Zone defense. Man-to-man defense. Full-court press. Different rotations. More minutes for players off the bench.
Beaver Dam coach Tim Ladron tried everything. Nothing worked.
Glendale Nicolet was simply a riddle too difficult to solve.
The third-seeded Knights shot the lights out and harassed the second-seeded Golden Beavers into a poor shooting performance on the other end, resulting in a 63-41 win for visiting Nicolet Saturday night in a WIAA Division 2 boys basketball regional championship game played.
It just wasn’t the Golden Beavers’ night.
“It wasn’t,” Ladron said. “They are very, very good, and we knew that coming in. Our guys battled, but we didn’t shoot the ball very well, obviously, and they started knocking down some shots.
“And that made it obviously tough on us — with that lead, they forced us to come out and get them a little bit more (in the full-court press). That was a big gamble, but I’m awfully proud of (my team).”
It was an uphill battle for Beaver Dam (16-8) all night long against Nicolet (15-9), which seems to be hot at the right time of year having won four straight following losses in three of its previous four.
The Knights certainly were on fire Saturday. And almost every one of the eight 3-pointers they hit seemed to be doubly damaging, not only adding to their side of the ledger but simultaneously snuffing out what little momentum Beaver Dam managed to snare.
“They’re so athletic and big and then when their guards shoot the way they did tonight — we knew that was possible, but we were hoping that wouldn’t be the case,” Ladron said. “I didn’t think we played a terrible game — I thought we played hard; I thought we did a lot of good things — we just couldn’t knock down shots. And they outplayed us.”
Beaver Dam’s only lead of the game came in the first few minutes when Dillon Livingston’s layup made it 8-6.
After that, though, David Rosengarden and Jeremy Ninham hit 3s and Jacob Polan canned a pair from beyond the arc, providing 12 of Nicolet’s points during a 14-4 run that gave the Knights a 20-12 lead with 7 minutes, 47 seconds left in the half. They led 28-20 at the break.
Despite the deficit, Ladron felt OK about his team’s chances.
“I was happy with the pace at the time,” he said. “It was one of the few games this year where we didn’t have anybody in foul trouble, especially (starters) Connor (Cullen) and Dillon, so I felt good — I thought we were in good shape.”
Unfortunately for Beaver Dam, however, Sonny Phinisee hit a straight-on 3 a minute and a half into the second half and Nicolet went on a 19-6 run over the first 8 minutes after the break to blow things wide open at 47-26.
The Golden Beavers endured a high-scoring, up-and-down-the-court affair in the regional semifinals a night earlier and still were without team-leading scorer Sam Wilke because of injury, so Ladron did all he could to try to preserve his team’s energy and hide its shortcomings.
But down 21 and with the season on the brink, all he could do was put the pedal to the metal and hope the car had enough gas in the tank to chase the Knights down.
“We knew coming in, a track meet for us against these guys, with the state we’re at right now, wasn’t probably where we wanted to be,” Ladron said. “They sort of forced us into that in the second half — we had to do it, and it just wasn’t enough.”
The loss Saturday closed a historic two-year run for seniors Livingston, Cullen, Wilke, Justin Douma, Kyle Gabel and Kyle Gebhardt, who last year helped the Golden Beavers to their first conference title since 1998 and a program-record single-season win total of 23 and this year made lemonade after a 2-3 start to the regular season and 0-3 start in conference by winning 11 of their final 15 games — including four of their final six without Wilke and the 17.8 points per game he was averaging.
“This is the most resilient group that I’ve coached,” Ladron said. “It’s tough (for it to end) because they’ve played hard. The way we started, the injury bug, all the other issues — they had a heck of a year. I couldn’t be more proud of our guys.
“They played awfully hard tonight. It just wasn’t our night.”
NICOLET 63, BEAVER DAM 41
Nicolet 28 35 — 63
Beaver Dam 20 21 — 41
NICOLET (63) — Jeremy Ninham 3, Jack Brahm 14, Jacob Polan 8, Jordan McJimpsey 7, Jamari Sibley 15, Sonny Phinisee 7, David Rosengarden 9. TOTALS (FGM FTM-FTA PTS): 22 11-21 63.
BEAVER DAM (41) — Broden Boschert 6, Dillon Livingston 11, Kyle Gabel 7, Connor Cullen 9, Justin Douma 6, Marshal McGauley 2. TOTALS (FGM FTM-FTA PTS): 16 5-8 41.
3-pointers: Nicolet 8 (Jeremy Ninham 1, Jack Brahm 1, Jacob Polan 2, Sonny Phinisee 1, David Rosengarden 3), Beaver Dam 4 (Broden Boschert 2, Connor Cullen 2). Total fouls: Nicolet 12, Beaver Dam 20.