Tigers claw their way to regional crown

Overtime win gives HG first sectional berth since 1993
by Greg Ceilley of The Review staff

FOND DU LAC – A gritty Howards Grove boys basketball team wasn't going to be denied in Monday night's Division 4 regional basketball finals against host St. Mary's Springs.
The No. 3-seeded Tigers dug down deep to earn a 60-54 overtime win and a trip to the sectional tournament for the first time since 1993 when Howards captured a regional title en route to state. The Tigers, who have won seven straight, improved to 19-5.
The No. 3-seeded Ledgers, who defeated Howards earlier this season, finished 18-6.
“It feels awesome,” said Tiger senior guard Mike Davis about being regional champions. “It was a great game. We showed a lot of heart.
“We made free throws and that was huge,” said Tiger senior forward Ashton Holzman. “Ethan Brinkman played a great game for a freshman. It was a total team effort.” Howards was an excellent 16-for-20 (80 percent) at the foul line.
It was a fiercely competitive game with neither team leading by more than four points until the end. The Tigers took the lead for good, 51-49, on the opening possession of the overtime period when Holzman hit a short, turnaround jumper.
After a turnover by Springs, Noah Steines made a driving layup to give Howards a 53-49 lead. The Ledgers answered with a three-pointer by Evan Henderson to cut the deficit to 53-52 with 2:30 left.
Davis then scored a three-point play on drive to the hoop that boosted Howards' advantage to 56-52 with 1:40 remaining. Springs came right back with a driving layup by Ryan Grandlic to make it 56-54.
On their next possession, Brinkman was fouled and hit two huge free throws in the double-bonus which made it a two-possession game at 58-54 with 1:09 left.
On their next trip down the court, Steines blocked a shot by Giovanni Anderson on a move to the basket and the ball went out of bounds with Springs keeping possession. Holzman drew a charging foul against Anderson which was his fifth with 25 seconds left.
The Tigers then beat full-court pressure that resulted in a layup by Steines with 16 seconds remaining that clinched the victory as Howards went up 60-54. Brinkman set up the basket by making a pass downcourt under pressure by the Ledgers.
“We're very excited about it [regional championship]. This sets a standard for our program and it's something that future teams can strive for,” said second-year Tiger head coach Mark Christenson.
“We're very happy with where we're at but we're not satisfied. This was a nice team win. Our scout team did a good in practice in helping our preparation for the game.” The Tigers will face Central Lakeshore Conference rival Ozaukee in the sectional semifinals Thursday, March 6 at Plymouth at 7 p.m. The winner advances to the finals Saturday at Brookfield Central against the Whitefish Bay Dominican-Brookfield Academy victor at 4 p.m. with a state berth on the line.
Springs almost won the game at the end of regulation. Howards deadlocked the game at 49-all when Davis hit a floater in the lane with 1:35 left in the fourth quarter. Henderson was fouled with 40 seconds remaining but missed the front end of a one-and-one.
The Tigers called a timeout with 38 seconds left to plan strategy for a final shot. Springs' Eric Feldner picked off a pass and drove to the basket but his shot was blocked by Steines. The ball went out of bounds with Springs keeping possession with 26 seconds left.
Springs worked the clock down for one last shot, and a pass inside was tipped out of bounds by Holzman with only 3.3 seconds remaining. The Ledgers took the ball out from under their basket and Henderson inbounded a pass to David Joslyn who missed a shot from about 5 feet as time expired.
“It was a great game to be a part of until you're the losing coach and then it's a downer,” said Ledger head coach Kyle Krueger.
“I felt the teams were evenly matched. Both teams played well enough to win but Howards Grove made a couple more plays. It was a hard-fought game.” The Tigers were 0-for-13 from three-point range but did a nice job of working the ball inside and attacking the rim. Howards shot an excellent 22 of 37 for 59 percent on two-point attempts.
“Part of our game plan was to get the ball inside. They were in foul trouble and we wanted to get it inside,” said Christenson.
“Garrett's [Jahnke] and Ryan's [Bruesewitz] assists were big. They got the ball inside.” Jahnke, a junior guard, led Howards in assists with an impressive nine. Bruesewitz, a senior guard, contributed six.
Davis led a balanced Tiger offense with 17 points, followed by Steines with 15 and Holzman, 12. Steines, who was strong in the low-post on offense, shot an outstanding 80 percent (8-for-10) from the field.

Holzman had a team-high 11 rebounds.
“We had only four turnovers which gave us opportunities. We took away some of the layups and made them work [on offense],” Christenson observed.
“We expected this to be a close game – back and forth.” Anderson led Springs' well-rounded attack with 12 points. Grandlic had a team-high nine boards and shared the assist lead with Joslyn at three each.
“We did a good job on Holzman. Steines and Davis hurt us. We didn't allow any threes but allowed too much penetration,” Krueger said.
Looking at the Ozaukee game, Christenson said it will be important for the Tigers to slow down the Warriors' pair of 6-foot-6 post players in Eric Hartnett and Stephen Street.
“They'll be a handful. We will try to limit Street's and Hartnett's scoring,” he said.
Howards beat Ozaukee twice during the regular season.


Score by Quarters
How. Grove..........12 15 10 12 11 – 60
St. M. Springs......12 17 8 12 5 – 54
Howards Grove scoring: Ashton Holzman 12, Mike Davis 17, Ethan Brinkman 7, Garrett Jahnke 4, Noah Steines 15, Austin Edge 2, Ryan Bruesewitz 3.
St. Mary's Springs scoring: Evan Henderson 3, Darin Ward 10, Eric Feldner 11, David Joslyn 10, Ryan Grandlic 8, Giovanni Anderson 12.
Three-point goals: Joslyn 2, Henderson 1, Ward 1.
Field goals: Howards Grove 22-50, 44%; St. Mary's Springs 20-50, 40%. Free throws: Howards Grove 16-20, 80%; St.
Mary's Springs 10-13, 77%.
Rebounds: Howards Grove 23, St. Mary's Springs 22. Turnovers: Howards Grove 4, St. Mary's Springs 9.

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