Tigers advance to state

The Northwestern High School boys basketball team made 13-of-16 free throws in overtime to defeat Wisconsin Dells 75-68 in the WIAA Division 3 boys sectional final Saturday, March 9, in Marshfield.

Members of the Northwestern High School boys basketball team rush head coach Nolan Graff, who was just presented with the sectional championship trophy Saturday, March 9, in Marshfield. (Photo courtesy of Gervase Thompson)

The Northwestern High School boys basketball team made 13-of-16 free throws in overtime to defeat Wisconsin Dells 75-68 in the WIAA Division 3 boys sectional final Saturday, March 9, in Marshfield.

The Tigers (21-5) will now face the state's top-ranked Martin Luther Spartans (23-3) at 1:35 p.m. Thursday, March 14, at Kohl Center in Madison.

Free throws were also the determining factor in forcing overtime Saturday as junior Dayne Evanson made two with 1:02 remaining in regulation to give the Tigers a 62-61 lead.

Brett Hirst then went to the line in the double bonus with 36 seconds remaining for Wisconsin Dells, but was only able to tie the game at 62-62 when he missed the first attempt and made the second.

The Tigers worked the ball for the final shot, but Sam Risley missed a 3-point attempt just before the buzzer to force a four-minute extra session.


The Tigers took control in OT by scoring the first seven points, which forced the Chiefs to foul and led to six more NHS free throws.

Brody Payton led the Tigers with 20 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. Junior Dayne Evanson, who played the first half of the season with the JV, added 13 points and nine rebounds; Jake Brill had 12 points; and Risley 10.

Hirst had 13 points and Bryson Funmaker and Dylan Anchor both had 12 for the Chiefs, whose season ends at 20-6.

Both teams showed their nerves early on with a half-dozen turnovers combined on the opening three minutes.

After a Jenner Graff basket and free throw tied the game at 5-5 for the Tigers, a 12-4 run helped the Chiefs open up a 17-9 lead.

Three free throws by Risley, and 3-pointers by Klobucher and Risley, got the Tigers within 19-18.

Wisconsin Dells followed with a 10-2 run for a 29-20 lead, but the Tigers ended the first half with 12 straight points for a 32-29 halftime lead. Jagar Still started the run with a 3-pointer and two free throws, and Payton ended it with a 3-pointer and a pair of 2-pointers.

“The 12-0 run was huge, but you have to give credit to Wisconsin Dells, they played a fantastic game and had a fantastic year,” NHS coach Nolan Graff said. “I felt Dells controlled most of the first half and really punched us right in the gut at the beginning. But we settled in and eventually things started happening our way.”


The Tigers also scored the first four points of the second half for a 36-29 lead, but the Chiefs battled back, and after four lead changes, the game was tied at 50-50.

Northwestern eventually trailed 58-53 lead with just 2:27 remaining, but answered with a 7-1 run and took a 60-59 lead on a basket by Evanson.

“Down by five, I knew that if we kept our heads and composure, we were in control,” coach Graff said. “The guys stepped up, Jenner hit a big 3 and Dayne got a big rebound and basket.

“Dayne is getting better every game. He saved the game for us with huge minutes.”

While the Tigers are advancing to state for the fourth time, Martin Luther will take a 10-game winning streak into its first state tournament. The Spartans, who lost in three of the last four sectional finals, advanced with a 76-41 win over Beloit Turner.

Behind junior sharpshooter Joey Immekus, the Spartans raced out to an 18-0 lead. Immekus, who led all of Division 3 players with 3-pointers made this season, hit back-to-back 3s to start the game. He finished with seven 3s, including five in the first half, and a game-high 26 points.

“They’re a tremendously athletic team,” Graff said. “They push the ball up and down the floor, they crash the offensive boards hard and they’re tenacious on defense, so we really need to be strong with the basketball, box out and get back on defense.

“For us, though, the message hasn’t changed: If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best. We’re really excited about the spot we’re in.”


TIGER TALES: The Tigers also advanced to state in 2005, 2009 and 2010. … All Tiger games will be on WNXR 107.3 FM and all state tournament games will be on My9 TV. … The other semifinal game has Denmark (22-5) playing Waupun (25-1). Waupun’s only loss was to Martin Luther, 79-64. … There will be a state tournament send-off for the Tigers at 7 a.m. Wednesday, March 13. The send-off will include a sheriff and fire department escort from the school to Highway 53, via Poplar.

Northwestern 32-30-13--75

Wisconsin Dells 29-33-6--68

Northwestern - Brody Payton 20, Jake Brill 12, Jagar Stillson 7, Jenner Graff 8, Sam Risley 10, Dayne Evanson 13, Andrew Klobucher 5. Totals 23 21-26 75

3-point goals - Payton 2, Evanson, Stillson, Brill, Graff, Klobucher, Risley.

Wisconsin Dells - Brett Hirst 13, Sam Millard 5, Bryson Funmaker 12, Riley Eck 9, Dylan Anchor 12, Dylan Musiedlak 10, Dylan Nevor 7. Totals 21 12-22 68

3-point goals - Funmaker 3, Anchor 2, Musiedlak 2, Eck 2, Nevor, Millard, Hirst.

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