Badgers roll into regional final

NIAGARA, Wis. – The Niagara Badgers will play for a regional basketball title tonight.

Proving too quick and physical for Three Lakes Friday night, Niagara jumped out to an 11-point first quarter lead and led by as many as 33 in a 67-38 WIAA Division 5 regional semifinal blowout Friday night.

“I liked the fact that we go up and down,” Badgers head coach Jim Hoogland said. “We’re athletic, we like to go. That’s when we play the best.”

The Badgers (17-7) head south to face top-seeded Wausaukee (18-6) tonight, which took down Goodman-Pembine 58-44 in the other semifinal Friday.

Zach Walker led Niagara Friday with 20 points. Zach Zychowski added 12 more, and Jordan Zawada chipped in 11.

The Badgers, shooting better than 50-percent in the contest, took advantage of several Three Lakes turnovers with easy breakaway buckets to build their first-half lead.

The Blue Jays led 7-6 in the early going, but Niagara closed the first quarter on a 15-3 run and kept the visitors off the scoreboard for the first four minutes of the second frame.

“That’s what good teams do,” Hoogland said. “They take care of business early, and we kind of, right from the get go, took care of business. It was a good team effort.”

Niagara’s dominance also included a 35-23 edge on the glass, with Zawada (8) and Walker (7) leading the effort there.

Riley Liebscher led Three Lakes with 15 points, buoyed by a couple a triples in the final few minutes of the game.

“We needed to limit the turnovers, as our scouting reports said they were very physical and fast,” Three Lakes coach Jack Wales said. “I thought we could have done a better job of taking care of the ball.

“I wish we would have gotten a couple of calls in the beginning there. I think that kind of dictated the way the rest of the game went – that they were going to allow it to be overly physical. By us, we’re not used to that. The M&O plays a little harder, a little more physical. We just weren’t ready for that. I thought we were.”

Niagara and Wausaukee split their season series. The Badgers won at home 58-50 on Dec. 13, and the Rangers prevailed on their home court 58-47 on Jan. 31.

“We have to play a good game on offense,” Hoogland said. “What I mean by that, is we have to take care of the basketball. We cannot give Wausaukee easy shots, easy opportunities.

“They’re so good half- court, defensively. If we don’t take care of the basketball it’s going to be trouble for us. And, we need to shoot well. We shoot well down there, and I think we should come out with a victory.”

Three Lakes 10 8 7 13 – 38

Niagara 21 18 16 12 – 67

THREE LAKES: Liebscher 15, La Duke 9, Wales 6, Maney 6, Levandoski 2. FT: 4-6. F: 14.

NIAGARA: Walker 20, Zychowski 12, Zawada 11, Swanson 7, Liebergen 4, Anderson 4, Oratch 3, Pultz 2, Parent 2, Moreau 2. FT: 12-19. F: 14.

FG shooting – TL: 14-42; N: 26-48. 3-pt FGs – Liebscher (3), La Duke (3); N: Walker (2), Swanson. Rebounding – TL: 23; Niagara 35 (Zawada 8).