RANDOLPH — After a sluggish start, the Randolph boys basketball team found another gear late in the first half, and never looked back.
The top-seeded Rockets used a 12-2 run to finish the opening half en route to a 14-point halftime lead, and they were never seriously threatened the rest of the night, rolling to a 77-57 victory over No. 2 seed Deerfield in a Division 4 regional championship game at Randolph High School on Saturday night.
Randolph (22-3) got a team-high 25 points from junior Sam Grieger, while junior Travis Alvin chipped in with 20, leading a group of four Rockets in double figures.
Despite the 20-point cushion at the final buzzer, it wasn’t always clear sailing for the Rockets. After Randolph took an early 8-0 lead, Deerfield (5-6) kept things close. Sophomore Cal Fisher, who led the Demons with 25 points, scored buckets on back-to-back possessions to cut Randolph’s lead to 16-13 with 8 minutes, 44 seconds left in the first half.
Fisher’s putback with 3:10 left in the half cut the deficit to 23-19, but that was when the Rockets started to gain some steam. A second-chance bucket by Randolph junior Ben Nieman was the start of the 12-2 run to close the half. The run included a second bucket by Nieman and a layup by senior Brayden Haffele, who finished with 14 points for the Rockets.
The spurt also saw Randolph get two free throws from Grieger, who stepped to the line following a technical foul that was called on Deerfield coach Nick Krull.
Randolph head coach Tyler Fischer said it was a number of things that allowed his team to take control of the game late in the first half.
“I think getting stops and some big rebounds, and then executing on offense (were key),” Fischer said. “We had some decent looks there in the first half, we just didn’t finish very well. We just continued the same stuff and focused on being strong down low. It was physical and we needed to finish.”
Deerfield switched to a 1-3-1 zone defense in the second half, but that didn’t do much to slow the Rockets. A 9-0 run in the early moments of the second half, which started with a 3-pointer from Grieger and ended with a 3-pointer from Haffele, stretched Randolph’s lead to 44-23.
Deerfield did manage to cut Randolph’s advantage down to 53-43 with 8:19 to go, but senior Parker Kohn, who scored 10 points for the Rockets, got his team back on track with a layup that made it 55-43. The Rockets eventually opened up a 61-46 lead with 5:22 to play.
Fischer said Randolph did a good job of finding the open man against Deerfield’s zone.
“They went to a 1-3-1, so it kind of spread things out,” Fischer said. “I thought we were patient and got some decent looks out of it. We still didn’t execute like we needed to, but they got it done.”
Randolph’s playoff run comes nearly one year after last postseason was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Rockets had just defeated Monticello in a sectional semifinal game in Madison back on March 12, 2020, when they found out that they wouldn’t get to play for a berth in the state tournament.
Many of the players on last year’s team are back this year. And while Fischer says the subject of last season doesn’t come up often, this year’s team is glad to have another shot at a playoff run.
“We don’t talk about it a whole lot. It was on some of the seniors’ minds, I think, but with everything going on this year, I think they almost forgot about last year,” Fischer said. “But we do focus on that at least we’re playing. We got bumped up to D4 (this season), so we got a tough road to hold here, but we’re playing. We’re fortunate to have a playoff this year, and the guys are happy about that.”
RANDOLPH 77, DEERFIELD 57
DEERFIELD (fg ft-fta pts) — Tommy Lees 3 0-0 8, Clayton Mathwig 1 0-2 2, Cal Fisher 9 4-7 25, Collin Klade 2 0-1 4, Kalob Kimmel 0 2-2 2, Dayton Lasack 3 2-4 9, Martin Kimmel 2 1-2 5, Bene Lemke 1 0-0 2. Totals 21 9-18 57.
RANDOLPH — Parker Kohn 4 2-3 10, Jordan Tietz 1 0-0 2, Caden Spors 1 0-2 2, Sam Grieger 8 7-8 25, Brayden Haffele 4 5-8 14, Travis Alvin 9 2-3 20. Totals 29 16-25 77.
3-point goals: Deerfield 6 (Fisher 3, Lees 2, Lasack 1), Randolph 3 (Grieger 2, Haffele 1). Total fouls: Deerfield 17, Randolph 14. Fouled out: D (Klade).