The Sun Prairie boys basketball team’s second consecutive trip to the WIAA Division 1 state tournament was just as dramatic as the first.
But this time, instead of feeling the pain of a two-point overtime loss, the joyous Cardinals left the Kohl Center celebrating a two-point victory in the extra four-minute session.
Third-seeded and unranked Sun Prairie rallied from a 10-point second-half deficit and edged second-seeded and seventh-ranked West Allis Central 62-60 on Friday night and advanced to tonight’s state championship game for the first time in program history.
Junior forward Delaware Hale and senior forward Brock Voigt scored 14 points apiece and senior forward Cooper Nelson had 10 points and a team-high eight rebounds for Sun Prairie (21-6).
The Cardinals, in their second state appearance, advance to face top-seeded and sixth-ranked Brookfield Central (22-5) in the Division 1 state title game at about 8:15 p.m.
“I’m not sure if I really ever, from a year ago, put that game behind me,” said Sun Prairie coach Jeff Boos, whose team dropped a 52-50 overtime decision to Brookfield East in the Division 1 semifinals. “Obviously, it lives with you for a period of time.
“You grow from it and learn from it — (now you have) these guys delivering this unbelievable run for this group. These guys have been through a lot, a lot of setbacks, a lot of adversity. Then to be able to overcome that and not only to get down here but to now play for a state championship is really, really special. I’m really, really happy to be part of that.”
Senior guard Glenn Martin led West Allis Central (22-4) with 18 points, including connecting on a 3-point shot with two seconds left in regulation that sent the game to overtime tied at 51.
Junior forward Shilo Bowles added 17 points, including 14 in the first half when the Woodland West Conference champion Bulldogs earned a 29-21 halftime lead, and totaled a game-high 14 rebounds.
“I think it was our teamwork and we got more ball movement on offense,” Voigt said, describing reasons behind the comeback. “And our effort on the boards offensively and defensively — it was an effort thing as a team.”
Said Hale: “I felt like it was us playing together and encouraging each other to keep our heads up.”
Sun Prairie, using man-to-man and 1-3-1 zone defenses, limited West Allis Central to 31.1 percent shooting from the field.
“Sun Prairie is a heck of a team,” West Allis Central coach Dave Mlachnik said. “They are long and athletic, and they play hard. … It is disappointing. I will say that. I thought we had a chance to win that game. We just rushed things at times.”
The Cardinals held the Bulldogs’ top scorer, 6-foot-6 Jacob Fierst, to five points — 16 below his average.
“Jake just could not get anything going tonight,” Mlachnik said.
Nelson powered in from the right baseline to score, giving the Cardinals a 57-56 lead with 1 minute, 33 seconds remaining in overtime.
After Martin missed a jumper, junior guard Colin Schaefer made the first of two free throws with 23.8 seconds to play. Nelson grabbed the rebound after the missed second free throw.
Junior guard Dawson Hughes made two free throws and Sun Prairie led 60-56 with 19.4 seconds left.
After West Allis Central drew within 60-58 on two Martin free throws with 16.9 seconds left, Schaefer made two foul shots with 9.4 seconds remaining.
Bulldogs sophomore Jaqunis Rhodes scored on a putback and was fouled with nine-tenths of a second left. He intentionally missed the free throw, but Voigt grabbed the rebound and the Cardinals’ celebration could begin.
Sun Prairie, which entered the game shooting 56.8 percent from the free-throw line, made nine of 10 in overtime. Voigt made the first four for Sun Prairie in overtime.
In the second half, Hale’s dunk off a pass from senior guard Anfernee Auston gave Sun Prairie a 50-48 lead. Voigt then came up with a steal and made the second of two free throws with nine seconds remaining, increasing the Cardinals’ lead to 51-48, prior to Martin’s tying 3-point shot with 2 seconds left.
“It was a good vibe because we got back in the game,” Martin said.
Sun Prairie, trailing 31-21 early in the second half, rallied behind senior Alex Voigt’s three-point play and 3-pointers by Hale and Auston, the latter shot cutting the deficit to 34-30.
Brock Voigt’s basket off a drive and Hale’s basket inside each brought the Cardinals within three.
Hale then came up with a steal; he went coast-to-coast for a layup and was fouled on the play. Alex Voigt grabbed Hale’s missed free throw and scored, giving the Cardinals a 39-38 lead with 10:45 remaining. Hughes’ basket off a runner in the lane boosted Sun Prairie’s lead to 41-38.
Hughes’ reverse layin gave the Cardinals a 44-43 lead. Senior guard Cameron Drury made a 3-pointer from the left corner and Martin scored on a runner in the lane, putting West Allis Central ahead 48-44.
Hale scored underneath with 3:16 left and Brock Voigt made two free throws with 2:24 to play, tying the game at 48.
West Allis Central 29 22 9— 60
Sun Prairie 21 30 11— 62
WEST ALLIS CENTRAL — Martin 6-15 5-5 18, Bowles 4-8 9-11 17, Rhodes 2-5 0-1 4, Tolefree 0-4 2-2 2, Fierst 2-13 0-0 5, Varnell 2-8 0-0 5, Drury 3-8 0-0 9, Jackson 0-0 0-0 0, Jones 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 19-61 16-19 60.
SUN PRAIRIE — Schaefer 1-8 3-4 5, Nelson 5-11 0-3 10, Auston 2-4 1-2 7, B.Voigt 3-4 8-11 14, A.Voigt 2-5 2-3 6, Wherley 0-3 0-0 0, Hughes 2-5 2-3 6, Hale 6-11 0-1 14. Totals 21-51 16-27 62.
3-point goals — WAC 6-24 (Martin 1-1, Bowles 0-1, Rhodes 0-2, Tolefree 0-3, Fierst 1-4, Varnell 1-6, Drury 3-7); SP 4-20 (Schaefer 0-6, Nelson 0-2, Auston 2-4, A.Voigt 0-1, Wherley 0-3, Hughes 0-1, Hale 2-3). Rebounds — WAC 20-23-43 (Bowles 4-10-14); SP 14-24-38 (Nelson 3-5-8). Assists — WAC 4 (Martin 2); SP 6 (Schaefer 3). Turnovers — WAC 13; SP 10. Steals — WAC 6 (Martin 3); SP 8 (Hale 3). Blocks — WAC 1 (Jones); SP 5 (Hale 2). Total fouls — WAC 22, SP 19.