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Wolves hound Eagles

March 1, 2017 GMT

JEFFERSON —?Whether it was their stifling zone defense or prolific outside shooting, No. 9 seeded Waterford was simply a team on a mission as it took down No. 8 Jefferson, 59-41, in a WIAA Division 2 Regional boys’ basketball quarterfinal game played at PremierBank Gymnasium Tuesday night.

“Going through the handshake line with their coach?(Paul Charapata) we kind of felt like if you got off to a hot start and got us down, you were probably going to be able to win this one, and if we got off to the better start that we’d maybe have it,” said Jefferson coach Benish. “I really think that was the tale of the way things went.”

Countered by Waterford’s great shooting, Jefferson (7-16 overall) simply could not hit a shot from the outside with any consistency. Although they made seven 3-pointers, they missed 17 of them.

“Sometimes they fall and sometimes they don’t — tonight was one of those nights where they unfortunately weren’t falling our way,” said Benish. “I wasn’t disappointed in the looks we got.”

But they were falling for Waterford early. Four of the Wolves’ first six baskets came from beyond the 3-point arc, including back-to-back shots from Matt Borchardt that extended the lead to 20-7 with 7:52 to go in the first half.

The Eagles were limited to just five first-half field goals.

What also wreaked havoc on the Eagles’ offensive flow was Waterford’s zone defense. After starting in a 2-3, the Wolverines (7-16) switched to a 1-3-1 zone that simply would not allow Jefferson a clear look at the basket.

“They just weren’t going to be able to play man-to-man, the matchups just aren’t going to be there against us, and they normally don’t play man anyway,” said Benish. “Normally it is the 2-3 (zone), and maybe they picked up something they saw on film where they thought that 1-3-1 that gave us some issues.”

After trailing 28-13 at the break, the Eagles hit three of their first five shots to begin the second half, and all three came from 3-point range.

Junior Zack Peterson, held scoreless in the first half, knocked down a triple, before sophomore Ryan Brost and junior Evan?Anfang connected from beyond the arc as Jefferson cut its deficit to single digits, 31-22.

But Waterford answered with a 7-3 run, as Jefferson missed five straight shots before sophomore Ben?Sukow ended the drought with a layup at 10:54.

“Every little run we made, they seemed to have an answer for,” Benish said. “Every time we got it close enough to maybe put the pressure on them, they would knock a big shot in.”

Brost converted a three-point play to bring the Jefferson deficit to 10 with 8 1/2 minutes remaining. But that would be as close as the Eagles would come the rest of the way.

In a sequence of two possessions, the Wolves scored seven points — Matt Korman executed the rare four-point play, before Alex Strabley followed with an and-1 on the very next trip down the floor extending the Waterford lead to 52-30.

“Down the stretch in the games where we’ve started slow and dug ourselves a hole, we’ve really got to fight from behind; give our kids credit, they scrap and fight and battle and they give the effort, but when you’re already down 10-to-12 points it puts you in a tough spot,” Benish said.

All but one Jefferson player returns next season, giving Benish some optimism for the future.

“Hopefully our young guys keep this feeling in their gut, losing a home playoff game, and can use it as motivation,” said Benish. “We do have a nice group coming back.”

The only player Jefferson loses is senior Rylee Miller, who came back out for basketball for the first time since his freshman season.

“I wish I would have had a couple more years with him,” said Benish. “I really like Rylee and the way he plays and what he brought to our team this year; his leadership and just his confidence in the way he played was just a benefit to us.”

Brost led the Eagles with 10 points, while Anfang, Peterson and freshman Caleb Stelse all chipped in six.

Korman led all scorers with 21.

Waterford will face top-seeded Westosha Central, its Southern Lakes Conference rival, in Friday’s Division 2 Regional semifinal.