Going into the final Class A quarter-final, Springfield and Upsala looked like similar teams, and evenly matched. Scoring in the mid-70s on average, check. Shooting percentage in the mid-40s, check. 3 losses on the year, check. Starting lineups averaging in the 6-2 to 6-3 range, check.
And so the score was tied and the lead changed hands 15 times, and both scored more than half of their points in the paint.
But they turned out to be very different teams on the court. For one thing, Springfield had secret weapon Tyler Marz starting the game on the bench, but clearly Marz would play an important role in the outcome of the game. Marz is a 6-8, 285 pound post--a football star who will play that sport at Wisconsin--who was hurt throughout most of the basketball season. This was just his 8th game back from a knee injury. But eventually he came off the bench to play 20 minutes, and score 8 points with 4 boards, 2 steals, an assist and 1 block.
But second, Springfield pounded the ball into the paint with the pass, especially the high-low pass among Marz, 6-5 Cody Milbrath and 6-3 Ryan Beyer. As a result, the Tigers assisted on 15 of 22 buckets. The Cardinals, in contrast, liked to carry the ball into the lane on the dribble drive, especially guards Brandon Welinski, Brent Herzog and Christian Pedarek, and forward Jacob Voss. But the dribble drive was stymied successfully by the Tigers' defense as the 4 dribble drivers shot a collective 14-for-43 and recorded 8 assists vs. 13 turnovers.
Upsala never really adjusted to their lack of success in penetrating the lane off the dribble. They shot 8 3s in the 2nd half, but they mostly came late and out of desperation more than design.
Upsala led as late as 27-26, when a pair of Alex Fink layups put Springfield up 30-27 at the half. Herzog hit a 3 to open the 2nd half for Upsala, tying it at 30-all, but the Cardinals never made another 3. Marz and Milbrath countered for the Tigers, and Upsala never again led. A Jesse Kieper 3 made it 38-32 and Upsala never got within 4.
I said before that Marz was the Tigers' secret weapon but, hey, how secret is your average 6-8, 285 pound guy? The fact is that Kieper was Springfield's secret weapon. Both teams mostly tried to get the ball into the lane, and did. Kieper was the only consistent outside shooter for either team, hitting 5-of-11 shots including 3-of-6 from behind the arc. He finished with 17 points and 3 steals.
Otherwise Cody Milbrath (20 points, 9 boards, 4 blocks), Alex Fink (12 points, 5 boards, 5 assists) and Marz scored the bulk of their points inside. For Upsala, Jacob Voss scored 15 with 9 boards and an amazing 11 steals. Ethan Schultz scored 12 points, and energetic freshman guard Christian Pekarek also scored 12. But while the Tigers' defense adjusted to the Cardinals' dribble drive tactics, Upsala never adjusted to the Tigers' defensive schemes.
Trench Player: Milbrath