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Elkhorn moves into sectional finals

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Tim Wester/Special to The Gazette
March 14, 2009
— Elkhorn High senior guard Eric Bryson had waited a full year to avenge last season’s frustrating 52-48 sectional semifinal loss to Verona.

Bryson certainly got his redemption in the rematch.


The 6-foot-3 standout scored seven of his game-high 23 points in overtime to carry the ninth-ranked Elks past Verona, 64-56, in a WIAA Division 1 boys basketball sectional semifinal Friday night at Janesville Craig.


Elkhorn (20-2), seeking its first state berth since 1987 and first ever in Division 1, faces Beloit Memorial (17-5) in the sectional final at 7 tonight at Craig. The winner advances to next Thursday’s state quarterfinals at the Kohl Center in Madison.


Beloit reached the sectional title game by knocking off Kenosha Tremper, 58-49, in Friday’s opener at Craig.


Then came the Elks’ moment of revenge.


“It’s big time,” Bryson said his team’s payback victory. “They (the Wildcats) beat us last year, and we were thinking that the whole time. Now it’s time to take on Beloit.”


Elkhorn proved it was ready to get its revenge in overtime.


Bryson scored six of his team’s first eight points in overtime to put Elkhorn up 59-54 with 1:26 remaining.


After a Jordan Lockhart free throw built the lead to six, Travis Schaaf broke Verona’s 1:23 scoring draught with a jumper that made it 61-56 with 32 seconds left.


Verona then swarmed Elkhorn’s ensuing inbounds play and forced a five-second call.


But the Wildcats failed to take advantage of the turnover and watched Brain Schmidt and Bryson drain three free throws to put the game out of reach.


“I think we had a little more execution this time around against them,” Elkhorn coach John Handel said. “Big players have to step up and make big plays, and in overtime, Bryson was pretty special.”


Lockhart proved to be equally as good in the fourth quarter.


The 5-11 senior guard made three clutch three-pointers in the fourth to help erase a seven-point deficit and draw the Elks even at 44-44 with four minutes left.


“We were riding a hot hand with Lockhart in the fourth quarter,” Handel said. “We were shooting the ball well, and we told our guys to go ahead and take the outside shots.”


The teams exchanged leads in the final minutes of regulation before the Elks held for one final possession with the game tied at 51-51.


The Wildcats’ defense, however, didn’t allow the Elks to get an open look and forced overtime. Elkhorn took over from there.


“I knew we could get back in the fourth with a couple threes,” Handel said. “We were always within a couple possessions.”


Jason Ziemer, who averaged 24 points a game in the Big Eight, scored 15 of his team-high 17 in the second half for Verona.


ELKHORN 64, VERONA 56 (OT)


Elkhorn (64)—Gahart, 1-4-7; Olson, 1-0-2; O’Laughlin, 2-1-5; Bryson, 8-4-23; Findreng, 4-0-10; Lockhart, 3-1-10; Blackbourn, 1-0-3; B. Schmidt, 1-2-4. Totals: 21-12-64.


Verona (56)—Platto, 1-0-2; Karls, 2-3-7; Ziemer, 8-1-17; Schaaf, 3-2-8; Wadzinski, 1-1-3; Christensen, 2-0-6; Ropel, 2-1-7; Riebau, 2-0-6. Totals: 21-8-56.


Elkhorn 12 14 7 18 13—64


Verona 7 15 15 14 5—56


Three point goals—Elkhorn 10 (Gahart, Bryson 3, Findreng 2, Lockhart 3, Blackbourn), Verona 6 (Christensen 2, Ropel 2, Riebau 2). Free throws missed—Elkhorn 6, Verona 8. Total Fouls—Elkhorn 17, Verona 21. Fouled out—Findreng.



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