By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Ritschard, Ponies saddle up
Monticellos Corey McGowan (foreground) and Chris Voegeli battle with a Williams Bay player for a loose ball.
MONTICELLO - Williams Bay coach Troy Nottestad may have nightmares after he watched Monticello junior Tyler Ritschard drive to the basket time and again Thursday.

Ritschard scored a game-high 25 points to lift the Ponies to a 55-39 win over Williams Bay in a WIAA Division 4 Edgerton regional semifinal game. Williams Bay used a press throughout the game, but they couldn't stop Ritschard from penetrating. Ritschard shot 10-for-15 and scored 11 of his 15 second-half points in the third quarter.

"All he needs is a crack to get to the rim," Monticello coach Mark Olson said. "I feel like he is a good finisher. If he can get to the rim, he can finish. If you take away his penetration, he has a heck of an outside shot too."

With the win Monticello (19-3), ranked sixth in the Division 4 Associated Press state poll, advances to the Edgerton regional championship game where the Ponies will play Racine Lutheran (21-3), ranked fifth, at 1:30 p.m. Saturday. It's the second-straight year that Monticello will play for a regional title. The Ponies lost to eventual Division 4 state champion Benton in the regional title game last year.

"That's what we have been working for all year," Ritschard said of still being in contention to win a regional championship. "Nothing will be given to us. We just have to keep working hard. If we play our game, we are tough to beat."

To get a chance to play in the regional championship, the Ponies raced out to an 11-2 lead over the Bulldogs. The spurt was highlighted by senior Tyler Meier's 3-pointer and Ritschard's eight first-quarter points. Meier hit a jumper at the end of the first quarter to give the Ponies a 15-6 lead.

Olson wasn't surprised by the Bulldogs' press.

"That is what they have done all year," he said. "They like to make the game messy with their press and traps. We knew if we took care of the basketball, we would get some open shots."

Meier, who scored 14 points, said the Bulldogs' press may have worked in the Ponies' favor since, as a team, they like to push the tempo.

"Running is our thing to do and we do it well," he said.

Getting another chance to win a regional title is a motivating force.

"It was definitely good to move a step toward where we want to be and where we were last year," Meier said. "We feel like we have a little unfinished business."

Attacking and breaking the press with patience was key.

"We took what they gave us," Ritschard said. "We played solid offense and that is what it will take."

Monticello opened the second quarter strong when Meier scored on a putback to give the Ponies a 17-6 lead. Williams Bay senior Jack Slovick, who torched Albany by scoring 33 points in a win Tuesday night, scored 12 points on 5-for-15 shooting Thursday. Slovick drilled a 3-pointer with 5:15 left in the period to slice the Ponies' lead to 19-13. That's as close as the Bulldogs would get the rest of the game. Meier drove in and hit a shot, which he was fouled on with 2:06 to go. He converted the conventional three-point play to give the Ponies a 25-13 lead.

The Ponies shot 63.1 percent in the first half (12-for-19) and finished at 52.6 percent (20-for-38).

The Bulldogs made one more run in the third quarter. Williams Bay senior Willy Gerson drained a 3-pointer to cut the Ponies' lead to 33-25 with 5:04 left in the third. Monticello junior Corey McGowan, who finished the game with seven points, answered by hitting a jumper in the lane to push the Ponies' lead back to 35-25. After the Bulldogs again cut the deficit to eight points, the Ponies responded when Ritschard buried a 3-pointer in front of the Monticello stands with 3:39 to go in the period to extend the lead to 38-27.

The Ponies led by as many as 18 points in the second half after Ritschard made two free throws. It wasn't close down the stretch, but the Ponies were able to maintain a double-digit lead by making 11 of 12 free throws in the fourth quarter.

"Survive and advance," Olson said. "We get to practice another day. We get to play another day. I'm pretty excited about that."

Olson now turns his attention to Racine Lutheran.

"Racine Lutheran is a heck of a team," he said. "They like to push the ball too. They have some good athletes."