Eagles get by Abbotsford in double overtime
Unity 36, Abbotsford 32
Marty Seeger |Staff writer
SPOONER – Thunderous cheers, applause and emotion spilled out onto the court after a suspense-filled section semifinal-win for the Eagle boys basketball team, and their fans. Much of that emotion however, was feelings of relief, as Abbotsford crept back into the game late in the fourth quarter, eventually sending the game into double overtime. With the win, Unity will take on Mondovi Saturday, March 8, in New Richmond at 1 p.m., for a chance to go to the state tournament.
After a bit of a sluggish start for both teams and a 6-6 tie after the first quarter, the Eagles took control, using a smothering defense against a Falcons team capable of putting up big numbers from beyond the arc. They also had a dominating inside presence, with three Falcons starters measuring 6 foot, 4 inches, 6-5, and 6-6, but Unity was able to fight through it.
"I thought first half, our defense was phenomenal," said Eagles coach Shaun Fisher. "We were all over the place and we had a lot of pressure on the ball, and caused some turnovers. We should have been able to convert, and finish on a couple, but overall I think we set a tone early that if they're going to score they're going to earn it."
The second quarter was the Eagles most impressive showing of the night despite Abbotsford quickly taking a 10-6 lead. Unity senior guard Zac Johnson buried a 3-pointer and drew the foul. He completed a 4-point play to tie the game and despite an answer from Falcons leading scorer, Eric English, who was held to 13 points, the Eagles maintained control. Dylan Ruck and Logan Bader scored on Abbotsford turnovers, which plagued the Falcons throughout the night as they totaled 23, due in part to solid defensive play from Unity. With a 14-12 lead, Justin Bradley connected for three, and Bader scored on a put-back on a miss from Oliver Raboin, and the Eagles led 19-12 with 45 seconds to go in the first half. After another turnover by the Falcons, the Eagles used the remaining 30 seconds for a final shot and Bader connected on a short jumper at the buzzer to give Unity a 21-12 halftime lead.
It was a different story in the second half offensively for the Eagles, who had several great looks at the basket inside but couldn't seem to get shots to fall.
"You've got to be able to finish a little bit better, but we've traditionally struggled a little bit against size inside. They were a little bit taller than us and they were thick, so that represented a lot of problems," Fisher said.
Unity continued with stingy defense throughout the third quarter, and managed to hold Abbotsford off despite only getting two tough baskets inside from Raboin. One of those shots came at the buzzer, as Unity took a 25-17 lead into the fourth quarter.
The Eagles scoring troubles continued into the fourth quarter as Bader hit 1 of 2 foul shots early, and Dakota Ward went 1 for 2 from the line. Even with only two fourth-quarter baskets, Unity held a marginal lead, which continued to shrink as minutes turned to seconds.
"I don't want to say that we could have finished them off, but we could have definitely stretched it out double digits earlier. We were right on the doorstep. But give them (Abbotsford) credit, because they weren't going to give up, but it would have been nice to be able to keep that up and not basically go an extra quarter tonight," Fisher said.
Colton Voss hit a 3-pointer for the Falcons with 2:20 to go, leaving Unity with a 26-23 lead, but with 1:39 to go, the Falcons got to within one point as English hit a pair of free throws. Ward got the Eagles back to a two-point lead with 1:22 remaining, while the Falcons drew their seventh foul, sending the Eagles to the line, but a miss on the one-and-one opportunity gave the ball back to the Falcons with 30 seconds to go in regulation. With 10 seconds remaining, Abbotsford tied the game, and a Johnson shot at the buzzer fell short, sending it into overtime.
"I don't think we really went inside much in the second half, which is kind of disappointing but all that matters is the final score and we're happy with it," Fisher said.
As it was at the end of regulation, the first and second overtime frames didn't disappoint. Raboin scored the only bucket for Unity in the first overtime, and it wasn't until 1:55 to go that the Falcons tied the game. Unity again got the final look at the basket with 9.2 seconds to go, but shots by Bader and Johnson fell short, sending the game into the second overtime.
Abbotsford hit the first shot in overtime, a 3-pointer by Colton Voss. A two-point basket by Ruck, and two huge free throws from Bradley gave Unity a 33-22 lead with 1:44 to go in the game. Despite a Unity turnover, Johnson stole the ball and was quickly fouled, sending him to the line for a pair of free throws, which he made, giving Unity a 3-point lead. A 3-point opportunity by the Falcons rimmed out, and Johnson sealed the win hitting 1 of 2 from the line to end the game.
This is the third sectional semifinal for the Eagles in the previous four seasons. Two of those years, ended in the sectional finals, but the Eagles are hunting for something more this time around.
"To be in this game three out of four years is fun, but now it would be nice to finally break through and get there," Fisher said.