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'D' is for Defense
Darlingtons Tucker Wiegel guards Riverdales Dakota Lins at midcourt during the first half of Thursdays game. Wiegel and the Redbirds held the Chieftains scoreless in the first quarter and played superb press defense in the second half on their way to a 57-34 win.
DARLINGTON - Despite a slow start, the Redbirds got themselves back on the winning track with a 57-34 win against Riverdale Thursday.

"We knew we had to rebound from Cuba, and this was a good one to do that," Darlington's junior sharpshooter Alex Erickson said.

The Redbirds' last game was a 57-53 loss to Cuba City on the road Jan. 15.

Darlington (12-1, 7-1 SWAL) opened Thursday's ball game by scoring just seven points in the first quarter - but held the Chieftains (2-12, 2-6) scoreless. In the second quarter, the pace picked up as Tucker Wiegel, who sat much of the first with two quick fouls, drained a 3-pointer just 20 seconds in.

"It always stinks to sit on the bench, so it's always good to get back out there and hope to do something," Wiegel said. "I just wanted to contribute to the team because we weren't shooting well. I'm more of a passer than a shooter, but if I have to I will put up the shot."

Wiegel scored just five points in the game, all of which came in the second, but was the floor general for the Redbirds throughout. Wiegel dished out handfuls of assists and was a steal artist on defense.

"Tucker makes things happen. Despite his two early fouls he makes our defense go as well," Darlington head coach Mike Hopkins said. " He puts pressure on the ball. Tucker has experience. He started as a freshman on varsity."

Riverdale got on the board at the 7-minute, 14-second mark in the second quarter. The Chieftains highlight was a two-handed dunk by 6-feet, 6-inch big man Johnny Wiederholt. By halftime, the Redbirds led 24-8.

"We had a sluggish start, but we saw the real Darlington in the second half," Hopkins said.

Darlington's press forced turnover after turnover, and the Redbirds outscored Riverdale 12-5 midway through the third. By the fourth, Darlington had its starters resting on the bench.

"First half we weren't very good (playing press). Coach got on us in the locker room at half and we stepped it up in the second half," Wiegel said.

Hopkins admitted that he told his players to step it up in the second half and was pleased with the response.

"That was the type of game we wanted to play. We are a lot better in the open court where we can extend our defense," Hopkins said.

Erickson led all scorers with 21 points, 16 of which came in the third. He also hit three of the Redbirds' eight 3s. Colton Carpenter and Jason Boll each scored eight points and all 15 players on Darlington's roster saw game time.

"One loss this season, to Cuba City, the number one ranked team in our division, we're pleased with where we are at right now," Hopkins said. "We're still looking for a little bit more consistency so we don't have these lulls like we've had. Sooner or later it's going to come back and get us sometime."

Darlington, ranked No. 5 in the state in Division 3 in both the Associated Press and Coaches Polls, hosts Barneveld (11-2), ranked seventh in Division 4 in both polls, at 3:15 p.m. Saturday.