For the first eight minutes or so of its game against Westfield, Mauston could seemingly do no wrong on offense.
The Golden Eagles got off to a fantastic start, building a 31-13 lead eight minutes into the game thanks to hot shooting and fluid ball movement. Though things would inevitably cooled off, the early lead proved to be more than enough on their way to an 85-77 win Friday, Jan. 19 at Mauston High School.
In the early portions of the game, the Pioneers (6-7 overall, 2-4 South Central) played very aggressively on defense, switching to double team whoever the ball-handler was for Mauston (10-5, 5-1) at any given time. However, the Golden Eagles countered by continuously making the extra pass, leading to plenty of open looks.
Mauston made Westfield pay for its defensive aggression, knocking down its open looks and quickly building an 18-point lead.
“(Westfield head coach Lance Fritz) was trying to speed it up, trying to get the ball out of some of our guys’ hands,” Mauston head coach Gil Saylor said. “But we’ve grown pretty comfortable with that — next guy up, next guy go get it.”
The Golden Eagles’ hot-shooting eventually cooled off and the Pioneers ceased their aggressive double teams, but Mauston still took a 51-37 lead into the locker room at halftime. Junior guard Trevor Gallagher scored 14 points and junior point guard Joe Bauer added 12 for the Golden Eagles in the first half.
The second half was far more competitive, with Westfield finding offensive success in the post against Mauston’s smaller, guard-oriented lineups. After the Golden Eagles briefly bumped their lead back up to 17 early in the half, the Pioneers rallied to cut the deficit all the way down to 82-77 with 1:05 remaining.
However, Mauston sunk enough free throws and Westfield missed some shots in the final minute, allowing the Golden Eagles to hang on and win their sixth straight game.
“On one hand, I am happy — there are things that we did well in this game,” Saylor said. “But I didn’t feel like we played our best, and that’s what we’re always shooting for. So yeah, we were up and we were ahead of them, but I didn’t feel like we were playing our best. I thought our energy dipped, especially in the second half.”
For Mauston, sophomore guard Cade Hall scored a game-high 23 points, Gallagher finished with 17 points, Bauer added 15 points and junior shooting guard Kyran Fitzgerald chipped in 14 points of his own. Senior guard Doug Thompson Jr. scored 20 points, senior point guard Nick Brakebush put up 17 points and sophomore shooting guard Derek Drew and senior center Parker Peschel each had 12 points for the Pioneers.
Though things got more interesting late than one might have expected after the Golden Eagles’ sensational start, Westfield never led and never even got back within one possession after falling behind in the game’s opening minutes. This was a change of pace for a Mauston team who won its previous three games by a combined eight points, the most recent of which was a 68-66 victory over Reedsburg where the Golden Eagles won on a 3-pointer by Bauer at the buzzer.
“We’re growing. This is a growth part,” Saylor said. “As long as we can bounce back from the energy piece (of it), because the teams we want to beat, you can’t have that lapse. We’re not going to beat (Wisconsin) Dells with that lapse.”