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Elzen's shot sends Ponies to sectionals
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EDGERTON - Michael Elzen hit a shot at the buzzer for Monticello, erasing a nine-point halftime deficit and sending the Ponies past Racine Lutheran to claim a regional final championship, 57-55, Saturday.

"Mike has really stepped up for us," Monticello head coach Mark Olson said. "It won't take one guy to fill Jacob (Marty's) shoes, but Mike is one of those guys. He's played great defense and hit some shots. He found himself in the right spot and hit the shot like I've seen him do plenty of times before. That's his spot."

Monticello (20-3) will play Six Rivers East co-champion Barneveld (21-4) Friday at Janesville Craig in a WIAA Division 4 sectional semifinal.

Elzen, along with Corey McGowan, finished with 10 points. Monticello got the bulk of its offense from point guard Tyler Ritschard, who hit four 3-pointers and scored 23 points.

"Tyler was huge. He's a guy that we can count on to handle pressure. Racine was running two or three guys while he was handling the ball," Olson said. "So we adjusted and in the second half we took Tyler off the ball. He got a lot of good looks."

Racine Lutheran (21-4) held a 17-10 lead after the first quarter and was ahead 30-21 at the break. A 17-11 Ponies run quickly brought the game back into contention.

"I don't know if my guys thought they were underdogs, but they found a way to fight back and win," Olson said.

Monticello finished 16-for-20 from the free throw line while only committing 11 fouls. Racine Lutheran had 20 fouls and finished 5 of 9 from the charity stripe.

"I was so pleased that we were able to get back into the game without fouling," Olson said. "Racine has a different defensive philosophy than us in that they want to up and pressure the guards while we want to protect the basket."

Olson also said that Saturday's game was a lot like battles earlier this season with Barneveld.

"Basically we found ourselves in the same situation as our last game with Barneveld, except we found a way to win this one," Olson said.

Last time the Ponies met Barneveld, it was the Eagles pulling out an overtime win on a buzzer-beating jump shot by Logan Johnson. The first time around, Monticello nipped Barneveld with late-game heroics in overtime by Ritschard.

"When we found out Barneveld won too, we knew it had to be them. That's just the way our season has gone. Both games so far have been last-second game-winners," Olson said.

Now his team will have four days of rest and practice to prepare for the Eagles.

"The rest is going to help. We had a couple of guys feeling ill at the end of the last week, but they played well. A few days is nice and it will give us time to prepare," Olson said.