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PREP BOYS BASKETBALL: Wisconsin Dells fends off feisty Adams-Friendship, wins fourth straight regional title
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PREP BOYS BASKETBALL | WISCONSIN DELLS 53, ADAMS-FRIENDSHIP 48

PREP BOYS BASKETBALL: Wisconsin Dells fends off feisty Adams-Friendship, wins fourth straight regional title

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There may not be a better way to define the grind that is postseason basketball than Jim Valvano’s “survive and advance.”

It’s become synonymous with teams’ playoff hopes crashing and burning, or thriving and staying alive. The Wisconsin Dells boys basketball team felt the latter Saturday night, as the top-seeded Chiefs endured a late comeback by rival Adams-Friendship to claim a 53-48 win in a WIAA Division 2 regional final on Jack B. Olson Court at Wisconsin Dells High School.

Senior Barrett Witt scored a team-high 18 points, helping power the Chiefs to a fourth straight regional championship.

“It’s really cool and something really cool to be a part of,” Wisconsin Dells senior Matt Hoving said. “Playing with these guys for the longest time, it’s just playing with my brothers. I love it.”

There was no love lost between the pair of South Central Conference rivals in their first postseason meeting since a 2017 Div. 3 regional final. The competitiveness was especially apparent as the No. 3 Green Devils (13-12) came roaring back down the stretch.

After trailing by as many as 18 points after a Brooks Slack 3-pointer made it 41-23 with 11 minutes, 30 seconds left to play, Adams-Friendship found its footing. The Green Devils slowly chipped away and ultimately clawed within two at 50-48 on a left wing 3-pointer by senior Caleb Hamilton with 10 seconds remaining.

Hoving made sure Adams-Friendship couldn’t get the lead, however, springing free on the ensuing press break and getting a layup to fall before finishing the old-fashioned three-point play with 3.6 seconds to go.

“I was like ‘Man, I want to dunk this right now, but we just have to score. We need a bucket.’ I just wanted to do anything to secure the bag and get the W for us,” Hoving said.

“It was really big because they hit a big shot there and it’s a tie ballgame,” Wisconsin Dells coach Brad Rohling added. “We were struggling to get points up and they were coming down and making their free throws. When that finally went through, I was kind of able to take a sigh of relief, for probably the first time on the night.”

With a five-point hole, all Adams-Friendship could do was hoist an off-the-mark 3-pointer at the buzzer.

As the game tightened late, Wisconsin Dells (15-1) didn’t do itself any favors offensively, missing the front end of two bonus free throws and leaving a fastbreak layup wanting.

The Chiefs’ defense remained solid, however, pestering the Green Devils to help seal the win. Aiding in that was Wisconsin Dells’ work to keep Adams-Friendship out of the paint — all but three of its field goals were 2s — and force contested shots.

“It seemed like we were kind of getting beat on our traps; our rotations were a little slow, so we just decided to go without any traps. That really seemed to make them have to probe and work for good shots, and then they were looking for 3s and not 2s,” Rohling said, noting the team’s 16 second-half fouls made the Chiefs play more apprehensive.

That wasn’t the case early on, when Wisconsin Dells’ defense frustrated Adams-Friendship. The Chiefs turned the Green Devils over seven times in the opening 10 minutes as they opened the game with a 21-4 run. Witt scored eight points, including a pair of 3-pointers, during the stretch, while senior Jace Knetter added a pair of triples and sophomore Jared Nevar added five points, including the capping 3-pointer with 8:03 to go.

The Green Devils started to heat up from there, heading into halftime on an 11-4 run that included seven points by Hamilton, who finished with a game-high 26. The brief spurt pulled the Green Devils within 24-15 at the break, but they never got home.

Along with Witt’s 18 points, Knetter added nine while four Chiefs each contributed five. Adams-Friendship got nine points from Chrystian Quinnel, eight from Abe Cook and seven from Dalton Pollex.

For Hoving, who had five points, the the Chiefs’ depth is what makes them dangerous looking ahead to Thursday’s sectional semifinal at Lake Mills.

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“Our bench goes so deep, so you can just put in guys that have all their energy full and everyone’s just ready to go,” he said. “Nobody’s hanging their heads, not being engaged; everyone’s ready coming off the bench and we’ll go eight, nine or 10 deep. Everyone’s just coming out ready to go and give it their all.”

The Chiefs drew a No. 3 sectional seed. They’ll visit No. 2 Lake Mills (21-5) on Thursday, with the winner advancing to play No. 1 Monroe (15-1) or No. 4 Madison Edgewood (12-12) in Saturday’s sectional final.

Regardless of the outcome, Rohling knows Saturday night’s win is a massive accomplishment after the team’s heavy losses in the 2020 graduating class.

“For this group to lose what we lost last year, and for our seniors to come in and lead this group to a conference title and a regional title, that’s pretty good stuff on their part,” he said.

“They’ve really done a phenomenal job considering they didn’t really get a lot of varsity time last year, and especially for this group to come together through COVID-19. We’re happy with the regional but not satisfied; we’ll go and compete and see what happens.”

WISCONSIN DELLS 53, ADAMS-FRIENDSHIP 48

Adams-Friendship 15 33 — 48

Wisconsin Dells 24 29 — 53

ADAMS-FRIENDSHIP (fg ft-fta pts) — Dalton Pollex 0 3-7 3, Chrystian Quinnell 2 3-4 9, Caleb Hamilton 8 9-11 26, Jordan Jossart 1 0-0 2, Abe Cook 2 4-8 8. Totals 13 19-30 48.

WISCONSIN DELLS — Matt Hoving 2 1-1 5, Jace Knetter 3 0-0 9, Will Michalsky 2 0-0 5, Brooks Slack 1 0-0 3, Jacob Rockwell 2 1-2 5, Barrett Witt 8 0-2 18, Brett Weiss 1 0-1 3, Jared Nevar 2 0-0 5. Totals 21 2-6 53.

3-point goals: AF 3 (Quinnel 2, Hamilton 1), WD 9 (Knetter 3, Witt 2, Michalsky 1, Slack 1, Weiss 1, Nevar 1). Total fouls: AF 15, WD 21. Technical fouls: WD 1.

WISCONSIN DELLS 53, ADAMS-FRIENDSHIP 48</&hspag4>

Adams-Friendship 15 33 — 48

Wisconsin Dells 24 29 — 53

ADAMS-FRIENDSHIP (fg ft-fta pts) — Dalton Pollex 0 3-7 3, Chrystian Quinnell 2 3-4 9, Caleb Hamilton 8 9-11 26, Jordan Jossart 1 0-0 2, Abe Cook 2 4-8 8. Totals 13 19-30 48.

WISCONSIN DELLS — Matt Hoving 2 1-1 5, Jace Knetter 3 0-0 9, Will Michalsky 2 0-0 5, Brooks Slack 1 0-0 3, Jacob Rockwell 2 1-2 5, Barrett Witt 8 0-2 18, Brett Weiss 1 0-1 3, Jared Nevar 2 0-0 5. Totals 21 2-6 53.

3-point goals: AF 3 (Quinnel 2, Hamilton 1), WD 9 (Knetter 3, Witt 2, Michalsky 1, Slack 1, Weiss 1, Nevar 1). Total fouls: AF 15, WD 21. Technical fouls: WD 1.

Follow Sean Davis on Twitter @SDavis_PDR or contact him at 608-745-3512.

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