After absorbing their first loss earlier in the week, senior guard Caden Nelson and the Monona Grove boys basketball team were in bounce-back mode Saturday night.
The 6-foot-1 Nelson scored a career-high 36 points, including 22 in the second half, and helped Monona Grove rally past host Madison Edgewood 75-67 in a Badger South Conference game. He made four 3-pointers and converted 14 of 18 free throws.
Monona Grove (6-1 overall, 3-1 Badger South), ranked ninth in Division 2 in the WisSports.net poll, rebounded after Tuesday’s loss to Monroe and remained tied for second place, one game behind Stoughton.
“He is kind of crafty with the ball,” Monona Grove coach Dan Zweifel said about Nelson. “He hesitates out there and it is really tough to guard him. He’s able to be a little shifty. Just when you think you’ve got him stopped, he goes by you and gets in the lane. He has the ability to score against two or three people by hanging in the air inside, where he is able to finish.”
Nelson, 6-7 senior forward Kyle Nett and the Silver Eagles’ bench played pivotal roles after Edgewood (3-4, 2-2) used an 8-2 run and grabbed a 36-30 lead 2 minutes, 20 seconds after halftime, and Monona Grove starters Sam Hepp and Henry Huston picked up their fourth fouls.
“We were eager to get back on the court,” Nelson said. “We kind of let one slip away there (against Monroe). We wanted to stay at the top of the conference and get the win tonight. I knew that with (Hepp and Huston) out we had to get some scoring and my teammates set me up for a lot of 3s there at the end and I had a lot of foul shots.”
Monona Grove used a 14-2 run and claimed a 48-40 lead. Nett scored seven consecutive points for the Silver Eagles during that flurry. Nelson scored 10 consecutive points for his team — including connecting on two 3-pointers — during a stretch when Monona Grove seized a 59-48 lead.
Hepp wound up with 10 points before fouling out in the final seconds and Nett had nine points, all in the second half.
Crusaders senior Michael Meriggioli scored 21 of his team-high 25 points in the second half. Sophomore Isandro Jimenez had 17 points and sophomore Michael Regnier made four 3-pointers and scored 16 points for Edgewood.
“Their bench was the difference and, obviously, we had no answer for Nelson,” Edgewood coach Chris Zwettler said. “Then the fouls started to pile up and it’s a whole different game. … (Nelson) is very smart. He takes care of the ball really well, and he found a way.”
Nelson's previous high game was 33 points against Mount Horeb in a WIAA Division 2 regional final March 3, 2018.
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The left-handed Jimenez, who had 12 first-half points, scored on a drive 11.7 seconds before halftime, pulling the Crusaders into a 28-28 deadlock.
Monona Grove used a 10-3 run to take a 28-19 lead with 3:33 left in the first half. Hepp scored the first four points for the Silver Eagles in the run, then Nelson made two 3-pointers.
But the Crusaders, beginning with Regnier’s 3-pointer, scored the final nine points over the final 3:18 before halftime and tied the game at 28.
Nelson (14 points), Hepp (eight) and Huston (six) combined for all 28 points for the Silver Eagles in the first half. Monona Grove started quickly, making five of its first six shots while grabbing a 12-7 lead.
“I thought we were a little sluggish early, but I thought the second half was really good,” Zweifel said. “We found some energy. That’s what it takes. You have to play with energy and play hard.”
Monona Grove — the defending Badger South champion — reached the WIAA Division 2 sectional final last year, falling to Westosha Central.
Monona Grove 28 47 — 75
Madison Edgewood 28 39 — 67
MONONA GROVE — C. Nelson 9 14-18 36, Bishop 0 3-4 3, Stinson 1 0-0 2, Hepp 4 2-4 10, Huston 3 0-0 8, Loken 1 5-6 7, Nett 3 3-3 9. Totals 21 27-35 75.
MADISON EDGEWOOD — Drumm 1 0-0 2, James 1 0-1 2, Salzwedel 0 1-2 1, Regnier 6 0-0 16, M. Wendler 1 0-0 2, Jimenez 5 5-7 17, Meriggioli 9 5-5 25, Newton 1 0-0 2. Totals 24 11-15 67.
3-pointers — MG 6 (C. Nelson 6, Huston 2); ME 8 (Regnier 4, Jimenez 2, Meriggioli 2). Total fouls — MG 18; ME 25. Fouled out — Hepp; James.