WIAA playoffs: (6) Catholic Central 63, (11) Stockbridge 45

Brandon Pum soars to the hoop for two of his 20 points Tuesday night. (John Fisher/SLN)

 

By Mike Ramczyk

sports@southernlakesnewspapers.com

The Catholic Central boys basketball juniors – all seven of them – have been waiting for this moment for three years.

After a regular season in which they tripled their conference wins, the Toppers took another major step with the first playoff victory of their careers, a 63-45 triumph Tuesday night in a WIAA Division 5 playoff opener at Catholic Central High School.

Now, the sixth-seeded Toppers (10-13) will travel to No. 3 Hilbert (16-6) in a regional semifinal Friday night.

“It feels great for all of us,” said Brandon Pum, who led the Toppers with 20 points. “That’s our first playoff win, so it feels great.”

Pum hit three 3-pointers in the first half, and fellow junior David Doerflinger added four.

Doerflinger finished with 15 points.

Catholic Central was on fire in the first half, scoring 40 points and taking a 40-27 halftime lead.

In the second half, the Toppers grinded it out and took it to the hole. Pum was able to score on a few layups after passing up three-point looks, and Bennett Robson and Chas Miles were able to clean up the glass and make their presence felt in the paint.

“I always encourage the guys to shoot when they’re ready,” said Catholic Central head coach Kyle Scott. “They were ready in the first half. In the second half, they didn’t hit the first few, so we pounded it inside and got free throws.”

“It’s our first playoff win, so it’s always good. We’re focused on the next. We have to really shore up some things and get ready to go to Hilbert.”

Pum said the passing helped the 3-point game in the first half. For Doerflinger, he was hot and he kept shooting.

“I’m coming off a drought,” Doerflinger said. “Footey (Assistant coach Gavin Foote) has helped me. I started shooting the ball, and it was going in, so I kept doing it.”

Bennett Wright hustled for a put-back layup off a Pum steal and miss to give the Toppers a 50-35 lead with nine minutes left, but Stockbridge roared back.

The Indians went on a 4-0 run to cut it to 50-39, then got a steal but just missed a layup that would’ve sliced the lead to single digits.

Scott called a timeout to slow the visitors’ momentum, and the Toppers turned it on from there.

Catholic Central pounded the ball inside and got two free throws and a Robson layup to build the lead back up to 13, and later Wright and Pum beat a halfcourt trap and Robson added another layup to make it 55-42 late.

The Toppers were stellar from the free-throw line to ice the game, hitting 11-for-15 in the second half and 16-for-21 for the game.

Wright was 8-for-8 alone in the second half.

Nate Hermann was a one-man show for the Indians, scoring 20 points with 8-for-9 from the line, the team’s only free throws.

So how did the Toppers stop Stockbridge late?

“We had to get back to what us there,” Scott said. “We went on a 7-0 run and got it back to 18 or 19. We worked too hard all summer to let them sneak any closer. They did exactly what I asked, fun team to coach.”

“We just had to keep aggressive and keep our minds right, and good things would come,” Doerflinger said of the 13-6 run to close the game.

Scott said the Hilbert game will be challenging.

“We’re proud of the league we play in, and we think we’re ready,” Scott said. “We need to rebound and finish around the basket a little better than we did tonight.”

Wright finished with 14 points.

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