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Free throw woes end season
Photo for the Times: Mike DeVries, The Capital Times Monroes Tyler Barta (20) steals ball from Mount Horebs Ethan Payne (10) during the second half in a WIAA boys regional game played at Verona High School on Saturday. Mount Horeb won, 51-49.
VERONA - With the clock running, Monroe mounted an inspired comeback in a WIAA Division 2 regional final against Mount Horeb at Verona Area High School Saturday.

But when the clock stopped in the waning minutes, the second-seeded Vikings (14-11, 2-10 Badger North) outshot the top-seeded Cheesemakers (18-6, 10-2 Badger South) from the free-throw line to pull out a shocking 51-49 upset.

"We fought like crazy to get back into the game and it comes down to one guy making free throws and another guy not making one ... I just feel bad for our seniors," Monroe coach Pat Murphy said.

The Vikings didn't hoist a free throw until going 4-for-5 in the final 49.6 seconds. Monroe went 5-for-11 from the stripe over the last 3 minutes.

Monroe junior Michael Barrett got Monroe within one possession by defying gravity and hitting in front of the rim with 42.1 seconds left to make it 49-47. Barrett's 14 points finished second to classmate Bryan Tordoff's 17 for Monroe. Senior Kevin Frint added 13.

The Vikings broke the Cheesemakers' ensuing press and looked to kill clock, but sophomore Tyler Barta would have none of it as he chased down Ethan Payne and poked the ball free from behind. After Payne fouled him, Barta hit one of two.

On the Cheesemakers' next possession, Tordoff missed a forced 3. Barta laid out on the floor amid three Vikings to dig out the offensive board and was fouled.

Each free throw in the last three minutes was an adventure. Barta's first hit back iron, came down and rattled off both sides of rim before dropping. The second rattled halfway down the cylinder before popping out and leaving the score tied at 49-49 with 20.2 seconds left.

"He's done that all year," Murphy said of Barta's pair of bonafide hustle plays, "and I just feel bad he couldn't make another free throw after he scrapped and clawed. You can only put so much pressure on kids in practice to make it as much like the game as possible."

On Mount Horeb's final possession, the 6-foot, 7-inch Frint tried to close off Tyson Fredrick along the right sideline, but the Vikings guard tripped over Frint's left leg - for Monroe's ninth team foul - and went to line to shoot the bonus with 2.7 seconds left. The first rattled in and the second drew nothing but net.

"They're definitely the No. 1 bonus free throws I've made," said Fredrick, who led a balanced attack with 11 points.

Murphy took a time out and broke out the dry erase board, but all Monroe could muster was a half-court heave by Barta that came up a couple feet short.

The Cheesemakers found themselves down 24-11 early after a 20-5 Vikings run. Junior Ken Tucker capped the surge by scooping up a deflected, rolling pass in the left corner and, without hesitation, hoisting up a triple that drew nothing but net.

But Michael Barrett snapped the staggered Cheesemakers into attack mode with back-to-back highlight reel-quality three-point plays.

First, he absorbed contact by Fredrick before leaning back to bank home a 10-foot fallaway on the right side. Twenty-three seconds later, he jump-stopped between Fredrick and Grant Schulz before leaping, double-clutching and muscling in a right-handed layup off glass as he tumbled to the floor. Barrett hit both of the extra throws and adjusted the flow of the offense.

"That got us going inside and out instead of outside and in," Murphy said.

Tucker quickly answered with a bomb 3 feet to the right of his previous hit to give the Vikes a 27-17 lead, but his triple didn't slow the Cheesemakers. They closed the half on a 14-5 run to trail just 29-25 at the break.

Monroe took its first lead in 18 minutes, 3 seconds when freshman Alex Barenklau moved the ball from left of the circle to the right where Tordoff banged home a 3 to seize a 38-37 lead.

"But we had two turnovers by our captains and could never get them down two possessions," Murphy said. "They never had that feeling they were out of the game."

After missing six-straight 3-point attempts in the second half, junior Luke Webber connected from right of the circle to take a 44-42 lead. After Michael Barrett missed two free throws for Monroe and Bryan Tordoff made good on just two of three, Fredrick hit from the left wing to reclaim the lead at 47-44 and the Vikings appeared recalibrated - again.

"It's just part of the offense - we don't tell them to shoot 3s - and we'd been struggling," Nesheim said of his team that hit nine bombs after shooting 15-of-53 from the field in Thursday's 50-40 overtime survival of Brodhead.

The Vikings were equally cold when they escaped seventh-seeded Dodgeville 44-42 in the opening round.

"We won't die," Fredrick said. "And through all this, we've survived by coming together as a team."

"We had both of those games on tape, and that's what makes the tournament what it is," Murphy said. Speaking to his point, the Cheesemakers routed Mount Horeb in a 53-32 Badger Conference crossover matchup Jan. 9, a game during which the Vikings shot about 25 percent.

Mount Horeb finished 2-10 in the Badger North, but the setback against Monroe was their lone loss in going 6-1 in crossovers.

Murphy lamented the departure of his three seniors, Alex Capesius, Kyle Klinzing and Kevin Frint. He said they made it easy to come to work every day.

"The frustrating thing is that we can't practice on Monday - I was so looking forward to practicing - they're such a great group of guys," Murphy said.