ALTOONA — It was uncharted territory for this Durand team. Sectionals haven’t been commonplace lately for the Panthers. Not since 2001 had Durand played in one.
So the Panthers had to be a little bit nervous, right?
Nope. Or if they were, they didn’t show it. Wednesday night they shot like a sectional semifinal was an every-day occurrence. Durand came out on fire, knocking down seven first-half 3-pointers and going on to a 73-61 victory over Melrose-Mindoro in a WIAA Division 4 boys basketball sectional semifinal at the Roundhouse.
“We had a lot of confidence coming in,” said senior guard Ely Bauer, who hit three of those seven first-half 3s. “We just came out blazing.”
The Dunn-St. Croix and regional champion Panthers (21-4) played their usual brand of ball. They spread the scoring around, they played pressure man-to-man defense, they utilized their deep bench and they grinded down the Large Dairyland champion Mustangs (19-4).
“All year it’s what we’ve done,” senior forward Kobe Humphrey said. “It’s what we’re going to keep on doing.”
Humphrey scored a game-high 20 points to lead Durand, which faces the winner of Clear Lake and Webster — who play tonight in Amery — in Saturday’s sectional final in New Richmond.
If Durand can carry over its shooting from Wednesday to Saturday, it’ll be in business. Bauer added 15 points for the Panthers, while Tyler Tulip gave them a third scorer in double figures with 11 points.
“For us to shoot like that right away, they really had to respect us from the outside,” said Durand coach Justin Redetzke, who enjoyed a happy homecoming to the gym he starred at in high school. “You saw in the second half, it really opened up our driving lanes and us getting to the rack and finishing. There wasn’t the help, because they had to respect outside.”
Melrose-Mindoro got 16 points from Andrew Antony and 13 each from Connor Christopherson and Andrew Scafe. The bigger Mustangs made a run early in the second half, only to have Bauer hit a huge momentum-killing 3 to push the lead back to eight.
“We just couldn’t quite climb over the hump,” Melrose-Mindoro coach Kevin Christopherson said.