About 16 hours after trudging off its home court with a tough loss to non-conference Whitewater, the Monona Grove High School boys basketball team regrouped and took its frustration out on Fort Atkinson.
Junior Lance Nelson scored 17 points, and hit three of the team’s nine 3-point shots, as the Silver Eagles downed the host Blackhawks 49-31 in a Saturday, Jan. 4, Badger South Conference duel.
Monona Grove broke a 12-12 tie in the first half with a 19-7 run to lead 31-19 at the break.
A 9-3 run to start the first three minutes of the second half built the lead to 40-22.
The Silver Eagles (3-6, 3-2) took over the game after Fort Atkinson’s zone defense collapsed toward the ball on MG shot attempts, leading to offensive rebounds and wide-open shots for perimeter specialists like Nelson, Trey Loken, Luke Tipton and Jacob Munz.
“We did see on film that they really collapsed to the ball, which left our backside guys open,” Monona Grove head coach Dan Zweifel said. “We were telling them to get to the backside of the rim.”
Zweifel added that MG’s defense was very good, especially when it came to Blackhawks leading scorer Carson Baker, who was held to seven points, down from his 11 points per game average. Drew Evans led Fort Atkinson with nine points.
“We were concerned about Baker, and we had seen No. 33 (Evans) all summer, and he hurt us a lot in the summer,” Zweifel said. “Those were the two guys we were really concerned about. I thought we did a really effective job on Baker.”
Munz also reached double figures for MG with 10 points, and Jordan Hibner had seven. Both hit two shots from the 3-point line.
Monona Grove is back home Thursday, Jan. 9, to play another Badger South Conference game against Oregon. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:15 p.m.
Jack Miller also contributed to the MG vs. Fort Atkinson wrap-up.
Whitewater 54, MG 51
A running jump shot by Whitewater’s Carter Brown with 3.4 seconds remaining led to a 54-51 loss for host MG against the non-conference Whippets on Jan. 3. It was the fifth loss for the Silver Eagles by four points or fewer.
After Brown’s shot put Whitewater up 52-51, the Silver Eagles inbounded the ball to Nelson, who stepped out of bounds while driving along the right baseline. Zweifel argued with officials that Nelson was forced out of bounds by a Whitewater defender, but his plea was overruled.
“I thought our guy was pushed out of bounds, but the referee didn’t see it that way,” Zweifel said.
The Whippets added two more free throws before the buzzer sounded.
Monona Grove had difficulty stopping Whippets 7-foot junior center Jake Martin, who led all scorers with 23 points, 15 in the second half.
Whitewater led 43-33 with 7:40 remaining before a field goal by Hibner, two baskets by Nelson and a three by Tipton gave MG a 49-48 lead with 1:50 to go. Two free throws by Nelson put MG on top 51-50 with 21.7 seconds to play, but Brown’s shot on the next possession kept the Whippets on top for good.
Brown had 15 points for the Whippets. Nelson, who had a scoreless first half, led MG with 13 points, Munz had 10, and Loken scored nine. Tipton, who had six points, had two of the team’s six 3-point shots.
Zweifel said defensive breakdowns also hurt the Silver Eagles, and some players were trying to do too much with the ball when they had possession.
“They are all trying as hard as they possibly can. These are high school kids, 16, 17, 18 years old,” Zweifel said. “Maybe the basketball gods are getting back at us for being so good for so many years. We’ll keep working hard, and keep plugging away.”