MONONA — The door leading to the Badger South Conference title was ajar.
Long-range marksman Henry Huston and his Monona Grove teammates made sure they knocked it down against Oregon on Tuesday night.
Huston, a 6-foot-2 senior guard, made four 3-pointers — including three that helped host Monona Grove gain separation in the second half — and scored 14 points in the 58-49 victory.
The Silver Eagles (15-5 overall, 11-2 Badger South) clinched the outright conference crown, taking a two-game lead over Oregon (12-8, 9-4) and Stoughton (11-10, 9-4) with one round of league games remaining.
“It means everything,” Huston said. “That is what we have worked for all season. It is what we dedicate all our time to in practice. That is what every kid dreams of growing up. That is what I dreamed of growing up. It is a dream chasing it. I wanted to get it.”
It was Monona Grove’s second consecutive Badger South championship. The most recent time Monona Grove won back-to-back conference titles was 1994-95, coach Dan Zweifel said, before his team cut down the net in celebration on Senior Night.
“We’re really excited about it,” Zweifel said. “It’s been almost 30 years since back-to-back for Monona Grove — and back-to-back outright. I’m really proud of the kids.”
Seniors Caden Nelson, Sam Hepp and Kyle Nett also scored 14 points each for the Silver Eagles, who have won six consecutive games. Huston had 11 second-half points, while Nelson and the 6-7 Nett scored 10 points apiece in the second 18 minutes.
Huston connected on two consecutive deep 3-pointers — one from out front and the other from the left wing — and propelled Monona Grove to a 28-19 lead early in the second half.
“My teammates just set me up for open shots and, luckily, I was hitting them,” said Huston, one of nine seniors on the team.
Said Oregon coach Chris Siebert: “The 3s he hit actually came from passes off of Nelson. It is incredibly difficult to be in the gap helping on Nelson when you have to recover on a shooter 30 feet from the bucket. It was simple action that hurt us. But at the same time, those are tough shots. He’s a tough kid who made good shots. That’s a senior making all-conference-type plays.”
Huston later made a 30-foot 3-pointer, which boosted the Silver Eagles’ lead to 44-38 with 5 minutes, 57 seconds remaining.
“I just wanted to hit a big shot for our team,” said Huston, who plans to study graphic design at Iowa State but not participate in athletics.
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Zweifel said: “In the second half, we called long distance and that came through tonight. Henry Huston hit a number of 3s — long 3s — whenever we needed them.”
Oregon senior guard Nolan Look made a 3-pointer with 5:38 left and one of two free throws with 4:49 to play, rallying the Panthers within 44-42. The 6-7 Hepp answered with a 3-pointer from the left side with 4:21 left, increasing the Silver Eagles’ lead to five.
“Hepp got hurt last week and did not play last week at all … and I thought he played fantastic tonight,” Zweifel said. “He was active rebounding. He was active early getting to the basket, scoring around the rim. Oregon did a really nice job on Caden, bottling him up.”
After the Panthers closed within 47-44, Nelson began a 7-0 run with a 3-pointer. The closest Oregon could get after that was 54-49 on freshman guard Ryne Panzer’s jumper in the lane with 41 seconds remaining.
Panzer and sophomore guard Erik Victorson led Oregon with 11 points each, while Look had 10 points.
In the teams’ first meeting, Oregon defeated Monona Grove 57-54 on Dec. 21.
Once the regular season is completed, Monona Grove and Oregon will meet again to start postseason. Fourth-seeded Oregon will play host to Monona Grove on March 1 in a WIAA Division 2 playoff.
Oregon 17 32 — 49
Monona Grove 20 38 — 58
OREGON — Look 4 1-2 10, Erik Victorson 3 3-6 11, Panzer 4 2-2 11, Erickson 3 0-0 6, Taplick 1 0-0 3, Tower 1 0-0 2, Kissling 0 0-0 0, Ethan Victorson 1 2-2 4, Yates 1 0-0 2. Totals 18 8-12 49.
MONONA GROVE — C. Nelson 4 4-4 14, Bihop 1 0-0 2, Stinson 0 0-0 0, Hepp 6 0-0 14, Huston 4 2-3 14, Loken 0 0-0 0, L. Nelson 0 0-0 0, Antonson 0 0-0 0, Nett 5 4-4 14. Totals 20 10-11 58.
3-point goals — O 5 (Erik Victorson 2, Look 1, Panzer 1, Taplick 1); MG 8 (Huston 4, C. Nelson 2, Hepp 2). Total fouls — O 14; MG 14. Fouled out — Erickson.