WISCONSIN DELLS — The Lodi boys basketball team has faced a pair of stiff tests this season in match-ups against ranked Division 2 opponents DeForest and Reedsburg.
The Blue Devils were presented with another ranked test Tuesday night in the form of Wisconsin Dells, ranked No. 6 in the Associated Press Division 3 poll, but again they were unable to come out on top, suffering a 51-43 loss in a non-conference game at Wisconsin Dells High School.
Lodi junior Trey Traeder scored a team-high 16 points, including four 3-pointers, to lead the Blue Devils in a fifth consecutive loss to the Chiefs.
“We just have to be better. They’re a good team and I tip my hat to them; they made more plays than we did and were able to finish the deal,” Lodi coach Mitch Hauser said.
“We’ve been in tight games and we’ve been tested, but when we’ve been in those tight games we have yet to pass the test. That’s what we’re looking for.”
Lodi (7-3) hung right with the Chiefs in the first half and ultimately took a 23-22 lead into the break. The tide didn’t take long to turn however, as Wisconsin Dells (11-1) opened the second half on a 9-0 run for a 31-23 lead with 13 minutes, 40 seconds left to play.
The Blue Devils battled back to within 33-30 on a pair of free throws by junior Quinn Faust at 11:10, but they never got any closer. Wisconsin Dells answered with a 7-2 spurt, started by consecutive layups from seniors Brett Hirst and Dylan Nevar before senior Sam Millard buried a corner 3-pointer for a 40-32 lead with 5:40 remaining.
Senior Jack Persike kept the Blue Devils close, converting a three-point play on Lodi’s ensuing possession to pull with 40-35, but again Wisconsin Dells answered. Millard, who had a game-high 18, canned an extra-pass triple before senior Bryson Funmaker got a layup to fall for a 45-35 lead with 3:00 left.
Lodi had its chances during the stretch, but turned the ball over once and failed to capitalize on a Chiefs’ giveaway.
“I say ‘pretty good is good enough to get you beat,’ and that’s where we’re at right now,” Hauser said. “We’re not ready to take one from a good team like this on the road and it’s disappointing.”
Traeder cut the lead back to single-digits with 2:35 to go on a 3-pointer from the right corner and brought the Blue Devils within 47-43 with 30 seconds left, but Lodi couldn’t get all the way home. Hirst hit a pair of free throws with 26.4 seconds remaining and Millard added a reverse layup in the waning seconds to put the game on ice.
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Lodi had its chances in the final minutes but came up empty on three of its final four possessions. While Hauser admitted the Blue Devils found success, especially defensively, holding the Chiefs to their lowest point total since Nov. 30, the Lodi offense still needs improvement.
“At times (we executed) but we don’t communicate on offense; we had wasted possessions and we just have to get tougher,” he said. “I just don’t think we’re where we need to be offensively in terms of playing as a unit and in terms of communication.”
Lodi’s offense looked cohesive late in the first half when it took a one-point lead into halftime. After a jumper by Millard put the Chiefs up 19-12, the Blue Devils closed the half on an 11-3 run, finished off by five straight points by junior Caydon Coddington.
Things don’t get any easier for the Blue Devils, who open Capitol North Conference play on Thursday with a road trip to rival Poynette.
“We call this our ‘second season’, and clearly our focus will be on turning the page and growing from whatever setbacks we had tonight,” Hauser said.
WISCONSIN DELLS 51, LODI 43
Lodi 23 20 — 43
Wisconsin Dells 22 29 — 51
LODI (fg ft-fta pts) — Traeder 6 0-0 16, Q. Faust 0 2-2 2, Codington 3 0-0 7, Richards 2 0-0 6, Persike 4 1-1 9, Parsons 1 1-2 3. Totals 16 4-5 43.
WISCONSIN DELLS — Hirst 5 5-6 15, Millard 7 1-2 18, Funmaker 3 0-0 7, Eck 1 0-1 3, Nevar 2 4-4 8. Totals 18 6-13 51.
goals: L 7 (Traeder 4, Richards 2, Codington 1); WD 5 (Millard 3, Eck 1, Funmaker 1). Total fouls: L 14; WD 14.
Follow Sean Davis on Twitter @SDavis_PDR or contact him at 608-745-3512.