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WISCONSIN DELLS — A sloppy first half and a poor stretch to the start of the second spelled doom for the Baraboo boys basketball team Tuesday night.

The Thunderbirds committed 16 turnovers in the opening 18 minutes and saw a 15-point halftime deficit quickly balloon in the second half of a 66-37 non-conference loss to host Wisconsin Dells. The Chiefs made life difficult on the T-Birds throughout the night, keeping Baraboo without a double-digit scorer.

“To me, that was the biggest part tonight. Their aggressive nature caused us to turn the ball over, and they play really hard,” Baraboo coach Darrin Berger said. “I credit them for that, but we needed to be stronger with the ball. They can score, and we had some droughts.”

The biggest of those slumps came at the start of the second half as Wisconsin Dells (3-0), ranked No. 6 in the first WisSports.net Division 3 coaches poll of the season, solidified control. Having already built a 33-18 halftime lead, the Chiefs opened the second period on a 15-2 run.

After a pair of Dells buckets, Baraboo senior Joe Stout scored on an up-and-under layup to make it 37-20 with 16 minutes, 30 seconds left to play before the Chiefs heated up. Wisconsin Dells responded with three straight corner 3-pointers, including a pair from junior Bryson Funmaker, and a pair of free throws from junior Dylan Nevar to go up 48-22.

A layup from T-Birds senior Ryan Gehin briefly stunted the Chiefs’ roll but only briefly. Wisconsin Dells pushed the advantage to 57-27 on a slicing layup by junior Brett Hirst, who scored a game-high 14 points, with 7:30 remaining.

Wisconsin Dells continued to pressure the T-Birds (0-3), pushing the lead to as large as 66-30 with 4 minutes remaining. Baraboo closed the game on a 7-0 run, including a steal and layup from Gehin and a 3-pointer by senior Brady Quinn.

The T-Birds had limited time to work on drills preparing for the Chiefs’ high-pressure defense prior to the game, and it showed. Berger said that the biggest thing working for Wisconsin Dells was the uniqueness of its scheme.

“We’ll play 23-plus games this season and we’ll never see that style of defense again,” he said. “We didn’t see it before the game and we won’t see it after. A lot of it is how much different it is than what we’re used to seeing.”

As difficult as the Chiefs made life on the T-Birds, Baraboo was able to hold its own in the opening minutes of the first half. Wisconsin Dells led throughout but not without Baraboo applying some pressure of its own.

After falling behind 7-2, Baraboo cut the deficit to 9-7 after a 3-pointer from Gehin and a runner from senior Noah Jackson with 13:10 remaining in the opening half. A 3-pointer from the left wing by junior Calvin Peterson pulled the T-Birds to within 13-10 with 10:30 left, but the Chiefs took control from there.

Wisconsin Dells amassed a 16-2 run over the next 6-plus minutes before a three-point play by Baraboo senior Caden Blum made it 29-15 with 3:26 left in the first half.

Baraboo didn’t do itself any favors with its turnovers in the first half, but the T-Birds also struggled to finish around the hoop, which Berger said has been an recurrent issue in the season’s early going.

Despite the loss, Berger praised the T-Birds’ fight and unselfish play, but knows that must improve as the season progresses.

“A lot of times, I’m coaching them to be more aggressive and more selfish at times, but they’re really good kids and we’re going to have a chance to get better over the year,” he said.

Baraboo returns to action Friday when it travels to rival Portage for a Badger North Conference game.

WISCONSIN DELLS 66, BARABOO 37

Baraboo 18 19 — 37

Wisconsin Dells 33 33 — 66

BARABOO — Stout 2 2-2 6, Quinn 1 0-0 3, Gehin 3 0-0 7, Peterson 2 0-0 6, White Eagle 1 1-2 3, Jackson 3 0-0 7, Blum 2 1-1 5. Totals 14 4-5 37.

WISCONSIN DELLS — Musiedlak 2 0-0 6, Anchor 4 2-2 10, Hirst 6 1-3 14, Funmaker 5 0-0 12, Eck 1 0-1 3, Koenig 0 2-2 2, Millard 4 4-4 13, Nevar 0 3-4 3, Kaiser 1 0-0 3. Totals 23 12-18 66.

3-point goals — BAR 5 (Quinn 1, Gehin 1, Peterson 2, Jackson 1), WD 8 (Musiedlak 2, Hirst 1, Funmaker 2, Eck 1, Millard 1, Kaiser 1). Total fouls — WD 13, BAR 17.

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