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Darlington presses way to state
Darlington senior Will Schwartz goes up for a layup in a WIAA Division 4 sectional final game Saturday against Cochrane-Fountain City at Baraboo High School. Schwartz scored a team-high 15 points to lead the Redbirds to a 67-55 win over the Pirates and win the sectional championship and advance to the state tournament. (Photo for the Times: Thomas Gunnell)
BARABOO - It wasn't the start the Darlington boys basketball team envisioned in a WIAA Division 4 sectional championship game against Cochrane-Fountain City Saturday, but the Redbirds were not going to be denied a trip to state for the second straight year.

After falling behind by 11 points, Darlington dialed up a full-court press and had a big surge to run away with a 67-55 win over Cochrane-Fountain City in a Division 4 sectional final game Saturday in Baraboo. The Redbirds outscored the Pirates 40-25 in the second half to pull away for the victory. It marks Darlington's second ever state tournament appearance and first since winning a state championship in 1990.

"We tried to speed the game up and play more our style," Darlington coach Tom Uppena said. "It really helped out. We wanted to put kids in a position to make plays and use their athleticism. That's why we put the press on in the second half."

With the win, Darlington (26-0), ranked second in the Associated Press Division 4 state poll, advances to play Cameron in a state semifinal at 6:35 p.m. Thursday at the Kohl Center in Madison. The Redbirds were on the doorstep of punching their ticket to state before losing to La Crosse Aquinas 50-49 in the sectional final last year.

"Losing in the sectional final was a tough pill for them to swallow last year," Uppena said. "That (sectional final loss last year) really hurt. They have been working on getting here (state) since grade school. Hopefully, they can keep it going for another week."

Darlington senior Will Schwartz scored a team-high 15 points and knocked down three 3-pointers. Senior teammate Hunter Johnson, a preferred walk-on for the University of Wisconsin football team, added 13 points. Senior teammates Ryan Glendenning and Trevor Johnson each added 11 points. Senior Chad Golackson chipped in eight points. Hunter Johnson and Glendenning combined to make 14 of 15 free throws.

Cochrane-Fountain City's Nick Thorsell scored a game-high 19 points and drilled three 3-pointers.

Cochrane-Fountain City jumped out to an 11-point lead in the first half and led the Redbirds 30-27 at the break.

"The first half was just really methodical and that is not how we like to play," Uppena said. "They (Cochrane-Fountain City) came out and were really hot shooting 3s in the first half. We had to do a better job of getting hands up on their shooters and stopping their penetration in the second half. We wanted to speed up the game. That is why we went to the fullcourt press and we had some success in coming back."