The calendar hadn’t even flipped to December yet when the Wisconsin Dells boys basketball team picked up a signature win on Friday night. The big victory came when Wisconsin Dells toppled Mineral Point – the top-ranked team in Division 4 in the Wissports.net preseason poll – as sophomore Sam Millard hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to give the Chiefs a 65-63 win over the Pointers at Wisconsin Dells High School.
On the play, with the Pointers holding onto a 63-62 lead, Millard rebounded a missed free throw by Mineral Point’s Wesley Berget with 8.9 seconds left. Millard then passed the ball to teammate Riley Eck heading up the left sideline. Eck dished the ball back to Millard near the top of the key, and Millard shot faked, which sent Mineral Point sophomore Brayden Dailey flying past him, giving him an opening at an 3-pointer, which he buried as time expired.
“It was just a rush of so many feelings,” Millard said of his winning bucket. “I didn’t really know what was going to happen. I didn’t know if there was any time left. As soon as I hit it, I was just so happy that I hit it. I was off all game and I redeemed myself.”
Wisconsin Dells was in position to win the game because Eck nailed a huge 3-pointer from the right wing with 1:58 remaining, to get the Chiefs within a point a 63-62. From there, both teams missed open looks at 3-pointers, and Wisconsin Dells committed three turnovers, thwarting opportunities at a go-ahead basket down the stretch.
Wisconsin Dells was able to survive those miscues because Mineral Point missed the front end of bonus free throws three different times in the final 39 seconds. The first miss came when Liam Stumpf missed a free throw with 38.3 seconds left, but a Wisconsin Dells turnover gave the ball right back to the Pointers.
With 27.5 seconds remaining, Dailey, who led the Pointers with 19 points, missed a free throw, but thanks to another Wisconsin Dells turnover, the Pointers got the ball back with 10 seconds left. The Chiefs had no choice but foul again, and this time it was Berget that they sent to the line. Berget continued Mineral Point’s free throw woes, and this time the Chiefs were able to cash in on the opportunity with Millard’s game-winner.
Ironically, it was Millard that committed one of the late turnovers for Wisconsin Dells.
“Sammy made one of (the turnovers) and I got on him, but to his credit, he didn’t hang his head, he didn’t pout or anything like that,” Wisconsin Dells coach Brad Rohling said. “He came down and got two big rebounds. They missed some shots down that stretch and missed some free throws. That was big. They could have put the nail in there with some free throws.”
“I made a bad pass a couple plays before and I was hanging my head, but I knew I had to redeem myself,” Millard added. “I had a shot fake, (Dailey) went flying and I took the shot. It felt good. I didn’t know if it was going to go long or short, but I hit it.”
Wisconsin Dells caught a bit of a break when Isaac Lindsay – a junior guard who has fielded Division 1 scholarship offers from a number of colleges – left the game with an ankle injury with 1:23 remaining and didn’t return.
Wisconsin Dells got a huge game from junior Bryson Funmaker, especially in the first half. Funmaker, who finished with a game-high 22 points, scored 15 of those points in the first half, keeping the Chiefs within striking distance.
“Bryson did a lot to keep us in there in both halves,” Rohling said. “In the first half he was hot, and getting to the rim. He got some loose balls in the second half. It just seemed like we hit enough shots to stay close, and had them make enough mistakes at the end to give us a chance.”
Wisconsin Dells only led twice before Millard’s wining bucket. The first lead came when Funmaker scored the game’s first basket to make it 2-0. The second Wisconsin Dells lead lasted about 40 seconds and came on a layup by Dylan Nevar that made it 25-24 with 8:30 left in the first half.
Mineral Point looked like it might open up a double-digit lead when Stumpf got a steal and layup to give the Pointers a 41-34 lead with 1:00 left in the first half. The Chiefs were able to close the gap before entering the locker room though, finishing the half on a 6-1 run. The spurt included a layup by Dylan Nevar, a pair of free throw by Millard and a steal and layup by Funmaker that just beat the buzzer and cut Mineral Point’s lead to 42-40 entering the break.
Mineral Point took its biggest lead of the night at 59-51 on a jumper by Lindsay, who finished with 17 points, with 7:00 left in the game. Funmaker came up with a big response for the Chiefs, scoring on a drive to make it 59-53 with 6:20 left before canning a 3-pointer from the top of the key to make it 59-56 with 5:38 to go.
After a bucket by Berget gave the Pointers a 61-56 lead, the Chiefs got another big play, this time from Dylan Anchor, who was fouled while scoring on a layup. He made the ensuring free throw to make it 61-59 with 4:17 to play.
Mineral Point scored what would turn out to be its final points of the night when Lindsay scored on a drive to basket to make it 63-59 with 3:50 remaining. That’s where the score remained until Eck’s huge 3-pointer with just under 2:00 to go made it a one-point game, and set the stage for Millard’s heroics.
The win will no doubt make Wisconsin Dells a team to watch this season. Many thought this might be a bit of a rebuilding year following the loss of graduated seniors Tanner Brandt, Alex Weiss and Jackson Sveum, but it appears there is still plenty of talent on the Chiefs’ roster.
“I don’t think people, including myself, knew how good we were,” Rohling said. “You got to play games like this, a tough non-conference game to kind of figure out where we really stack up with the really good teams.”
“We’re really an underrated team,” Millard added. “Everyone thinks we’re not as good, because we lost Tanner, Jackson and Alex. We’re really an aggressive team and I don’t think people really know how good we are and how good a team we can be. I think we just showed a lot of people that we can do a lot of things.”
Mineral Point 42 21 — 63
Wisconsin Dells 40 25 — 65
MINERAL POINT — Lindsey 6 4-4 17, Dailey 2 0-0 4, Wendhausen 3 0-0 6, Berget 3 1-3 7, Watters 0 1-2 1, Dailey 7 3-4 19, Stumpf 3 1-2 9. Totals 24 10-15 63.
WISCONSIN DELLS — Anchor 7 1-3 16, Hirst 5 0-2 10, Funmaker 9 1-1 22, Eck 2 0-0 5, Millard 2 2-2 8, Nevar 2 0-0 4. Totals 27 4-8 65.
3-point goals — MP 5 (Lindsey 1, Dailey 2, Stumpf 2), WD 7 (Anchor 1, Funmaker 3, Eck 1, Millard 2). Total fouls — WD 16, MP 16.