Northland Pines sophomore Gabe Smith pulled up for a jump shot in the Division 3 Regional semifinal against Amherst last Thursday. The Eagles won 65-49. —Photo By Dan Tomasoski
Northland Pines sophomore Gabe Smith pulled up for a jump shot in the Division 3 Regional semifinal against Amherst last Thursday. The Eagles won 65-49. —Photo By Dan Tomasoski
The Northland Pines boys basketball team defeated Amherst 65-49 in the WIAA Division 3 Regional semifinal in the fieldhouse Friday, but lost to Wittenberg-Birnamwood in the championship Saturday night at Wittenberg.

The Eagles’ season came to a close with the 58-45 loss to top-seeded Wittenburg-Birnamwood. Northland Pines was seeded second in the Regional.

The first half was close as both teams struggled to score and the Chargers maintained a slim 20-19 at the half. 

“I thought going into the break that we were in good shape for as bad as we shot the ball,” said Pines coach Terry Klemett. “You can’t expect much when your missing shots from close range and all over the court.”

The second half shooting woes continued for the Eagles and the Chargers took advantage going up by as many as 19 points, 45-26, with 8 minutes remaining.

But the Eagles stretched their defense to a full court trapping press and slowly started to claw their way back into the game, cutting  the lead to seven points with 2 minutes remaining.

That would be as close as the Eagles would get as the Chargers won by 13 points.

“The basketball gods weren’t on our side tonight, and we had so many good open looks and couldn’t hit the ocean. Credit to the Chargers as they were physical and bumped our players around and that got into our heads,” said Klemett. “I was happy to see us not give up and give us a chance late, but when you’re missing wide open layups and jump shots you can’t expect to win. The outcome was our poor shooting.”

Junior Deven Millis, the Eagles’ top defender all season, was the top player offensively for Pines with 14 points and seven rebounds.

“Deven had a nice game.  He has come such a long way and is such a great young man that works his tail off,” said Klemett.

Amherst win

Northland Pines faced a very deliberate Amherst Falcons team at the fieldhouse in the Regional semifinal game and came away with a stellar win 65-49. 

The Eagles controlled the first half by holding the Falcons to just 14 first half points. 

While the Falcons had trouble getting good looks, the play of Eagles’ sophomore Griffin Stiemke off the bench provided 18 first half points to put Pines up 29-14 going into the break

“We had a good game plan and we knew we had to defend their shooters well and we did,” said Klemett. “I thought Ryan Muench and Deven Millis did a fantastic job on their key players and as a team we played defense extremely well.”

The second half proved to be  similar to the first half as the Eagles defended and moved the ball with great patience and precision. The Pines broke away up by as many as 18 points with 10 minutes to play.  The falcons would not go away quietly, as they started to get hot from the outside and pulled their team to within 10 with 7 minutes remaining in the contest. 

The Eagles were not to be shaken and their ball control (only five turnovers) proved to be too much and Pines cruised to the 65-49 victory in their second Regional semifinal win.

“Our guys were fantastic tonight and we played as one unit on both sides of the ball. We had prepared for the Falcons and knew what they were capable of and ran our attack perfectly. I couldn’t be more proud of this group.”

Sophomore Nolan Lurvey continued his hot play and leadership, providing 14 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, while Ryan Muench chipped in with 10 points and eight rebounds.

“But the play of sophomore Griffin Steimke seemed to be too much for the Falcons to handle as Steimke finished with 24 points and five rebounds,”   said Klemett.

Finish 9-13

The Regional final loss ended the season for the Eagles at 9-13.

“This was such a different year. We had so many games in such a short period of time, but it was a fun season,” said Klemett. “Hats off to our seniors and their hard work. They came ready to practice everyday and played their tails off. I am going to miss that group. They are just fine young men on and off the court.”

Seniors on the team included Brandon Messner, Christian Kohlman, Landon Offerdahl, Colby Kruse and Morris Justice.

The Eagles will retain a strong portion of their roster as eight players return from a team that has gone to two straight Regional championships.

“We are going to take a couple weeks off and then get back into it,” said Klemett. “I know this group will be chomping at the bit to start training and playing again.”