Less than two years ago, the Monona Grove High School boys’ basketball team was eliminated from the postseason by Mount Horeb.
In the 2019-20 season opener, the Vikings defeated the Silver Eagles 52-50.
When the two teams met again Feb. 11 at Just A Game Fieldhouse in Wisconsin Dells, Monona Grove finally ended up on the sunny side of the scoreboard.
Sixteen points from Lance Nelson, 11 from Jordan Hibner and eight from big man Coonor Bracken helped MG beat Mount Horeb in a 68-37 rout.
The Silver Eagles entered the start of this week’s WIAA Division 1 regional playoffs with a record of 3-7. MG recovered to win three of its last five games in the shortened season after starting out 0-5.
According to Head Coach Dan Zweifel, his team practiced earlier in the week in five-on-five scrimmages after gathering restrictions put in place by Dane County officials in light of the COVID-19 pandemic were lifted. He said that allowed the team to work on its defensive position and continuity on offense.
The Silver Eagles jumped out to an early lead before the Vikings sank 3-point shots on four straight possessions to lead 23-19 with five minutes left in the half.
Yet, a 10-0 run put MG on top 29-23 at the break.
In the second half, Monona Grove blew open the game and outscored Mount Horeb 39-14.
“We instituted a full-court press which caused a few turnovers and led to some easy baskets,” Zweifel said. “Nelson was effective driving to the basket, Hibner knocked down a few threes and Bracken cleaned up the glass with some points off offensive rebounds.”
The Silver Eagles hit six shots from 3-point range as Nelson and Luke Tipton both had two. The team more than doubled Mount Horeb’s field goal total, 25-12.
The victory broke a two-game losing streak for MG after defeats earlier in the week to Burlington and Janesville Craig.
“We did a better job of sharing the ball which led to some easier opportunities to score,” Zweifel said.
Mount Horeb was led by Paul Matthews with 15 points.
Monona Grove 64
Bracken had 20 points, 13 rebounds and one blocked shot, but the Demons had four players in double figures in the Feb. 9 non-conference game at Burlington.
Ethan Safar led the Demons with 19 points, Joey Brezowitz had 16, Danny Kniep put in 14 and Dane Kornely scored 11.
Nelson scored 16 points for the Silver Eagles and Owen Croak had 11.
Hibner scored seven points with four rebounds and an assist. Nelson added three rebounds, five assists, and two steals. The Silver Eagles had a good night from the free-throw line, hitting 14 of 17 attempts.
After the Monona Grove game, Burlington, a Division 1 school, lost to Sun Prairie and beat Racine Case to end its regular season with a record of 16-6 overall and 10-3 in the Southern Lakes Conference.
The team was 9-1 in the month of January.
Janesville Craig 78
Monona Grove 72
Nelson scored 31 points and hit four shots from the 3-point line, but a second half comeback fell short for the Silver Eagles at Janesville Craig.
The Cougars led 39-24 at the half, but MG won the second half 48-39 and made it close. Hibner scored 16 points and Bracken had 11.
Angelo Rizzo, Craig’s leading scorer with 21.3 points per game, led the Cougars with 26 points.
Monona Grove opened this week’s Division 1 regionals at Janesville Craig, which dropped its final two games of the season to Janesville Parker and Sussex Hamilton.
Janesville Craig ended its season with a record of 9-14. Rizzo has scored 31 points or better in three games this season, including 33 against Wilmot on Dec. 30, 2020.