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WIAA boys basketball: Onalaska falls to New London in Division 2 regional semifinal



ONALASKA — Anytime a member of the Onalaska High School boys basketball team got even a glimpse of the lane, at least one New London defender stepped in to seal it off.

Usually, this doesn’t cause the Hilltoppers too much trouble. Yes, they like to get in the paint and finish at the rim, but a defender helping off means one of their shooters should have a good look from beyond the arc.

The problem Friday night was that those shots weren’t falling.

Instead, fourth-seeded Onalaska struggled to get into a rhythm offensively — which was costly after falling into an early hole — and had its season ended with a 60-43 loss to the fifth-seeded Bulldogs in a WIAA Division 2 regional semifinal.

“They just outplayed us,” senior Isaac Skemp said. “I mean, there’s not much more to be said. We didn’t hit shots and they outplayed us and they deserve that win.”

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New London, which advanced to a sectional final last season, focused much of its defensive attention on Evan Anderson, who entered the night averaging 24 points per game and is one of the Hilltoppers’ best players off the dribble. Defenders swarmed the senior whenever he got inside the 3-point line, and more collapsed if he happened to find a crease into the lane.

Despite providing a spark after a slow start, Anderson was limited to three points in the second half and 12 for the game.

“They doubled hard on Evan, and we just did not get enough weakside movement,” said Onalaska coach Craig Kowal, whose team finishes the season 18-7. “… Second half, I thought we executed what we needed to do pretty well. Just the first half, we were just way too stagnant.”

That led to a pair of four-minute stretches in the first half in which the Hilltoppers were scoreless, including right out of the gates. The Bulldogs (16-8) had the game’s first seven points before Anderson threw down a contested dunk after making a cut.

Onalaska pulled within 16-13 midway through the half after an Anderson 3-pointer but ran into another drought until Skemp hit a triple with 2 minutes, 31 seconds left until the break. By then, New London’s lead was eight points, and a 5-0 run to close the half put the Bulldogs in front 29-18.

It appeared early in the second half as if the Hilltoppers were breaking out of their funk with two 3s from junior Noah Chenault to cut their deficit to five, but they scored just twice over the next nine minutes.

New London, meanwhile, showcased its variety of scorers. Seniors Tyler Gerrits and Michael Helsten knocked down 3-pointers, senior Jonah Schlueter finished an and-1, and 6-foot-6 sophomore Joseph Daly had a bucket inside after breaking the Onalaska press. That was part of a 14-3 run that pushed the Hilltoppers’ deficit to 45-29 with 7:08 to play.

Daly led all scorers with 18 points, while Schlueter had 15 and Helsten had 10.

“We were supposed to collapse on (Daly) in the post,” Skemp said, “and whenever they kicked out, they hit their shots.”

Onalaska got back within 10 points after 3s from Chenault and Anderson, but a layup from Helsten gave the Bulldogs a double-digit lead for good.

Chenault finished with 11 points, while Skemp added eight.

“We did a great job of getting back (on defense in transition), but the possessions were really long and we just could not get any type of flow or rhythm on the offensive part,” Kowal said. “We thought we could score it on them fairly consistently, which wasn’t the case tonight.”

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