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Nate Abel heats up at right time as Beaver Dam beats Sauk Prairie

Nate Abel heats up at right time as Beaver Dam beats Sauk Prairie

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PRAIRIE DU SAC — Beaver Dam senior point guard Nate Abel wasn’t worried that he was scoreless for the first 14 minutes Tuesday night.

The 6-foot-2 Abel, his team’s leading scorer, knew the Golden Beavers had a balanced scoring attack and that teammates Tyler Bunkoske and Brady Helbing were off to good starts against host Sauk Prairie.

That opened up the half court and permitted Michigan Tech commit Abel to take command in a decisive stretch right before halftime, propelling undefeated Beaver Dam to a 64-45 non-conference boys basketball victory.

“With everything that’s going on, we are just thankful for the opportunity, first of all,” Abel said. “Then when the season started, we wanted to make sure our guys were in the right place and, ‘Let’s keep it going.’”

Abel made a 3-pointer for his first points of the game with 3 minutes, 39 seconds left in the first half. He wound up scoring 10 of his 15 points in a 2:44 span, helping extend a 24-23 lead into a 39-26 advantage with 55 seconds remaining before halftime.

The Beavers (8-0), who trailed 23-21 with 6:39 left in the first half, went on an 18-3 run against previously undefeated Sauk Prairie in opening the 13-point lead.

“I told our guys at halftime that of the 18 minutes, I thought we played a really good 16,” Sauk Prairie coach Sean McGann said.

Beaver Dam, after leading 39-29 at halftime, pulled away in the second half — leading by as many as 25 points.

Bunkoske, a 6-foot junior guard, made four 3-pointers and scored a game-high 18 points. He made three 3s and scored 13 points in the first half.

Helbing, a 5-10 junior guard, added 16 points.

“Ty and Brady got going and they had to focus on Ty, and especially Ty’s ability to hit the 3,” Beaver Dam coach Tim Ladron said. “He was really good tonight. When they go, it opens up the floor for Nate. Obviously, Nate is a great player, but we have been really balanced all year. We have four guys scoring in double digits for the year. It’s hard to focus just on one guy.”

Abel, a first-team all-conference selection in the Badger North last season who entered averaging 20.3 points per game this season, was looking to attack and distribute.

“I draw a lot of help-side attention,” Abel said. “So, when I attack there are a lot of guys open and I’m trying to find shooters. Tyler was really rolling there the whole game, so I was trying to find him.”

Senior forward Isaac Breunig led the Eagles (4-1) with 14 points before fouling out with 5:12 to play. Brandt Wilson, a 6-7 senior forward and Sauk Prairie’s leading scorer (18.8 points per game), wasn’t available due to illness, McGann said.

“This group is a great group because they are just so coachable,” McGann said. “We are not the most talented basketball team in the world, but we play hard and I think they are really starting to play for each other.

“It’s been hard because we haven’t had our full team for a single game this year, which is kind of expected. But I really, really thoroughly enjoy coaching this group. … (Wilson) is a 6-7 kid who can shoot it and score inside. Obviously, that’s a big blow (that he didn’t play), but I’m proud of our team. We didn’t make excuses.”

Beaver Dam and Sauk Prairie are Badger North Conference teams, but the Badger is not holding conference competitions or naming league champions this winter because not all the teams can play or play full schedules due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Spectators weren’t permitted.

“I think they are coached really well defensively … (including) taking away the driving lanes,” Ladron said. “Give them a lot of credit, without Wilson playing tonight. The energy they brought, I thought they were really good tonight.”

Ladron also praised his team’s energy, saying, “I’m proud of our guys, too. High school kids could pretty easily let up when a guy of that caliber is not playing.”

Beaver Dam 39 25 — 64

Sauk Prairie 29 16 — 45

BEAVER DAM (fg ft-fta pts) — Bunkoske 7 0-0 18, Helbing 7 2-3 16, Kuhl 1 0-0 3, Soto 2 0-2 4, Sharkey 1 1-1 3, Abel 6 0-0 15, Fakes 1 0-0 2, Davis 1 0-0 3. Totals 26 3-6 64.

SAUK PRAIRIE — Uselman 2 2-2 7, K. Breunig 0 0-2 0, I. Breunig 6 0-0 14, Bean 1 0-0 2, E. Breunig 2 0-0 4; Drew 1 0-0 2, D. Breunig 4 0-2 9, Kerska 3 0-0 7. Totals 19 2-6 45.

3-point goals: BD 9 (Bunkoske 4, Abel 3, Kuhl 1, Davis 1); SP 5 (I. Breunig 2, Uselman 1, D. Breunig 1, Kerska 1).

Total fouls: BD 10, SP 11. Fouled out: I. Breunig.

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Jon Masson covers high school sports for the Wisconsin State Journal. He has covered a variety of sports — including the Green Bay Packers and Wisconsin men's and women's basketball and volleyball — since he first came to the State Journal in 1999.

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