There’s no magic formula for how Eau Claire North did it.
The Huskies didn’t shoot particularly well. There wasn’t one game-changing X’s and O’s tweak. Heck, they didn’t even lead at any point in regulation.
They just did what good teams do. They hung tough, made every play when it mattered and found a way to win.
And now they’re regional champions.
Jack Kron came up with a huge steal late in regulation, Dalton Banks was the hero in overtime and fourth-seeded North fought its way into sectionals with a thrilling 55-53 victory over fifth-seeded Appleton West in the WIAA Division 1 boys basketball regional finals Saturday night at the Doghouse.
“We just always had to stay confident in what we were trying to do,” Kron said. “We just had to pull through in the end. We somehow did that.”
Banks scored six of his 26 points in overtime to lead the Huskies (21-3), who advanced to face top-seeded Oshkosh North in Thursday’s sectional semifinal at Wausau West.
Kron added 11 points, six rebounds and four assists.
“There are a lot of X’s and O’s and plays throughout the game,” North coach Todd Marks said. “But I thought our kids just hung in there. They refused to lose.”
North forced four West turnovers in the final two minutes. None of them were more important than Kron’s steal. The ever-reliable senior point guard managed to poke the ball loose, gather it, get out in transition and finish a layup with 24 seconds left. That tied the game and sent in into OT.
“We didn’t take very good care of the ball down the stretch and Eau Claire North did,” Appleton West coach Brennan Hussey said. “They took better care of the ball down the stretch.”
In overtime, up stepped Banks, the precocious sophomore. His two free throws with 3:24 left gave North its first lead of the game.
Then with 1:27 remaining, Banks gave the Huskies the lead for good. On a play called by senior Jaelin Williams, Banks was able to turn the corner and get to the rim to put North ahead 54-53. From there the Huskies took care of business on the defensive end and held off the Terrors.
“Our guys just came up with every type of toughness play that we needed,” Marks said. “Just incredible heart.”
The Terrors (14-10), who finished fourth in the Fox Valley Association — arguably the best conference in the state — were led by junior Bubba Thompson’s 14 points. Sam Pitz had 10 points, while 6-foot-9 senior Ryan Schmit had 10 points and 12 rebounds.
West’s size caused North problems on both ends in the first half. In the second half, the Huskies managed to speed the Terrors up a bit with a few more traps and better ball movement.
“A lot of shots weren’t falling for us,” Kron said. “That just proves how it’s a team effort. Everyone contributed to the little things. We just got it done.”