Surprising Tigers upset Blackhawks, RailsNorthwestsern advances to fourth straight sectional semifinal game
The Northwestern High School boys basketball team has saved its best basketball for the playoffs, and the No. 8-seeded Tigers now find themselves in the sectional semifinals for the fourth straight year.
Northwestern pulled off a big upset Friday night with a 32-29 defeat of the Bloomer Blackhawks — the No. 1 seed in the region. On Saturday, the Tiger boys continued their run by topping No. 4-seeded Spooner, 60-41.
Both Bloomer and Spooner swept Northwestern in regular season play.
The Tigers (12-13) now advance to the sectional semifinals 7 p.m. Thursday at New Richmond. Northwestern will play Somerset (16-8), which defeated Barron 43-32 Saturday.
Northwestern came out strong against the Spooner Rails Saturday, building an 18-8 lead after one quarter. The Tigers extended their lead in the second and third quarters to take a 23-point lead heading into the final quarter.
Spooner managed just 21 points in the first three quarters of the game but nearly doubled its score in the last eight minutes with 20 points.
Ten Tigers scored in Saturday’s game, led by Dylan Jardine with 19 points.
Jardine also led Northwestern in Friday’s game — a low-scoring match with Bloomer.
“Before the game I said I hoped the score was 24-20,” said Dave Gustafson, head coach of the Tigers. “We weren’t far off.”
The key for Northwestern in Friday’s game was defense. In the two regular season meetings between Northwestern and Bloomer, the Tigers tried to stop Bloomer with a man-to-man defense. That plan did not work, Gustafson said, so he decided upon a new approach for the playoffs.
“We thought our best chance would be to play zone, and the kids really bought into it,” Gustafson said. “They executed the plan to a T.”
Bloomer’s three leading scorers were held to a combined 11 points for the night.
At halftime, the score was tied 12-12, but Bloomer pulled ahead in the third quarter to lead 22-16. The Tigers then outscored Bloomer 16-7 in the fourth quarter to claim the three-point victory.
On offense, Northwestern went inside to Jardine, and the 6-foot-6 junior ended the night with 20 or Northwestern’s 32 points. Nolan Graff added six points, Justin Alexson had four and Grant Pearson had two.
Northwestern 11 1 4 16 — 32
Bloomer 7 5 10 7 — 29
Northwestern — Dylan Jardine 20, Nolan Graff 6, Justin Alexson 4, Grant Pearson 2.
Bloomer — Logan Price 6, Charlie Yohnk 6, Jacob Rothbauer 5, Travis Mullen 5, Karson Rihn 5, Dustin Clark 2.
Northwestern 18 10 16 16 — 60
Spooner 8 8 5 20 — 41
Northwestern — Dylan Jardine 19, Justin Alexson 9, Nolan Graff 7, Gabe Dinkel 6, Zak Anttila 5, Brayden Bartelt 5, Micah Olson 3, Matt Hlina 2, Grant Pearson 2, Wes Ogren 2.
Spooner — Gavin Anderson 13, Austin Hochstetler 9, Bryson Grubbs 9, Levi Hanson 6, Eric