Panthers fall in regional semifinal battle

by Greg Ceilley of The Review staff


DEREK SCHWEIGER, Plymouth forward, tries to maneuver through the Grafton defense in Friday’s regional basketball semifinals. Grafton’s defenders are Tanner Autey (1), Luke Benzschawel (23) and Isaiah West. – Review photo by Greg Ceilley DEREK SCHWEIGER, Plymouth forward, tries to maneuver through the Grafton defense in Friday’s regional basketball semifinals. Grafton’s defenders are Tanner Autey (1), Luke Benzschawel (23) and Isaiah West. – Review photo by Greg Ceilley PLYMOUTH – Grafton’s strong inside/outside attack sparked the No. 5-seeded Black Hawks to a 73-64 win over the Plymouth Panthers in a Division 2 boys regional basketball semifinal game here Friday night.

Grafton went on to upset No. 2-seeded Beaver Dam in the finals Saturday, 68-63, to improve to 10- 14. PHS, a No. 5 seed, ended its season with a 13-10 mark. All three teams had first-round byes.

The Black Hawks were red hot from three-point range – going 9-for-17 (53 percent). Grafton did a good job in moving the ball quickly around the perimeter for open threes. The visitors were also effective in passing the ball inside and then kicking it back out for open three-point attempts.

The undersized Panthers had to focus on Grafton’s big post players, 6-foot-7 Luke Benzschawel, and 6-5 Isaiah West, which made it tough to close out on the Black Hawks’ threepoint shooters.

PHS pulled to within 31-27 with 1:50 left in the first half following Cody Kuhn’s trey. Grafton responded with five straight points, including Darrian Langerman’s three-ball, to build a 36-29 lead.

Alex Shutter’s layup shaved the Grafton’s lead to 36-29 with 40 seconds left until halftime and the score stayed that way at the break.

In the first half, PHS struggled scoring inside due to Grafton’s size, with Benzschawel and West combining for several blocked shots. Undeterred, the Panthers kept taking the ball inside in the second half and were more successful scoring, plus they were able to kick it out for open shots which resulted in baskets.

Grafton took command of the game with a 13-4 spurt to begin the second half – mounting a 49-33 advantage at the 12:22 mark. Tanner Autey ignited the run with seven points of his nine points. The Black Hawks led by at least eight the rest of the game.

To their credit, the Panthers kept scratching and clawing all the way to the final seconds. Senior guard Layton Albright gave PHS a spark off the bench in the second half with six points on a pair of treys.

“We hustled and scrapped. We have shown effort all year-long,” said first-year PHS head coach Tim Schultz.

“In stretches we didn’t play good basketball [against Grafton] and it came back to haunt us.

“In the first half we were letting our inability to score affect our defense and rebounding. It was a confidence thing,” said Schultz. “We rebounded better in the second half.”

“It was a very physical game. We knew it would be,” said Grafton head coach Bob Maronde.

“Plymouth is a quality team. Tim does an excellent job. We knew it was going to be a battle.

“Having kids 6-5 and 6-7 who blocked shots I think maybe had them second-guessing [on shots] in the first half. But in the second half they drove and kicked it out for shots and they picked it up on defense and got some turnovers on us,” said Maronde.

“It was a great team effort. They guys played well together. I thought we could do the inside/out [on offense] and were able to do that.”

Junior guard Alex Shutter keyed the PHS attack with a game-high 22 points and senior forward TJ Moegenburg hit 17.

Justin Peters led a well-balanced Grafton offense with 14 points.

The Black Hawks outscored PHS 26-13 at the foul line. Grafton was 14-for-20 at the charity stripe in the final 4:38 which kept PHS at bay.

Moegenburg led PHS in rebounding with six and tied for the lead in assists with Gage Nischke at three apiece. Kuhn had a team-high three steals.

“I was very proud of the team. We played very well,” said Kuhn.

“We have kept fighting all year. In the end, their [Black Hawks’] got to us. We knew we had to keep driving and eventually get some calls [for fouls],” he said.

“I told the team after the game that I’m extremely proud of them. They showed great effort and gave Grafton everything they could handle,” said Schultz.

“I’m extremely proud of the seniors. They have been good leaders.”


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