Been there. Done that.
Chippewa Falls McDonell, following a program tradition, made the plays when it had to.
Storming from a 13-point deficit late in the first half, the Macks went on a 22-1 run and then held off rallying Athens down the stretch.
The 57-47 victory in Thursday night’s Division 5 sectional semifinal at the Eagles Nest gives the Macks the opportunity to make a fourth straight trip to the state tournament at Madison.
They face a Luck team in Saturday’s sectional championship game that advanced with an 83-63 win over Birchwood. The game is scheduled for 11 a.m. at Chippewa Falls High School.
“We feel great,” said Cory Hoglund, McDonell standout who led all scorers with 21 points. “If we do what we can do, we’ll come out on top.”
Thursday’s battle was an uphill one from the start. The Macks could get nothing going through the first 14 minutes of the first half and found themselves trailing an inspired Athens team 23-10.
And then it happened.
Hoglund hit a 3-pointer and followed with two drive-in baskets, Efe Selvitopu added two baskets and when JD Bohaty drilled a 3-pointer in the final minute, McDonell had gained a 24-23 lead.
“We went small with two guards, got steals and turned them into easy baskets,” first-year McDonell Coach Adam Schilling said.
The surge continued into the second half. After Cameron Ford opened with a solo free throw for the Bluejays, Charlie Bleskachek paced a 8-point run with a 3-pointer and free throw that made it 32-24 with just over 14 minutes to play.
“We threw the ball away and gave them easy layups,” Athens Coach Aaron Ellenbecker said. “I was proud of our kids, but they had never been in a game of this magnitude and McDonell carried a lot of experience.”
The Bluejays fought back into a tie at 37 thanks to the second of three 3-pointers by freshman Cooper Diedrich and were still alive with under a minute to play following Diedrich’s third 3-pointer that cut it to 51-47. But the Macks closed out with six free throws to ice the win.
“Athens shot well and played us tough,” Schilling said.
Hoglund stood out with his scoring and outstanding passing that resulted in many baskets.
“His defense is overlooked,” Schilling said. “He can rebound, handle the ball and score and he gives the other guys confidence.”
Hoglund said the team didn’t panic when things weren’t going well at the start.
“We knew we were better than that,” he said. “We just had to play our game.”
Ellenbecker had praise for Diedrich, who rallied the club when it was down by six and eight points.
“We could have folded but he hit those huge 3’s and we were back in the game,” Ellenbecker said.
Diedrich scored 14 points in all and was matched by Liam Weller while 6-5 junior Ford added 10 and grabbed nine rebounds.
For the Macks, Hoglund got his main scoring support from Charlie Bleskachek who scored 14 points and pulled eight rebounds.
The Macks, who made it to the state finals last year before losing to Bangor, won the Division 5 title in 2016 under Archie Sherbinow.
“The kids have obviously been well-coached,” Schilling said in referring to Sherbinow. “We just want to keep the program at the level it’s at.”
McDONELL 57, ATHENS 47
Athens — FGM-FGA FTM-FTA TP: Cameron Ford 3-6 4-6 10, Seth Coker 1-3 2-5 4, Liam Weller 6-8 0-0 14, Derek Czech 1-7 0-0 3, Cobie Ellenbecker 0-0 0-2 0, Javon Penney 1-5 0-0 2, Cooper Diedrich 5-7 1-2 14, Dayne Diethelm 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 17-38 7-15 47.
McDonell – Cory Hoglund 7-16 5-6 21, JD Bohaty 2-4 0-2 5, Charlie Bleskachek 4-6 4-7 15, Eion Kressin 2-9 0-0 4, Jaelin Bourget 0-1 5-8 5, Efe Solvitopul 4-6 0-0 8. Totals 19-42 14-23 57.
Halftime: McDonell 24-23. 3-Point Shots: Athens 6-17 (Diedrich 3-3, Weller 2-3, Czech 1-4, Coker 0-2, Penney 0-4, Diethelm 0-1), McDonell 5-14 (Hoglund 2-5, Bleskachek 2-3, Bohaty 1-3, Solvitopul 0-1). Rebounds: Athens 32 (Ford 9, Weller 5), McDonell 29 (Bleskachek 8, Hoglund 5, Kressin 5). Total Fouls: Athens 16, McDonell 8. Fouled Out: Coker (Ath). Turnovers: Athens 17, McDonell 14. Officials: Jon McGinley, Adam Swanepol, Mike Dewyre. Records: Athens 16-9, McDonell 17-9.