Cameron’s incredible boys basketball run that began in early January continued over the weekend, when the Comets knocked off Colfax and then Spring Valley to capture a WIAA Div. 4 regional championship.
“I can’t say enough of this group of guys – great kids on and off the court, and they really bust their butts everyday at practice to get better,” coach Troy LaVallie said. “They put in tons of time in the offseason working on their skills and now they are seeing the results when it matters most.
“We typically play seven to eight guys and they get a ton of credit for all the success we have, but the guys that don’t get in also deserve a lot of credit for our success. They come to practice every single day and compete. They push the guys ahead of them and everyday we get after each other in a positive way that makes us better.
“This is a true team that doesn’t care about stats or individual success. They put the team first and that shows up on offense and defense. Each person does their job and executes their role for the team.”
Cameron, now 18-6 on the year, will next take on 21-3 Unity at 7 p.m. this Thursday, March 12, at Amery in a sectional semifinal. The winner will play one of two private schools, 14-11 Luther of Onalaska or 9-16 La Crosse Aquinas, in a sectional final at 7 p.m. this Saturday at Eau Claire Memorial.
The Comets won their final 10 Heart O’North Conference games to capture an outright conference championship, including a 57-52 thriller over Northwestern in the regular season finale to avoid a three-way tie for first place.
However, the Comets lost two of their three most recent regular season non-conference games, including an 85-46 drubbing by Unity at Balsam Lake on Jan. 14. The boys will need to avenge that significant setback to further their tournament hopes.
“If we are going to beat Unity, we will need to continue with our balanced offense and aggressive defense,” LaVallie said. “We lost earlier in the year to them by a good margin, but it was our first game without Austin (leading scorer Austin Weis, who is now back from injury) and we were really struggling to find ourselves.
“I know Thursday night the kids will be ready, and if we execute on both ends of the floor, we will have a chance to win!
“The tournament always brings a mix of emotions for players, coaches and fans. There is always an excitement of each game and moving on to the next, but there is also the finality of the season. The seniors know they could be playing their last games; the team knows that this group could never play together again; it just adds another element of pressure to the game.”
Cameron 60, Colfax 50
Cameron opened tournament play with a 50-40 home win over Colfax on Friday, March 6, against the 13-11 Vikings, who were coming off a 53-46 opening round win over Shell Lake.
“We received a first round bye, which is nice, but it also meant that we hadn’t played a game since Feb. 27,” the coach said. “Eight days is a long stretch to go without playing, but our kids came out and really played well in the second part of the first half.
“Colfax was a really good team and they battled all game long.”
After a feel-out period that stretched to nine minutes, the Comets ended the first half on a 24-11 run to lead 37-22.
“Our defensive pressure got to them towards the end of the first half and it led to a lot of turnovers and easy baskets for us in transition,” the coach said. “When we can force turnovers and get out in transition, we are at our best.
“Colfax came out in the second half and scored the first five points, and just like that, it was a 10-point game. After a timeout, we gained our composure and played even with them for about the next 10 minutes.”
Cameron held a 42-34 lead midway through the second half, but things tightened up again.
“With about eight minutes to go, we forced a couple bad shots and turned the ball over, and that led to some easy baskets for Colfax,” LaVallie said.
Colfax whittled Cameron’s lead to three points with three minutes to play, but Peyton Buzek then made a basket and foul shot for an old fashioned 3-point play. Cameron salted the win away by making free throws down the stretch, finishing 13 for 21 at the line for the game.
“It was a good, competitive game,” the coach said. “Our guys got a little too relaxed in the second half and didn’t play as well. We showed some toughness down the stretch and made keys plays when we needed to. We didn’t play our best basketball, but ultimately the only stat that counts this time of year is in the win-loss column and we got the win.”
Weis led Cameron with 16 points and 13 rebounds. Fellow junior Ian Payne added 14 points, while seniors Mark Daniels and Peyton Buzek scored 12 and 10.
Seniors Cole Seehaver and Ed Hydukovich scored 19 and 14 points, respectively, for Colfax.
“It was our usual balanced scoring attack that we have had all year,” LaVallie said. “I think it is one of the things that makes us so tough.”
Cameron 64, Spring Valley 51
Cameron’s regional championship win came a bit easier, the Comets taking an early lead and then holding off Spring Valley (18-6) for a 64-51 victory. The visiting Cardinals advanced to the title game via a 59-57 win over Chetek-Weyerhaeuser.
“I was very proud of our guys,” the coach said. “From start to finish, they really played well as a team and executed our game plan to perfection. We never lost our composure and really dominated from start to finish.”
Cameron took control with an early flurry of 3-pointers.
“It started with Peyton knocking down a 3-point shot, then a turnover by Spring Valley led to an Austin three,” LaVallie said. “A missed shot led to another Austin three, and just like that, we were up 19-9. From that point, we were in control of the game, despite some great shooting by Spring Valley at the end of the game.”
Weis buried four threes by halftime, helping Cameron to a 32-20 lead.
“We had a 30-20 lead and the ball with 1:45 left in the half,” the coach said. “With Ian on the bench in foul trouble, we worked the ball around, running the clock down to 10 seconds. Then we ran a set and got a back door lay-up for Peyton with three seconds left. Richie made a great pass and Peyton finished big. That gave us a 12-point lead and the momentum.
“In the locker room at halftime, we talked about finishing and playing with the same intensity we did in the first half. We didn’t want any letdowns like we had the night before versus Colfax and we didn’t.
“We brought the same intensity and we got the same results. With about five minutes to play, we had pushed our lead to 16 points. Just about when it looked like we would pull away for a big win, Spring Valley came alive from deep.
“In the final five minutes, they made five 3-point shots. They only made seven on the night. Our kids stayed calm and never panicked. We handled their pressure nicely and got some easy back door lay-ups. I knew that if we kept trading 2-point baskets for 3-point baskets, we would be okay.
“After we beat their pressure, they started to foul and we put the game away at the line. For the night, we were 18 for 25. In the final three minutes, we were 11 for 16.
“Spring Valley got the lead down to nine points three separate times, but our guys kept making plays. With 30 seconds left and down 13 points, they stopped fouling and we ran out the clock on what is our third regional championship in five years!”
Weis had another big night with 20 points. Buzek scored 14 and Daniels 12. Aaron Bogerding led the Cardinals with 17 points, Michael Bauer adding 16.
Name FG FT F TP
Foss 0 0 1 0
Murphy 2 4 3 8
Klabunde 0 2 0 2
Weis 6 3 1 20
Daniels 4 2 2 12
Buzek 6 1 0 14
Payne 1 6 2 8
Total 19 18/25 9 64
Spring Valley (51)
Name FG FT F TP
Stangl 2 0 4 6
Bauer 6 1 2 16
Kotval 0 0 1 0
Bogerding 6 3 4 17
Bowman 2 0 3 4
Hannack 0 0 1 0
Olson 2 0 1 4
Ducklow 2 0 3 4
Total 20 4/6 19 51
Three Point Shots: Austin Weis (5), Mark Daniels (2), Peyton Buzek; Michael Bauer (3), Trevor Stangl (2), Aaron Borgerding (2)
Scoring by halves
1st half 2nd half F
Spring Valley 20 31 51
Cameron 32 32 64