Eagles are heating up

Sauk Prairie's boys basketball team pushes win streak to three


January 10, 2019

Brian Sprecher

Ben German and Sauk Prairie's boys basketball team have won three straight games.

SPRING GREEN - In the midst of a season-opening eight-game losing streak, Sauk Prairie boys' basketball first-year head coach Sean McGann preached defense, patience and gritty play, not necessarily in that order.

You can add solid bench play and timely scoring to the mix after Sauk Prairie rallied from a late nine-point deficit to grind out a thrilling 67-64 victory in overtime to defeat host River Valley in a non-conference game last Saturday night.

"That was an absolute gritty game," McGann said after the Eagles survived the loss of starting junior point guard Ben German, who fouled out with 38.7 seconds left in regulation, and starting senior center Jack Henderson, who picked up his fifth foul in overtime.

Senior 6-foot-4 forward Spencer Breunig led Sauk Prairie with 21 points and eight rebounds, and 6-5 sophomore forward Brandt Wilson added 16 points and five rebounds.

Despite sitting out most of the first half in foul trouble, 6-7 junior forward Trevor Spray finished with 13 points, five rebounds and a team-best five deflections and three assists for the Eagles.

"Our bench players stepped up with offensive rebounds and playing through fouls," Spray said. "They really brought a lot of energy."

Sauk Prairie (3-8) extended its winning streak to three games after storming back from a 55-46 deficit with 3:50 to play in regulation following senior post Connor Mickelson's two free throws for River Valley (4-4).

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"It was just pure guts," McGann said after the Eagles outscored the Blackhawks 21-9 to close out the game. "We were in foul trouble. Then we had guys playing way too many minutes in a half. They just found a way, and that's the way it is. I said grit takes you a long way, and it showed tonight."

It didn't take long for the Eagles to get into foul trouble, when Henderson picked up his second foul just 1:55 into the game and rode the pine for the rest of the first half.

"I had to support the people on the floor," said Henderson, who finished with just six points but gave Sauk Prairie an early lead in overtime with a layup. "If I can't be on the floor, my voice is going to be on the floor. I'm going to support my teammates."

Henderson was joined on the bench with 10:45 left in the opening half by Spray, when he picked up his second foul and was forced to sit out the rest of the opening period. German also picked up his second foul and earned some bench time before halftime.

But 6-1 junior forward Garrett Hertzfeldt came off the bench to score four points and grab three rebounds, sophomore guard Tyler Uselman drained a three-pointer and sophomore Isaac Breunig and seniors Tucker Holloway and Jake Veith provided quality minutes in the first half to help the Eagles stay close.

"Our bench was phenomenal with all the foul trouble we had," McGann said. "I told the team our bench literally bailed us out tonight. That's the kind of team that I want us to be, a team that can be deep."

Sophomore guard Will Bailey came off the bench to score eight points to help River Valley take a 28-26 lead at halftime.

But the one-two punch of junior wing Josh Maier and senior guard Taylor Knutson combined to score 25 points in the second half and helped the Blackhawks open up a 47-38 lead with 9:17 left in regulation.

"Obviously, Sauk is a tall team, and we struggled with that," River Valley coach Luke Thatcher said. "Their depth hurt us. We did a good job of pressuring the ball.

"But 6-7, 6-6, 6-5, I feel like other than for a couple of guards, we were mismatched often times. I think our transition early on played in our favor, where we could find some passing lanes. When it got in the half-court, it got a little more congested for us."

Sauk Prairie opened up in a 2-3 zone, but the Eagles had to switch to man-to-man on defense to slow down the Blackhawks

"We've been playing zone primarily the last couple of games," McGann said. "But I told them there is going to be a point in the season where we're going to have to learn to play man-to-man defense. I said, 'this is the game right now' and they locked in."

Sauk Prairie started its comeback when Spray sank a layup with 3:15 left.

The Blackhawks, who were 10 of 13 at the free-throw line in the first half, then began to struggle at the charity stripe, making just 3 of 8 attempts over the final 2:38.

Holloway provided a spark when he converted a turnover into a fastbreak layup to bring the Eagles within 59-56 with 2:06 left in regulation.

