Tigers claw past the ’Canes (updated)
MAPLE — Tanner Klobucher made two free throws with 15.6 seconds remaining and then blocked shot at the buzzer to lead the Northwestern Tigers a 59-58 victory over Hayward in a WIAA Division 3 regional championship game Saturday night.
“I was just praying that I wasn’t going to air ball it,” Klobucher said about his free throws. “I was so nervous at that point, but I calmed myself, took a deep breath and just put them in.”
For the third straight year the Tigers (20-4) will play Prescott (21-3) in the sectional semifinals. This year’s meeting is at 7 p.m. Thursday in River Falls.
The Cardinals, who advanced with a 83-68 win over St. Croix Central, defeated Northwestern 74-51 last year and 55-38 in 2015.
Riley Stowers led the Tigers Saturday with 21 points, five assists and two steals.
Klobucher was next with 15 points and seven rebounds, and Alex Tecker had nine points and eight rebounds.
All 11 of Klobucher’s second-half points came at clutch times.
His first of three 3-pointers gave the Tigers a 32-27 lead just seconds after halftime; his second came at the end of a Tiger 11-3 run and tied the game 50-50 with 4:39 remaining; and his third gave Northwestern a 55-53 lead with 2:13 left.
“After the first one (3-pointer) I felt really good, and it gave me confidence on the second two,” Klobucher said.
After a Tiger time out, Stowers made two free throws to make it 57-53.
Hayward followed with a Phil Zeigle basket, and after a Tiger turnover, the Hurricanes took a 58-57 lead on Xavier Cummings’ basket and free throw with 24.7 seconds left.
After Klobucher’s go-head free throws, Hayward still had a chance, but a Tiger knocked the inbounds pass loose and a couple of seconds ticked off the clock as Alex Tecker sat on the ball during a loose-ball scramble.
Hayward eventually got the ball and got a shot off that was blocked by Klobucher.
“I was just hoping I wasn’t going to foul,” Klobucher said. “I was like, ‘He’s not going to make this,’ and when he didn’t, I was hyped and everybody went crazy.”
“Alex told me he was just lying on top of the ball,” Stowers said. “It was pretty exciting when the clock finally went to all zeros.
“Our team played great, everybody stepped up when we needed them to, and Tanner came up huge in the final eight minutes. I couldn’t be prouder of the entire team.”
Cummings led Hayward with a game-high 25 points. Zeigle was next with 10 points and Devon Kuykendall, who was playing in just his second game of the season because of a football injury, had nine points.
Kuykendall made three 3-pointers early in the second half to spark a 9-0 run and help Hayward open up a 41-34 lead.
Hayward eventually took its largest lead of the game at 47-39, but the Tigers followed with their 11-3 run that tied the game at 50.
“With about four minutes left we called a timeout,” said NHS coach David Gustafson. “We have a lot of seniors and we told them this could be the last four minutes in their careers. That picked up the energy a little bit, Tanner made some clutch shots for us down the stretch and we found a way to win.
“Most of these guys have been on varsity for three years, so their experience helped with them not panicking when we got down and was a big part of us coming out with the win.”
The game opened with ties of 2-2 and 5-5 before the Hurricanes took a 7-5 lead on a Cummings’ basket.
Stowers’ 3-pointer 11 seconds later gave the Tigers their first lead at 8-7.
The Tigers eventually opened up a pair nine-point leads, the latest 23-14 on another Stowers’ 3-pointer with eight minutes left in the half.
With Tecker on the bench with two fouls, Hayward went on a 13-4 run and eventually tied the game 27-27 with 40 seconds left.
Stowers sank a floater in the lane with 2 seconds showing to give Northwestern a 29-27 halftime lead.
“Losing Alex in the first half hurt,” Gustafson said. “We were debating if we needed to get him back in there, but we still had a two-point lead so we thought it was best to keep him out.
“I really thought Tyler Little came in and did a pretty good job. He’s kept getting better as the year went on so we were confident he was going to give us some good minutes.”
Little finished with three points, five rebounds and two steals.
The Tigers also got six points from Mike Lindsay and five from Kade Bartelt.
“That’s the thing about this team, we have more than one person we can go to,” Gustafson said. “I’m sure Hayward talked at halftime that they had to shut Riley down, but that opened up some more things for Tanner and the other guys.
“When you have more than one guy you count on offensively, that helps a lot.”
The Tigers are going to need everybody to pitch in when they play the Cardinals, who are ranked No. 6 in the state with a record of 21-3.
Prescott’s roster includes 7-foot-1 senior Owen Hamilton, who averages 24.6 points and 12.3 rebounds a game.
Peter Brookshaw is next averaging 16.5 points a game, and Luke Murphy averages 12.5 points a game and has a team-high 127 assists.
“They still have the 7-footer and a really quick point guard,” Gustafson said. “But I think we’re a better team this year, so hopefully we can give them a run.”
Prescott is on a seven-game winning streak. The Cardinals’ last loss was 81-73 to Minnehaha Academy in the Apple Valley Wisconsin-Minnesota Border Battle.
Prescott’s other two losses are 72-70 to Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau 85-53 to Farmington, Minn.
TIGER TALES: The other sectional semifinal is Mauston vs. Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau Thursday at Osseo-Fairchild. The winners will play at 1 p.m. Saturday in Menomonie. ... The Tigers have now won six straight games.
Tigers 86, Amery 67
The Tigers won their regional semifinal against Amery Friday with a monster first half. The Tigers put up 53 points in the opening half and went on to win 86-67.
Stowers scored 16 points in the first half, while Mike Lindsay and Tyler Little had eight apiece.
For the night Stowers had a game-high 27 points. Also scoring in double figures for Northwestern were Tecker (15) Little (12) and Klobucher (10).
Hayward........................ 27 31 — 58
Northwestern................. 29 30 — 59
Hayward — Xavier Cummings 25, Phil Zeigle 10, Devon Kuykendall 9, Dementri Dennis 8, Gabe Luedke 4, Willy Zawistowski 2. Totals 23 6-10 58.
3-point goals — Kuykendall 3, Cummings 2, Zeigle.
Northwestern — Riley Stowers 21, Tanner Klobucher 15, Alex Tecker 9, Mike Lindsay 6, Kade Bartelt 5, Tyler Little 3. Totals 20 11-17 59.
3-point goals — Klobucher 3, Stowers 2, Lindsay 2, Bartelt 1.
Amery............................ 30 37 — 67
Northwestern................. 53 33 — 86
Amery — Seth Amundsen 16, Lane Christenson 15, Zach Swenson 10, Conner McBrayer 8, Calen Coy 6, Tristen Collins 6, Noah Rademaker 4, Sam Forneago 2.
3-point goals — Amundsen 4, Christenson 3, Swenson 2, Coy, Collins.
Northwestern — Riley Stowers 27, Alex Tecker 15, Tyler Little 12, Tanner Klobucher 10, Mike Lindsay 8, Anthony Lupa 7, Kade Bartelt 5, Brody Payton 2.
3-point goals — Stowers 2, Lindsay 2, Bartelt, Lupa.