By Tim “Shoe “ Sullivan and Chelsea Stenzel
Outstanding defense, clutch free throws, and a huge long-range bomb by Andrew Erdman were all needed as SPASH defeated Madison Memorial, 48-41, in Friday night’s WIAA semi-final.
SPASH is the two-time defending Division I state champion and entered the semi-final tilt with a record of 22-4. Coach Scott Anderson’s Panthers were ranked sixth in the state.
Madison Memorial, coached by Steve Collins, came into the game ranked third in the state with an overall 23-3 mark.
The game was low-scoring in the first half due to terrific defenses by both sides. SPASH’s Joey Hauser came down with a minor ankle sprain at the 10:00 mark but remained in the game. SPASH led at halftime, 26-22.
Highlights for Memorial in the opening 20 minutes included two long three-pointers by Billy Wilson, a thunder dunk by Jake Ferguson, and eight points by Chris Knight who connected on three shots down low and a tip-in dunk.
Memorial ran a super-patient offense and sometimes waited almost a minute before putting the ball up.
SPASH spread the ball around nicely in the first half. Lefty Drew Blair tingled the twines for five points while Keon’te Williams also dropped in five. Beau Rosenthal came up with seven and Joey Hauser led the way with nine points, including 5 of 6 from the charity stripe.
SPASH led, 24-20, at the 3:30 mark and both teams only scored two points each for the remainder of the half.
The slow pace seemed to favor Memorial as they led, 5-4, with seven minutes gone.
In the second half, SPASH put up 22 and Memorial connected for 19. Chris Knight of Madison came through with two big blocked shots at the 13:00 mark that sent the Memorial crowd into a frenzy. Knight also dished a perfect bounce pass to Matt Caropreso who slammed it home.
SPASH led, 32-28, with 13:37 remaining. Drew Blair’s running one-hander gave SPASH a 39-35 with six minutes to go. Then another dunk by Knight sent the crowd to the edge of their seats and narrowed the score to SPASH by two, 39-37.
Then came the biggest shot of the game. SPASH’s Andrew Erdman, who hadn’t attempted a shot all game, calmly stepped behind the arc and drilled a 3-pointer from downtown as the Panther crowd went nuts. His howitzer at the two-minute mark gave SPASH a 42-37 lead which they never lost. Drew Blair sank two free throws to give SPASH a 44-37 lead and did it again making the score 46-41 with a minute to go. Beau Rosenthal’s two successful foul shots were the icing on the cake as SPASH escaped with a 48-41 hard-fought victory.
Drew Blair led the Panthers with 17 points including his four clutch free throws. Beau Rosenthal poured in 12 points while Joey Hauser, Keon’te Williams, and Andrew Erdman contributed 11, 5, and 3 respectively. Chris Knight, who had three terrific blocks, led Memorial with 16 points. Billy Wilson added 10 while Matt Caropreso tossed in eight and Jake Ferguson chipped in seven.
With the victory, SPASH punched their ticket to the state championship which will tip off at 8:15 Saturday at the Kohl Center.