"That was one of the biggest plays of the game, getting that steal and score with our defensive team on the floor," McGann said. "That was a great play at the time."

River Valley scored its final point in regulation when Maier made the second of two free throws for a 60-56 lead.

But the Eagles got a layup from Wilson with 49 seconds left, and Spencer Breunig scored off an offensive rebound to tie the game at 60-60 with 23 seconds remaining.

"I was stoked," Spencer Breunig said. "It got a lot of energy going, but we knew we needed to get that stop and take it up to another level."

Knutson's mid-range jumper rimmed out as time expired to send the game to overtime.

Henderson got open for an easy layup for a 62-60 lead before Knutson's layup tied the score.

But Henderson found Spencer Breunig open in the lane for a hook shot that gave Sauk Prairie a 64-60 lead with 1:54 left in overtime.

Wilson's two free throws capped the scoring with 28.3 seconds left.

"It was pretty nerve wracking," Wilson said. "But we still needed one more stop."

Knutson and junior guard Joe Ryan each had open looks from 3-point range for River Valley in the closing seconds, but failed to find the bottom of the net and the Eagles held on.

Sauk Prairie 45, Baraboo 25 - Trevor Spray scored a game-high 12 points to lift the Eagles to their first Badger North Conference victory over the visiting Thunderbirds last Thursday night.

Sauk Prairie (2-8, 1-5 Badger North) opened a 25-4 halftime lead and coasted past Baraboo (0-10, 0-6).

Jack Henderson recorded his third double-double in his last five games, finishing with 11 points and 11 rebounds for Sauk Prairie.

• On deck: Sauk Prairie travels to Reedsburg for a Badger Conference game on Thursday at 7:15 p.m. The Eagles then host Lake Mills in a non-conference game on Saturday at 3 p.m. Sauk Prairie will also host Verona in a non-conference game on Tuesday, Jan. 15 at 7:15 p.m. on Staff Appreciation Night.

Jan. 3

Sauk Prairie 45, Baraboo 25

Baraboo ............................ 4 21 - 25

Sauk Prairie ...................... 25 20 - 45

BARABOO - Caden Carpenter 1 0-0 3, Calvin Peterson 2 0-0 6, Ryan Gehin 0 1-2 1, Noah Jackson 2 0-0 6, Caden Blum 3 1-2 7, Justin Philipp 1 0-0 2. Totals 9 2-4 25.

Sauk Prairie - Morgen Griffin 1 0-0 3, Spencer Breunig 3 1-4 7, Tyler Uselman 1 0-0 2, Ben German 2 0-0 5, Garrett Hertzfeldt 1 0-0 2, Trevor Spray 4 1-1 12, Tucker Holloway 1 0-0 3, Jack Henderson 5 0-0 11. Totals 18 2-5 45.

3-point goals - B 5 (Carpenter 1, Peterson 2, Jackson 2), SP 7 (Griffin 1, German 1, Spray 3, Holloway 1, Henderson 1). Total fouls - B 7, SP 10.

Jan. 5

Sauk Prairie 67, River Valley 64 (OT)

Sauk Prairie ................... 26 34 7 - 67

River Valley ................... 28 32 4 - 64

Sauk Prairie - Spencer Breunig 10 1-4 21, Tyler Uselman 1 0-0 3, Ben German 0 2-2 2, Trevor Spray 4 4-6 13, Brandt Wilson 6 4-4 16, Garrett Hertzfeldt 2 0-2 4, Tucker Holloway 1 0-0 2, Jack Henderson 2 2-4 6. Totals 26 13-22 67.

RIVER VALLEY - Joe Ryan 1 1-3 3, Taylor Knutson 6 4-7 19, Will Jewell 1 0-0 3, Connor Mickelson 1 3-4 5, Josh Maier 6 6-8 18, Tyler Nachreiner 2 2-4 6, Ben Fortney 1 0-0 2, Will Bailey 1 5-5 8. Totals 19 21-31 64.

3-point goals - SP 2 (Spray 1, Uselman 1), RV 5 (Knutson 3, Jewell 1, Bailey 1). Total fouls - SP 25, RV 18. Fouled out - German, Henderson (SP).


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