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Redbirds upset Wis. Heights
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MAZOMANIE - Just how tough is the WIAA Boys Basketball Division 3 Monroe Regional? For the Darlington Redbirds, the three teams they will have faced by the end of the week have a combined record of 55-15.

The third-seeded Redbirds passed another tough test Thursday night with a 70-68 win over second-seeded Wisconsin Heights Vanguards in a regional semifinal.

"This was a team effort," Darlington head coach Mike Hopkins said. "For $4, people sure got their money's worth."

Darlington led at halftime, 28-27, but the real story of the first half was the shutdown defense supplied by Darlington junior Tucker Wiegel, who held Wisconsin Heights' top player Dustin Helmenstine scoreless.

"He did the job on Helmenstine in the first half. Anytime he penetrated, he couldn't get a shot off," Hopkins said.

The two teams battled to a 42-42 tie entering the fourth quarter. Midway through the fourth, the Vanguards took a 54-50 lead, but the Redbirds battled back and took the lead for good at 55-54. Thanks to 16 of 19 free throw shooting in the fourth quarter, Darlington was able to claim a 70-64 lead with under 10 seconds remaining. Helmenstine was able to draw a foul on a three-point attempt with 5.3 seconds left and made the first two free throws. He missed the third attempt and the Vanguards were able to get the rebound and score, but they had no more time-outs and the clock ran out, making the final 70-68.

Four players scored in double figures for the Redbirds with junior Alex Erickson leading all scorers with 22 points. Senior Tanner Havens added 17 points, senior Tyler Shager came up with 11 points and senior Colton Carpenter came off the bench to score 10 points for Darlington.

Helmenstine finished with 15 points for Wisconsin Heights (20-3).

Darlington (21-3) will meet second-ranked Cuba City (23-1) for the regional championship at 7 p.m. Saturday at Monroe. Cuba City defeated Belleville, 79-57, Thursday.

"I'm sure they'll show us something different, just like we have in each game, so far, and that's what coaching is all about," Hopkins said.

Darlington and Cuba City shared the SWAL Conference title with each team winning on their home court. This time, the game will be on a neutral floor and the stakes will be even higher with the winner advancing to the sectional.