Warhawks Advance to WIAC Championship with win over La Crosse
WHITEWATER, Wis. - The Warhawk men's basketball team topped UW-La Crosse, 76-73, in Kachel Gym to advance to the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Championship on Sunday for a chance to earn the league's automatic bid into the NCAA Division III Tournament. UW-Stevens Point won the other semifinal contest to set up another battle between the top two teams in the nation. UW-Whitewater, the number two seed in the tournament and the number two team in the nation, will travel to Stevens Point for a 2:00 pm tipoff Sunday, March 2 against the top seeded and top ranked team, UW-SP.
Tickets for the WIAC Championship game will be available Saturday between noon and 9:00 pm. Order by credit card by calling 715-346-4100. Tickets ordered via phone will be available at the will call before the game Sunday. The doors to the gym will open 90 minutes prior to tipoff with tickets available at the Quandt Ticket Office beginning at 12:30. Additional information regarding game coverage will be posted when available.
The game was a battle throughout with the teams exchanging bursts of momentum. The largest lead in the first half was nine points, by UW-W at the 9:10 mark after a three-pointer by KJ Evans (Beloit/Beloit Memorial) made it 22-13. A three-point play with four seconds left in the half by La Crosse's Calahan Skogman gave the Eagles a one-point advantage, 34-33, heading into intermission.
Both teams shot well in the first 20 minutes with the Warhawks making 14-28 (50%) compared to UW-L's 13-27 (48%). The Eagles enjoyed an 18-13 advantage on the boards which UW-Whitewater negated forcing four more turnovers.
Skogman nailed a jumper to open the second half to give the Eagles a 36-33 lead, but the Warhawks came roaring back with a 14-2 run to push the edge back into their favor, 47-38 with 13:31 remaining. The lead hit double figures for a short period of time midway through the half. With the score 61-51 in favor of Whitewater with 7:43 left, UW-La Crosse scored 10 of the next 12 points, highlighted by Luke Tweed's eight points, to narrow the gap to two, 63-61 with 4:26 to go. Reggie Hearn (Milwaukee/Marshall) dropped in two free throws to give the Warhawks a four point cushion but a free throw and a quick jumper by the Eagles brought UW-L within one, 65-64 with under three minutes to play.
Alex Merg (Greendale/Greendale) drained a jumper from downtown followed by a steal and fastbreak layup by Eric Bryson (Elkhorn/Elkhorn) and UW-W took a six point lead. Merg made it eight in a row for the Warhawks with two free throws with 1:46 left in the game and Whitewater leading 72-64. UW-W warded off the late surge by the Eagles to seal the 76-73 win.
The essential stat of the second half was points in the paint. UW-W outscored the Eagles 20-8 in the lane in the second half. The Warhawks shot 55% from the floor making 30-55. La Crosse was 25-52, 48%, from the field adding seven three-pointers in the game.
The five starters for UW-W each played over 34 minutes in the game with four reaching double digits scoring. Evans led the way with 19 points and added seven boards. Hearn posted 18 points including 6-8 from the charity stripe and led UW-W with eight rebounds. Merg ended with 16, adding three steals and three assists, and Bryson added 10 on 5-8 from the floor. Quardell Young (Kenosha/Bradford) dished out five assists and added two steals in the game.
Skogman led all players with 28 points shooting 8-12 from the field, 3-5 from behind the arc and 9-9 from the free throw line with nine rebounds.
UW-W will head to their third-consecutive WIAC Championship. The Warhawks topped UW-Platteville last season to earn the automatic berth into the NCAA DIII Tournament. UW-Stevens Point defeated UW-Platteville 66-47 Friday to advance to the championship.
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