 12 (Boschert 1, Helbing 1, Sharkey 1, Bunkoske 1, Abel 8). Total fouls: PW 11, BD 15. Fouled out: None.
Follow Dan on Twitter @Danny_Larson_8 or contact him at 920-356-6753.
Get in the game with our Prep Sports Newsletter
Sent weekly directly to your inbox!