It was a classic matchup of divergent styles.
The Lake Mills boys basketball team favored firing 3-pointer after 3-pointer in a fast-paced five-guard offense. Prescott preferred to emphasize 7-foot-1 senior center Owen Hamilton down low.
Essentially, it was the Perimeter vs. the Paint. And that played out for most of Thursday’s WIAA Division 3 state tournament semifinal at the Kohl Center.
But down the stretch, Prescott senior guard Nick Simon made two 3-pointers and junior guard Joe Roosen sank another 3-pointer during a 13-3 run that wiped out a five-point deficit. The late long-range marksmanship propelled the Cardinals to a 74-67 victory, spoiling the L-Cats’ state tournament debut.
“Those were sort of back-breakers,” Lake Mills coach Steve Hicklin said.
Hamilton, a Northern Illinois commit who was constantly surrounded and leaned on by the L-Cats, scored 33 points on an all-division, state-record 14-for-15 field goal shooting in leading fourth-ranked Prescott (24-3) into Saturday’s Division 3 state title game against second-ranked Appleton Xavier.
Hamilton, who is a foot taller than Lake Mills’ tallest starter, scored 19 second-half points and also grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds.
“It’s tough to combat that size,” Hicklin said. “We did it all year long, but we never saw someone like Hamilton, (who’s) 7-1. Some of the plays he was able to make over the top is stuff you can’t scheme your way around, you can’t out-hustle, you can’t play with heart to out-size some of that stuff. The rebounding advantage (by Prescott) hurt us. I think that was the big difference.”
The third-ranked L-Cats (24-3) had four players score in double figures, led by senior guard Alex Ranney, who had 20 points and a team-high eight rebounds.
Sophomore J.T. Toepfer sank five 3-pointers and added 17 points, which Hicklin said was important in drawing Hamilton away from the basket on defense. Lake Mills junior Ben Dunkleberger and senior Brady Wagner contributed 14 and 10 points, respectively.
The L-Cats attempted 35 3-point shots, an all-division record, and tied the Division 3 and all-division records with 14 made 3-pointers.
“Coming in, we knew we would have to shoot a lot of 3s,” said Ranney, a UW-Platteville commit. “I think we did a pretty good job getting open looks, especially when (Hamilton) was sitting in the paint. Make a couple more and it’s a completely different ballgame.”
But Prescott shot 56 percent from the floor, including 66.7 percent in the second half, and outscored Lake Mills 42-22 in the paint. Hamilton, who led that inside presence, said he tried to spin free from the L-Cats’ tight defense and then reseal his defender to get open.
The Cardinals also outrebounded Lake Mills 40-21, and will make their first state title-game appearance in their second state appearance.
“Wow, we get to play for the state championship,” said Prescott coach Nick Johnson, whose team also got 14 points from junior guard Petey Brookshaw. “I don’t know if it has sunk in. But what a game. What a game to open the state tournament. … They are one heck of a team. The way we responded down seven or eight points. … I can’t say enough. We held our composure. We didn’t break when we kind of had our backs against the wall.”
The L-Cats opened a 56-48 lead with 8 minutes, 10 seconds remaining, then took a 61-56 advantage on junior Hayden Iverson’s 3-pointer with 4:49 left.
But the Cardinals then scored 10 consecutive points. Simon made a 3-pointer from the left wing, tying the game at 61 with 3:58 remaining. After a Hamilton putback with 3:11 remaining, Simon connected on another 3-pointer, off an assist from senior guard Luke Murphy, who had a game-high 11 assists. That gave Prescott a 66-61 lead with 2:21 left.
After Dunkleberger’s 3-pointer pulled Lake Mills within 66-64, Roosen sank a 3-pointer with 1:50 to play. Dunkleberger again drained a 3-pointer, rallying the L-Cats within 69-67 with 1:39 remaining. But Lake Mills didn’t score again, while Prescott converted five of six free throws in the final 31 seconds.
The L-Cats took an early 18-13 lead, but had a scoreless drought of 8:10 during which Prescott gained a 24-18 advantage in the first half. The L-Cats didn’t take advantage when Hamilton went out with two fouls.
“That was a tough break,” Hicklin said. “We were hoping we could make quick run at them. Such is life for a jump-shooting team.”
Lake Mills 27 40 — 67
Prescott 28 46 — 74
LAKE MILLS — Dunkleberger 5-13 1-1 14, Ranney 9-16 0-0 20, Wagner 3-12 2-2 10, Toepfer 6-13 0-0 17, Iverson 2-7 0-0 6, Carrigan 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-61 3-3 67.
PRESCOTT — Hamilton 14-15 5-7 33, Brookshaw 5-12 4-4 14, Roosen 3-7 3-5 9, Murphy 2-8 0-0 5, Simon 3-5 0-0 9, Tayson 1-3 2-2 4. Totals 28-50 11-17 74.
3-point goals — LM 14-35 (Toepfer 5-10, Dunkleberger 3-7, Ranney 2-6, Wagner 2-6, Iverson 2-6); P 7-17 (Roosen 3-5, Simon 3-5, Murphy 1-6, Brookshaw 0-1). Rebounds — LM 5-16-21 (Ranney 8, Toepfer 4, Dunkleberger 3, Wagner 3, Iverson 2); P 9-31-40 (Hamilton 11, Brookshaw 7, Simon 6, Roosen 5, Murphy 4, Tayson 4). Assists — LM 14 (Ranney 7, Wagner 3); P 18 (Murphy 11, Brookshaw 5). Steals — LM 9 (Toepfer 3, Ranney 2, Wagner 2); P 4. Blocks — LM 3 (Ranney 1, Wagner 1, Toepfer 1); P 1 (Murphy 1). Turnovers — LM 4, P 11. Total fouls — LM 15, P 7.