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Defense shuts down Hillmen
Monroe freshman Alex Barenklau plays tight man-to-man press defense against Plattevilles Michael Kliebenstein in the first half of Thursdays WIAA Division 2 Regional Semifinal win over Platteville, 55-29.
MONROE - The Cheesemakers quickly shook off any rust left over from their first-round playoff bye en route to a 55-29 win over Platteville in the WIAA Division 2 Regional Semifinal Thursday.

"It took a little while, but when we finally got going and our offense opened up we looked pretty good," Monroe head coach Pat Murphy said. Monroe will take on Mount Horeb at 1 p.m. Saturday, in Verona for the rights to move on to sectionals.

The Cheesemakers (18-5) opened the game on a 7-0 run that included a coast-to-coast steal and lay up by Michael Barrett and a nothing-but-net 3-pointer from Bryan Tordoff. Platteville (13-11) didn't reach the hoop until the 4-minute, 21-second mark in the opening period, but found a way to tie the game at 9 before the end of the first.

"They (Platteville) are definitely a different team," Tordoff said. "Most of the teams in the Badger South are very guard orientated and they work into the post and go to the basket."

In the second, Monroe ran off a 19-1 run that put the Hillmen on their heels.

"It felt really good," Barrett said of the run. "We came out a little bit sluggish in the first and we knew we had to come out and hit them in the face."

Monroe's heavy defensive pressure forced an abundance of turnovers, and the Cheesemakers' shooters found their stroke - most notably Tordoff. After injuring his ankle a month ago, Tordoff has struggled to find his shot after missing some time. He said his ankle is 100 percent now and that it was nice to start hitting some shots again.

"I've been shooting a lot trying to get back into rhythm and it felt really good out there tonight," said Tordoff, who finished with 15 points.

Platteville shrunk the deficit to as much as 13 in the second half, but a 20-2 Cheesemakers run from the third quarter into the fourth made it a 31-point game.

"We tried to do something different with our press, but they (Platteville) were getting some good looks at the basket so we switched," Murphy said. "And on offense, you need guys who can stretch out the defense and we had that tonight. To have a guy like Bryan Tordoff back forces other teams to recognize our outside game," Murphy said.

Monroe hit five 3s in the contest; three by Tordoff. Tyler Barta drained a momentum 3 in the second quarter and Alex Capesius hit another in the fourth. Barrett had 13 points and six defensive deflections.

Murphy was happy with how his team played, but a couple early struggles forced the team to adapt.

Monroe's top post player, Kevin Frint (13 points), picked up two quick fouls in the first, which helped swing momentum.

"It's never a good thing to have a guy like Kevin Frint in foul trouble early in the basketball game. When we have to put him on the bench that early, it disrupts what we want to do and we have to ask some other kids to step up and make some plays that they may usually not have to make," Murphy said.

Frint, a senior, tends to stay out of foul trouble, but Thursday he found himself a little too aggressive early.

"(Coach Murphy) said not to get another foul," said Frint, who picked up his third foul late in the third when the game was decided.

The Cheesemakers will be back in their former hunting grounds in Verona. Monroe and Verona were members of the Badger South for years until the Wildcats moved to the Big 8 two years ago.

"We like to call it our second home, and Waunakee (sectional semifinal location) is our third home. Hopefully we will get back there," Tordoff said.

This will be the seventh-straight season the Cheesemakers will play for the Regional Championship. Monroe is just three wins away from their fourth-consecutive trip to state, and fifth trip in the last six years. Mount Horeb (13-11), the No. 2 seed in the regional, edged Brodhead in overtime.