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Cheesemakers advance
Monroe senior Dylan Beaver tries to grab a rebound from Oregon senior Christian Bultman during a WIAA Division 2 regional quarterfinal Tuesday at the high school. The Cheesemakers defeated the Panthers 54-42. (Times photo: Marissa Weiher)
MONROE - It didn't take long for the Monroe High School boys basketball team to implement coach Brian Bassett's bullet points after halftime Tuesday.

Monroe extended its pressure defense, pushed the tempo and emerged with a 54-42 victory over Oregon in a WIAA Division 2 regional quarterfinal game.

Monroe (11-12) advances to the regional semifinal game where the Cheesemakers will play at top-seeded Waunakee on Friday.

Monroe senior Carter Sawdey scored a game-high 18 points, and senior Alex Tordoff added 17 points against the Panthers.

Monroe broke the game open with a 24-10 second-half run by forcing turnovers off its press.

"Coach Bassett told us at halftime to up the tempo," Tordoff said. "We wanted to get up on them on the press. We wanted to make them make mistakes. That's how we got the lead and when we got up we made our free throws."

Monroe junior Hunter Ward had 10 points and grabbed eight rebounds to give the Cheesemakers a spark off the bench.

Tordoff scored eight points in the Cheesemakers' second-half spurt. Sawdey helped ignite the run with a steal and layup. Ward drilled a 3-pointer with 13 minutes, 44 seconds left to give the Cheesemakers a 26-25 lead. Ward hit a second 3-pointer about three minutes later to extend the Cheesemakers' lead to 34-29.

The Cheesemakers got off to a shaky start in the first half, shooting just 30.4 percent (7 of 23).

Oregon's Steven Moravec led the Panthers with six of his team-high 11 points in the first half.

Oregon's Michael Landry hit a jumper to give the Panthers their largest lead 18-9 with 4:45 to go in the half. Despite the shooting woes and Oregon shooting 43.7 percent in the first half (7 of 16), the Cheesemakers trailed the Panthers at the half, 19-16.

That all changed with the big surge in the second half. Sawdey scored 15 points in the second half and was 7 of 8 from the free-throw line during that stretch. The Cheesemakers shot 63.1 percent in the second half (12 of 19) and finished the game at 45.2 percent.

"It feels really good," Ward said. "We started out slow. In the second half, we pushed the tempo and started to run. It feels really good beating them two times in a row."

After scoring most of their points in the paint in the first half, the Cheesemakers forced the Panthers to shoot from the outside.

"I thought we played with more intensity in the second half," Bassett said. "We did a much better job of keeping them out of the paint in the second half. They had to do some things they were not comfortable doing, like driving all the way from the wing. I thought our pressure and using 12 guys really wore down their seven or eight guys."

The Cheesemakers shot 13 of 19 from the free-throw line (68.4 percent).

Monroe junior Brayden Zettle had four steals and senior Dylan Beaver had six rebounds.

"It feels really good because it's another win," Bassett said. "I don't care if it's in the regionals or not."

Now, the Cheesemakers will gear up for a regional semifinal game against Waunakee (20-2), the state's fourth-ranked team in Division 2.

"It's a good position to be in," Bassett said. "I don't know if we could go toe-to-toe with them in the regular season. This is win or go home. It doesn't matter about your size or depth. It will come down to who executes."