After receiving a No. 5 seed in its WIAA Division 1 five-team regional, no one probably thought the Monona Grove High School boys’ basketball team would survive very long in the postseason.
But any team coached by Dan Zweifel should never be counted out. Zweifel has coached dozens of major playoff games, oftentimes with a lot of success.
Monona Grove defeated Janesville Craig in its first-round game and then upset No. 1 Milton at Fort Atkinson.
However, the Silver Eagles’ run came to an end Feb. 20 as they were defeated at Janesville Parker, 70-51.
Monona Grove fell behind 40-22 at halftime after the Vikings hit 60% of their shots from the field.
“Give credit to Janesville Parker. They did an excellent job passing the ball and getting the ball inside against our 3-2 zone defense,” Zweifel said. “They were very efficient.”
Six-foot-6 forward Brenden Weis scored 24 points, including three shots from the 3-point line. He also pulled down eight rebounds and contributed three assists.
“He is an athletic guard who can score in a number of ways,” Zweifel said. “He is also a great defender. ”
Monona Grove hit just three of its first 17 shots from the field. Senior Connor Bracken led the Silver Eagles with 12 points and senior Lance Nelson had 11. Monona Grove ended its season with a record of 5-8.
With the Janesville Parker loss, 13 seniors played their final varsity basketball game for Monona Grove. Among them were Nelson, Bracken and many others that made valuable contributions to the basketball program.
“Great role players like Owen Croak, Luke Tipton, Sean Daugherity, Kevin Nett, Brendan Schroeckenthaler, Cam Behnke and Henry Walsh provided a needed spark,” Zwefiel said. Promising juniors such as Jordan Hibner and Anthony Thomas will lead the charge next season. We hope for a regular summer where we can get to work with our young kids and come back strong next fall. There will be many new faces next year, and we hope to return stronger than ever.”
Zweifel was also pleased that there was a basketball season, and that the situation involving COVID-19 didn’t keep the players off the court.
“Thanks to the administration, the players and the coaching staff for a job well done,” he said. “The kids followed the protocols and got a chance to play.”
Monona Grove 75
The Silver Eagles upended No. 1 seeded Milton Feb. 19 in the regional semifinal at Fort Atkinson.
Junior Jordan Hibner scored 11 points in the first half, but added 20 more in the second half to end with 31 points. He hit 14 of 16 shots from the free-throw line. Bracken scored 13 and Nelson had 11.
While Milton was led in scoring by Jack Campion with 31 points, Zweifel said the Silver Eagles 3-2 zone neutralized the other Red Hawks and helped MG secure the victory.
Monona Grove 66
Janesville Craig 54
Bracken did not have one of his more productive halves of basketball when Monona Grove visited Janesville Craig in a first-round WIAA Division 1 regional game Feb. 16.
The Silver Eagles and Cougars were tied 25-25 at halftime, but Bracken scored just two points and had difficulty grabbing rebounds. That changed in the second half, as Bracken was among four double-figure scorers with 15 points in a 66-54 Silver Eagles’ win.
“When halftime came, my teammates talked me up. They helped free me up and got me the ball so I could score,” Bracken said. “They trust in me, they believe in me and that gives me confidence.”
“They were switching a lot on defense, and we thought we could get some matchups with Connor on some small guys,” Zweifel said.
“We really got him involved, and he started getting to the offensive glass, and really changed the pace of the game in the second half.”
Bracken scored the first five points of the second half to open a 30-25 lead. Two baskets by Croak and a layup by Bracken put MG ahead 38-27 with 11:41 to go.
After that, the Silver Eagles’ offense dominated the game while Cougars’ shots wouldn’t fall.
Two baskets by Tipton gave MG a 53-32 lead at the six-minute mark.
The Cougars reduced the MG advantage to 58-48 but couldn’t get closer.
Nelson also had 15 points for the Silver Eagles and Croak scored 14 including 10 of 10 at the free-throw line.
Hibner hit three shots from the arc, all in the first half, and ended with 11 points.
Angelo Rizzo led the Cougars with 17 points.
Monona Grove hit 45% from the field, and Craig’s shooting percentage was only 30%