Simply stated — the difference in Thursday night’s C1-7 subdistrict final between the Madison and Pierce boys basketball teams was defense.
The 21-4 Bluejays forced the Madison shooters out of their comfort zone, away from the 3-point line, and dictated the Dragons’ shot selection--limiting the offense that produced 14 3-pointers while downing Norfolk Catholic on Tuesday to just five and a 28 percent field goal percentage.
The result was a dominating 60-29 Pierce victory that, following a Brady Starkel 3 from the right corner, triggered a 40-point mercy-rule running clock midway through the third quarter for the remainder of the game.
“You can’t get mad at the 3s not going in after you have a game where you win by the 3s,” Madison coach Dan Fuhs said. “I thought our kids played hard; the only critique is that we could have moved the ball better tonight.”
“We always say, ‘feet and follow-through’ but we almost never had our feet set,” he said. “We had seven traveling violations in the first half, and that’s a credit to Pierce’s defense. They’re a great team; I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re down at the state tournament.”
Starkel’s 3-pointer was his fifth of the game, and his team’s ninth, as the Bluejays rolled out their own 3-point attack. Starkel’s 16-point total nearly matched teammate Taggart Bailey’s 17-point game-high effort as the pair contributed 28 of Pierce’s 40 first-half points to create a 40-10 lead.
“I had watched Madison a couple times before, and they averaged 25-30 3s per game. We felt that if we stayed down in a stance and would guard out past the 3-point line that we would be fine,” Pierce coach Mike Emory said. “Our on-the-ball defense is pretty good. Our quickness and intensity sped them up, which causes you to not shoot as well.”
The best evidence of that effect was Ty Hegemann, whose nine 3s led to a 38-point production that paced the Dragons on Tuesday. Against the Bluejays, Hegemann was held to just one 3 and a 2 of 10 performance from the field for five points--leaving the bulk of Madison’s scoring load to twin brother Lane (nine points) and Ulises Hernandez (six points).
“We switched so much that everybody ends up guarding him at some point; that’s why our kids work so hard on being able to guard the ball,” Emory said. “All those ball screens and dribble hand-offs, we switch, so really it’s just a great team effort defensively. We felt that if we played our kind of defense, we’d be in pretty good shape.”
“There are no secrets this team of year; it was good that the kids got to see them play for a half on Tuesday. They (Madison) got their attention without a doubt,” he said. “The kids were expecting an all-out 32-minute battle, but obviously we shot really well to get a good lead. Taggart and Brady have been steady all year.”
The Bluejays will face the C1-8 subdistrict winner--either Ord (13-9) or O’Neill (20-4)--on Monday at a site to be determined. Meanwhile, Madison finishes its season at 10-14.
C1-7 boys subdistrict final
Madison (10-14): Steven Vargas 1-2 1-1 3, Everardo Macias Rangel 0-1 0-0 0, Jose Arellano 1-2 1-1 3, Lane Hegemann 4-8 0-0 9, Jesus Arellano 1-4 0-0 3, Rick Mayo 0-1 0-0 0, Ty Hegemann 2-10 0-0 5, Keaton Hendren 0-1 0-0 0, Ulises Hernandez 2-8 0-0 6, Eric Ehlers 0-1 0-0 0, Aaron Williams 0-1 0-0 11-39 2-2 29.
Pierce (21-4): Kyle West 0-1 0-0 0, Austin Freeman 2-3 0-0 5, Brady Starkel 5-7 1-2 16, Walker Raabe 2-4 4-4 8, Brady Simmons 1-1 1-2 3, Parker Baumann 0-1 0-0 0, Mason Buckendahl 0-0 2-2 2, Caleb Sullivan 0-0 2-2 2, Taggart Bailey 7-13 0-0 17, Braydan Waldner 4-7 1-1 9. Totals: 21-37 9-13 60.