Boy's Basketball: Regional Championships
#8 Madison East 82, #1 Sun Prairie 68: East will face #4 Muskego at Janesville Craig on Thursday night
#2 Madison Memorial 65, #7 Mukwonago 42; #3 Middleton 82, #6 Janesville Craig 79: Middleton and Memorial will meet Thursday night at Middleton
#3 Monona Grove 80, #2 Stoughton 77; #1 Waunakee 71, #3 DeForest 43: Waunakee and Monona Grove will play at Baraboo Thursday night.
#1 Lake Mills 74, #4 Edgewood 59; #3 Turner 56, #2 Evansville 53: Lake Mills will meet Turner on Thursday at Fort Atkinson. Full recap of Turner-Evansville below.
#1 Darlington 53, #4 Mineral Point 38; #2 New Glarus 88, #3 Deerfield 73: Darlington and New Glarus will play Thursday night at Evansville.
#1 Barneveld 54, #4 Rio 51; #2 Pecatonica 54, #3 Black Hawk 48: Barneveld will meet Pecatonica in Sun Prairie on Thursday night.
Beloit Turner defeats Evansville 56-53 in one of the area's upsets (by seeding) on Saturday night
GAME RECAP: Turner 56, Evansville 53
Turner avenged one of its three losses this season with a big road win in the regional final at Evansville.
Turner, which lost to Evansville, Lake Mills, and Lakeside Lutheran in the span of 14 days in December, played its third straight Rock Valley opponent in the regionals. Just like the prior two games against Palmyra/Eagle and East Troy, Saturday night proved to be a battle.
Coming off wins Friday night, neither team showed any signs of fatigue. A quick 8-2 lead for Turner to start the game evaporated, as Evansville's all-time leading scorer, Brennan Banks, piled up 16 points in the first half. Turner's all-time leading scorer, Alec Fruin, answered with 17 of his own, and after Banks hit a buzzer-beating half-court three heading into the half, it was 29-28 at the end of the first half.
Nacio Villarreal, who was held to six points in the first half, started the second half by getting fouled on a three-point shot attempt.
"It helped, those free throws. It helped me warm up," said Villarreal after the game. After missing both of his free throws in the first half, Nacio drained all three and finished the game five-for-seven from the charity stripe.
As Evansville kept the game in reach, it was Villarreal who hit big shot after big shot to keep Turner in front for most of the second half. Villarreal's three three-point baskets all helped extend Turner leads, as he took on the scoring load while Alec Fruin was held scoreless for the first nine minutes-plus of the second half.
However, Villarreal picked up his fourth foul midway through the second half, and had to head to the bench. Villarreal had fouled out of the December meeting with Evansville with eight minutes to play.
Fruin and the Trojans got to work, with Fruin scoring all eight of his second-half points over the course of the next five minutes, including an and-one to extend Turner's lead to its largest of the game at seven points. Villarreal checked back in as Turner looked to hold off the Blue Devils.
Brennan Banks, the St. Norbert commit, led a big charge down the stretch. He hit Sully Geske on a breakaway dunk, and dropped in 13 points in the second half. As the game got tight, Turner had an unlikely clutch player in freshman Dai'Vontrelle Strong.
Strong, who entered the game three of five from the free throw line all season, hit four of six of his free throws down the stretch to help Turner hold on to a 56-53 regional final victory over Evansville.
"I told him, D [Dai'Vontrelle Strong], we need you in this game," said Villarreal after the game. "And he did. He stepped up big time tonight."
Coach Ken Watkins concurred. "It's so big, for a freshman to come in on varsity and contribute. It's a whole different sort of pressure," said Watkins, with his dress shirt untucked following the victory. "I wouldn't want anyone else at the line in that situation. He came up big for us."
Watkins pointed to other contributions on the team as well. "Ethan Burns, he's a guy who just gets it done."
Burns, a senior, didn't score in the game, but drew two key charges in the second half.
"I'm just happy these guys will play one more game. I love this team," said Watkins.
Villarreal agreed. "[Alec Fruin] is the best guy I could possibly have as a teammate. He makes me better."
Alec Fruin, who finished with 25 points in the win, credited his teammates for the win. "It feels great to get a win for these guys. We didn't want the season to end tonight."
Brennan Banks finished with 29 points in his final game for Evansville. The four-year starter holds the school record for career points.
"Brennan is awesome," said Fruin after the game. "This is the one I got up for. I've been playing him since sixth grade."
Fruin is the Turner career leader in points scored, as well as assists, field goals made, and, according to the team's statistician, "a bunch of other stuff too."
Having taken down Evansville, Turner will now play one of the other teams that defeated them this season: Lake Mills. The L-Cats defeated the Trojans 80-70 in a Lake Mills holiday tournament. Turner lost to Lakeside Lutheran in the same event back in December, but have won 16 straight games since.
"You're our good luck charm. You'll have to be there on Thursday in Fort Atkinson," coach Watkins told me after the game."