Round one: check.
The Waunakee boys’ basketball team dispatched of the Goslings of Watertown in their postseason opener, advancing onto Saturday night’s WIAA Regional Final.
Though the Warriors never trailed, the visiting Goslings – a 12 seed – ensured the fifth-seeded Warriors could never get comfortable. Defensively, an aggressive Watertown scheme made Waunakee earn their baskets inside.
The Warriors’ duo of Andrew Keller and Caden Nelson did much of the damage in the paint, combining to score 16 of the team’s 31 first-half points.
“I think what was really working for us in both the first and second halves were the ball screens,” said Nelson. “Getting to the hoop on the ball screen, finishing down low, great passes from my teammates all throughout the game. It was really great moving the ball offensively.”
Holding onto a one-point, 23-22 lead with two minutes to go until halftime, Waunakee closed on an 8-0 run to earn some breathing room heading into the locker room.
Following a quick basket by the Goslings out of the break, the Warriors opened up the second half as they ended the first: on a roll. Waunakee notched nine more unanswered points to take a commanding 40-25 lead with 15 minutes to play.
With their season on life support, the Goslings clawed their way back into the contest; Watertown closed the Warrior advantage to just two possessions with six minutes to go.
Up 51-45, Waunakee continued to look to the post, with Jack Dotzler and Nelson drawing fouls – going three of four from the charity stripe – to push the lead out to nine points. From there, Waunakee’s shots started falling in rapid succession to extend the lead back out to 14 points.
“The whole game, we weren’t shooting really well,” Nelson added. “In that run, I think we really started to take off, and our shots were falling.”
The Warriors closed out the game from the line, hitting five of their final eight free throws to advance onto the WIAA Regional Final against Sun Prairie.
Nelson and Keller led Waunakee with 15 points apiece, followed by Jaxson Zibell with 13. Caden Hough tacked on nine points, while Jake May scored eight. Joey Fuhremann and Casey Fischer both tallied three points, while Dotzler rounded out the scoring with two points.
Now faced with a quick turnaround – Waunakee will travel to Sun Prairie tomorrow to face the Cardinals – Nelson maintains the Warriors will be prepared.
“Onto the next; we’re ready…” said Nelson. “We’re always ready, and we look forward to the competition and the challenge.”
Tip time at Sun Prairie High School is scheduled for 7 p.m.