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Redbirds nip Knights in OT
Times photo: Adam Krebs New Glarus senior Ryan Bright (44) tries to box out Darlingtons Colton Carpenter for a rebounds in the second half of Tuesdays regional opener. Bright finished with 17 points, but Carpenters Redbirds got the win, 52-46 in overtime.
DARLINGTON - The madness of March began with an overtime thriller. New Glarus erased a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit to force overtime against the state's fifth-ranked team, only to see Alex Erickson find a way to lift the Redbirds.

"I was just trying to help out my team and do whatever it takes to win," Erickson said. "I had the ball in my hands and I went with it."

Third-seeded Darlington, ranked No. 5 in the Division 3 Associated Press poll, nipped sixth-seeded New Glarus, 52-46, in the opening round of the WIAA regional playoffs.

"We gave ourselves a chance to win the game," Glarner Knights coach Travis Sysko said. "We've been in every game we've played this year and came up a little bit short. We had a couple good looks there at the end of regulation and it didn't go our way. I give Darlington credit, they pulled it."

Erickson, Darlington's junior sharpshooter, scored seven-straight Redbird points to open the extra frame, including a steal and a coast-to-coast bucket with the hoop and the harm to give his team a 49-44 lead with 1 minute, 35 seconds to play.

"Obviously as a competitor I don't like to see that," New Glarus senior Ryan Bright said. "Erickson is a great kid and he's fun to compete with. I wish him the best of luck."

Erickson started his heroics late in the fourth quarter. Despite holding a 10-point lead, 38-28, at the end of the third, the Glarner Knights went on a 12-0 run to take a 40-38 lead. Erickson scored Darlington's only four points in the frame, and two missed jumpers by New Glarus in the final seconds sent the game into OT.

"We were up by 10 in the fourth, but then I thought, 'here they come,'" Erickson said.

New Glarus shot 5-of-8 in the fourth, which included a 3-point try by Bright with seven seconds left and a last second floater by Tyler Kreklow.

"I was watching the hoop and hoping it wasn't going to hit the bottom of the net. My heart stopped for a second," Erickson said.

Neither team was able to pull away, as there were 18 lead changes throughout the game.

"Basketball has a lot of flow to it. When we can't really get into our rhythm we have to take the points we can get," Darlington head coach Mike Hopkins said.

New Glarus won the first meeting of the year between the two teams, 72-57, over the then third-ranked Redbirds.

"They are such a tough matchup for us. They fight, they scrap to the end," Erickson said.

Both teams pounded the ball into the paint and crashed the boards. Darlington pulled out 20 offensive boards and New Glarus wasn't far behind. Neither team hit a 3 throughout the entire contest.

"They were in our face, we were in their face and nobody was going to force a shot," Erickson said.

Erickson led all scorers with 24 points. Tanner Havens was second on the list for the Redbirds, recording eight points. Nick Stuessy had 13 and Tyler Dorn added nine for New Glarus.

Darlington (20-3) will go on to face second-seeded Wisconsin Heights (20-2) on the road Thursday. The Vanguards trumped New Glarus (12-11) twice this season en route to a Capitol South Conference championship. The winner will likely take on the state's second-ranked team, Cuba City (22-1), in the regional final in Monroe Saturday night. The Redbirds handed the Cubans their only loss of the season Feb. 26 in the regular season finale.

"(Wisconsin Heights) is going to be a challenge. We have to match up with them, play our game and take it to them," Erickson said.

New Glarus' season ends earlier than the Knights would have hoped, but Sysko is proud of the way his team overcame obstacles throughout the season.

"I thanked our guys and our seniors because they played hard all year. There were stretches where things weren't going our way but they never quit, they never gave up," Sysko said.

Bright, who scored a team-high 17 points in the loss, is sad to see his senior season end.

"I'm really proud of our guys because we had an up-and-down season and didn't really accomplish all we wanted to. But we stuck with it," he said. "It feels bad to lose and be done, but you can't hang your head."