MADISON — Chippewa Falls McDonell took its best swing at Bangor in the first half.
After falling behind by seven early, the Macks traded baskets with the Cardinals and played anywhere between a two- and four-point deficit against the No. 1 seed and heavy favorite.
But they never got a knockout blow.
Bangor responded to every McDonell bucket with one or two of its own. And as they’ve done all season, the Cardinals swarmed the Macks right before halftime and never let up, applying constant pressure to pull away for a 91-67 win on Saturday in the WIAA Division 5 state championship game at the Kohl Center.
“That’s a pretty impressive group,” McDonell coach Archie Sherbinow said. “They didn’t stop. They were physical, they challenged everything. They are a machine on the boards. They just kept coming at you.”
Bangor (27-1) captured a trifecta never done in Wisconsin. The Cardinals won the Division 7 state football title with many of the same players on the court on Saturday, while the girls basketball team won the Division 5 crown last weekend in Green Bay. It’s the first time in WIAA history a school has won state in all three of those sports in one school year.
Life is good in the village of 1,500 people 20 minutes northeast of La Crosse.
“The school spirit is at an all-time high,” said point guard Luke Reader, who will play for UW-Eau Claire next year. “We have one store in town, and every time I go there I think I get congratulated. The community support is awesome.”
Hayden Baughman and his McDonell teammates could tell early on their opponents also excelled on the gridiron. The stat sheet at the end of the contest was further proof. Bangor had 52 points in the paint and outrebounded a smaller Macks lineup 47-27. The Cardinals grabbed 21 offensive boards, leading to 21 second-chance points.
“All those guys, they were so physical down low,” Baughman said. “It was tough getting a rebound because they just boxed out so well. They are a bunch of football players, so they’re not afraid of contact. The physicality was the toughest part.”
Defensively, Bangor allowed just seven second-chance points and made things difficult for McDonell on the block.
“We knew if we got the rebounds and kept battling for the boards and limiting their shot opportunities that we had a good opportunity to extend our lead,” Bangor coach Jordan Laufenberg said.
McDonell delayed that process as long as possible. After falling behind 7-0 in the first 1:34 of the game, the Macks clawed their way back in with good ball movement on the perimeter and a steady driving attack from Baughman, who finished his illustrious prep career with a team-high 24 points.
The Macks attacked the rim and got to the free-throw line 10 times in the first half, causing a pair of Bangor starters to sit with foul trouble.
Two Charlie Bleskachek free throws cut it to 17-15, but that was as close as McDonell (18-10) would come. The Cardinals’ depth proved to be too much as they grinded out a 13-point halftime lead in a half the Macks played about as well as Sherbinow thought they could.
“We didn’t want to change much,” Sherbinow said. “We’re a team that likes to attack the bucket and get to the free-throw line.
“I was super thrilled with how I think we competed. We tried to give it our best.”
Caleb Miedema, who exited with 5:26 left in the first half after a nasty ankle roll, came back for an inspired second 18-minutes of action. He scored 11 early points as the lead kept blossoming, and the party was on for Bangor.
Everyone got involved as 22 of the Cardinals’ 34 buckets were assisted. Reader had a Division 5 record 11 assists in the ballgame and nearly got a triple double with nine points and seven boards.
Miedema led the charge with 25, while inside force Grant Manke had 19 and athletic guard Drew Johnson chipped in with 12.
Reader’s record wasn’t the only to fall in the game. The game’s combined score of 158 points was a Division 5 tournament record, as was Bangor’s 91 points. McDonell’s 67 points were a record for most points by the losing team in a Division 5 title game.
The Macks ran into a complete team that probably could have fared well in Division 4 and maybe even Division 3. They gave it their all and just got beat.
Still, it was a pretty remarkable playoff ride for a team that finished fourth in the Western Cloverbelt and overcame the graduation of three future college players and adversity during the season.
“We knew in the playoffs we wanted to come in and make a bang and make a run, and that’s what we did,” Baughman said. “It was really cool to cap it off down here.”