After defeating visiting Beloit Memorial in the first round of regional play on Feb. 26, Badger traveled to Madison East last Friday night, where Lake Geneva’s season came to an end. In the Madison game, Kale Rodgers (14) sets a screen while Christian Johnston (32) makes his way toward the basket. (Heather Ruenz photo)

But first they pulled off an upset win

By Michael S. Hoey

Correspondent

The Lake Geneva Badger boys’ basketball team pulled off one upset during the WIAA regional but could not pull off a second against the No. 1-ranked team in the state. Badger’s season came to an end with a WIAA regional semi-final loss to Madison East 103-38 on March 1 in Madison.

The Purgolders blitzed the Badgers (5-19, 3-11 Southern Lakes Conference) 59-17 in the first half and cruised from there. East clamped down on Kale Rodgers, who had gone off for a career-high 34 points in a thrilling one-point win against Beloit Memorial in what was basically a play-in game on Feb. 26 at Badger. Rodgers was held to 12 points in Madison. No one else from Lake Geneva had more than seven.

East was lead by Anthony Washington with 17 points, Cade Neubauer added 13 and Keonte Jones and Jevan Boy-ton each had 12. East (22-2) went on to get upset by Racine Horlick 74-67 in the regional final on Saturday.

 

Down to the wire

The Badgers hosted the regional opener against Beloit Memorial after a seeding mistake. Memorial (3-20) was supposed to get the No. 16 seed and Badger should have been the No. 17 seed with the winner to take on East. A mix up led to the game being held in Lake Geneva.

Several Beloit fans were vocal in their displeasure with the officiating in the opponent’s gym but Badger High School Athletic Director Jim Kluge confirmed the WIAA assigns referees for play-off games, not the host school.

The game itself was all-Badger until almost mid-way through the second half. The Badgers led 30-21 at the half and led by as many as 15 in the first half. Rodgers led the way and was almost unstoppable with 17 first-half points.

“It just happens,” Rodgers said of getting hot. He also scored 33 in a loss at Kenosha Bradford earlier in the season.

“It could happen to anybody on the team, it just happened to be me tonight,” he said. “I can’t thank my teammates enough because they got me the open shots.”

“He’s a senior, he’s our leader,” Coach John Witte said of Rodgers. “These kids love him and he loves his teammates – he is an awesome kid.”

Witte said it has always been important to get Rodgers going early, so he designed a play for Rodgers on the opening play of the game and the second half – both of which resulted in baskets.

“He doesn’t tend to stop once he gets going,” Witte said.

Rodgers gave the Badgers the early lead with a three-pointer and scored the first 10 Badger points, including a circus shot in the lane. A basket by Christian Johnston put the Badgers up 12-2. A free throw by Grant DuMez made it 17-6. Two free throws later by DuMez made it 23-8, the largest lead of the night.

A big part of the story was the Badger zone defense. Witte said Beloit Memorial looked very stagnant on offense against zones on film and they looked that way again on this night, often as if they had no idea how to score against it, settling for deep three-point attempts.

“The boys did a good job of executing,” Witte said.

The second half got tight as Beloit Memorial finally began to score and for a while at least limited Rodgers.

“They brought a lot more pressure and they pressured more in the full court then they did in the first half,” Rodgers explained. “We struggled with that at first, but we got past it and held them off.”

Witte credited DuMez with breaking the press. Though he had only 10 points, Witte said DuMez, as the point guard, handled the full court pressure well. So did Rodgers, Johnston, and Cole Deering, he added.

That being said, the Knights made a run, cutting the lead to 41-36 with 13 minutes to play. Markai Payne made Beloit’s first three-pointer of the night, Kamryn Bach scored to make it 42-38, Jaden Bell scored to draw the Knights within 42-40, and Amariah Cook tied it at 42 with just under nine and a half minutes to play.

“It would have been less stressful if we could have held that 15-point lead,” Witte joked, “but it shows the fight these kids have and how badly they wanted to win—they dug in their heels and battled.”

Spencer Bishop put the Badgers back on top with a basket, but Cordell France gave Memorial its first lead of the game at 45-44 with a three-pointer. The game see-sawed back and forth until Rodgers hit two three-pointers giving the Badgers a 54-48 lead with five minutes to play. A three-pointer by Deering made it 57-52 with 3:20 left on the clock. Two free throws by DuMez gave the Badgers a 59-52 lead with 1:31 to play but Beloit was not done.

Bell got a steal and a basket with just under a minute left and Cook got a rebound and put-back basket to bring Beloit within three at 59-56. Cook then got a steal and basket to cut the lead to one with 23 seconds on the clock. Deering missed the front end of a bonus and Terrill Ringer missed a shot for the Knights but the rebound went out of bounds off the Badgers.

After a Beloit timeout with 13 seconds to play, the Knights had two shots in the lane to win the game in the final seconds but missed both. Rodgers came away with the ball as time expired.

Rodgers led the Badgers with 34 points. DuMez added ten. Cook led the Knights with 17. Ringer added 12.

Rodgers admitted the team felt the pressure as Beloit Memorial mounted the second-half comeback, but he said the team stayed strong, took care of the ball, and made free throws down the stretch to pull out the win.

“It was a huge win for us,” Rodgers said. “It was the first time in two years we’ve won a playoff game.”

 

 
 

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