MILTON—The Red Hawks’ work from beyond the 3-point line and solid guard play helped them advance in the WIAA boys basketball playoffs Tuesday night
Milton, the No. 6 seed in its sectional bracket, made seven 3-pointers and Matthew Kirk scored 21 in his team’s 66-52 Division 2 WIAA regional quarterfinal victory over 11th-seeded Baraboo.
The Thunderbirds (9-16) were were determined not to be an easy out in the postseason opener for the teams. Even with its outside shooting and excellent guard play from Kirk and Ayden Goll, it would take Milton two halves to salt away its win for good.
In the first period, Kirk scored five points in a 7-0 run that put Milton up 18-11. Brogan McIntyre contributed the other basket in that run, a tip-in at the rim. But Baraboo responded with its own 8-0 run to retake the lead 19-18.
“The phrase we use is guarding our yard,” said Milton coach Alex Olson. “One-on-one, me versus you and see if we can stay in front of you or not. They were blowing by us in the first half and a good majority of the second half.
“We didn’t follow the scouting (report) as strongly as I wanted to, but we did in the moments we needed most. We were just not doing a good enough job of covering the ball tonight.”
Entering the second half tied 34-all, Milton found more offensive success. Midway through the half, Goll found McIntyre cutting toward the basket and placed the ball perfectly to his teammate for a clean alley-oop and two points. Goll scored 13 points and McIntyre added 12.
On their next possession, Goll delivered again for the Red Hawks as he rebounded his own miss and made the follow-up through contact. Goll then hit a 3-pointer and Kirk made a layup to extend Milton’s run to 10-0 and its lead to 51-42.
“I’m really proud of our backcourt with Kirk and Ayden,” Olson said. “We’ve struggled with finishing games (this year). We’ve lost more close ones than we’d like to think about this year. We can play with anyone and we were in that same exact situation tonight.
“The way we handled it to how we did earlier in the year is a testament to those guys and their decision making. Both of those guys were awesome at the end of the game.”
With a solid lead intact, Milton’s defense stepped up to ensure the Thunderbirds didn’t go on another scoring run. The Red Hawks covered their assignments and contested every shot to close out the game.
“I think everyone just realized that this could be our last game, so our mental toughness has to be there,” McIntyre said. “We had to play for our seniors and play for another game. We had to live to see another day.”
On offense, Goll and Kirk took the reins and drove to the paint several times to draw free-throw opportunities. As a team, Milton hit 12 of 18 shots at the charity stripe.
“(Goll) has an extremely good knack for getting fouled,” Olson said. “The part that we’re just really proud of him and Kirk is for their ability to make good decisions for our team and draw fouls because they get so much attention.
“They’re all-conference players that each average about 15 a game. They draw a lot of attention, and to handle those late game situations the way they are now is a testament to those guys with their patience and work ethic.”
Milton advances to the regional semifinals at third-seeded Mount Horeb at 7 p.m. Friday.
MILTON 66, BARABOO 52
Milton (66)—Goll 4-3-13, Branch 1-0-2, Twist 2-0-5, McIntyre 5-0-12, Kirk 8-5-21, Lueck 1-1-3, Wuertich 1-3-5, Kavanaugh 1-0-2. Totals 23-12-66.
Baraboo (52)—Zittlow 1-0-3, Hannagan 6-0-12, Mistele 4-0-10, Liegel 1-0-2, Vittengl 6-0-12, Gehin 6-1-13. Totals 24-1-52.
Halftime—Tied 34-34. 3-point goals—M 7 (Goll 2, Twist, McIntyre, Kirk 3), B 3 (Zittlow, Mistele 2). Missed free throws—M 6, B 0. Team fouls—M 12, B 15.