Stoughton holds off Milton
It was Milton High chasing the lead at Stoughton in a Division 2 WIAA boys basketball regional final Monday.
As hard as the Red Hawks tried, they could not catch the Vikings and suffered a 55-51 defeat to end their season.
“That’s kinda been our story all year,” Coach Zach Groelle said of Milton’s close-but-no-cigar woes. “We were resilient and fought it right down to the wire.’’
Milton concludes the season 11-13, while Stoughton (20-4) faces Oregon (15-9) at Fort Atkinson at 7 p.m. Thursday in a sectional semifinal.
Milton closed a 19-14 first-quarter deficit to 30-28 on Sam McCann’s three-point basket to end the second quarter.
Stoughton led by as many as six in the third quarter, but Milton closed the gap to 40-39 on Devon Hartmen’s three-point basket near the two-minute mark. Stoughton’s Cole Brusegar hit a pair of free throws and basket to put Stoughton ahead 44-39 heading into the fourth quarter.
Brusegar made four straight free throws in the third quarter to keep Milton at bay. The Vikings made five straight free throws to key the third quarter and 8 of 12 in the second half.
“It seemed like every time they went to the line, they were hitting two (free throws),” Groelle said. “It put that cushion there that we could never catch right up.’’
Brusegar finished with a game-high 17 points, and Connor Kowalkowski and Casey Schultz scored 15 and 13 points, respectively.
The fourth quarter brought the fans in the packed Stoughton gym to their feet as Milton scrapped from a seven-point deficit to pull within 53-51 after Erick Bolden made one of two free throws with 15 seconds to play.
Luke Ganz, a 6-foot-5 junior, scored seven of his nine points in the fourth quarter to keep Milton close.
An inbounds play sealed the victory for the Vikings.
With the Red Hawks pressing, Stoughton’s Scott Graffin stood under the Milton basket to inbound the ball, spotted Max Fuller sprinting alone toward the Stoughton basket and threw a long pass. Fuller caught the ball and made a layup for the final margin.
“We had a double screen set to our point guard, (Brusegar),” said Graffin. “But Fuller just broke out. My first reaction was not to throw it deep, but then I saw him with his hands in the air, and I just threw it to him.’’
Fuller said he was supposed to break down the floor, but he didn’t expect to get the ball.
“Typically, that is not usually there,” Fuller said. “Somehow (Milton) got in a fluster, and I wound up breaking loose.’’
McCann scored 16 points to lead Milton, but had only four points in the second half.
Groelle said McCann had to carry the load for Milton in the first half when the 6-8 Bolden, Milton’s second-leading scorer, was forced to the bench in foul trouble in the first 58 seconds.
“Stoughton had a little better defensive rotations on him and limited what he could do,” Grolle said of McCann. “He played a lot of minutes, more so than he normally does because Erick (Bolden) was on the bench, so I think he fatigued a little down the stretch, but we couldn’t have asked him to do anymore.’’
STOUGHTON 55, MILTON 51
Milton (51)—Westrick, 3-0-8; Ross, 2-0-5; Kovars, 3-0-6; McCann, 6-2-16; To. Johnson, 0-1-1; Ganz, 4-1-9; Hartman, 2-0-5; Bolden, 0-1-1. Totals: 20-5-51.
Stoughton (55)—Liggitt, 0-2-2; Kowalkowski, 6-1-15; Brusegar, 6-5-17; Schultz, 4-2-13; Graffin, 2-0-4; Fuller, 2-0-4. Totals: 20-10-55.
Milton 14 14 11 12—51
Stoughton 19 11 14 11—55
Three-point goals—Milton 6 (McCann 2, Westrick 2, Ross, Hartman), Stoughton 5 (Schultz 3, Kowalkowski 2). Free throws missed—Milton 8, Stoughton 4. Total fouls—Milton 15, Stoughton 16.