BOYS BASKETBALL: Bangor dashes Cashton's conference title dream night with upset win


CASHTON — It was going to be a night nearly four decades in the making for the Cashton boys' basketball program. After 37 years of waiting, the Eagles put themselves in a position where all they needed to do was win their regular-season finale and they'd guarantee themselves no worse than a share of their first conference championship since 1987.

The only thing standing in their path was their archrivals and the team that has been the gold standard in the Scenic Bluffs Conference in recent years: the Bangor Cardinals.

This was a Bangor team that Cashton had comfortably beaten on the road 75-53 back on January 18, and late last week the Cardinals were officially eliminated from conference championship contention to end their streak of seven straight Scenic Bluffs titles.

The stage was set for the Eagles to have their moment of triumph. After snapping a 29-game losing streak against the Cardinals during that emphatic January win, Cashton could complete the season sweep at home to nab that elusive conference crown.

Instead, their Bangor boogeyman reared its head yet again to spoil the celebration and earn the Cardinals their most satisfying win of an up-and-down season.

Bangor (13-9 overall, 10-3 Scenic Bluffs) went on the road and stunned the Eagles (21-3, 12-2) with a dramatic 68-66 victory on Monday, February 19 in Cashton — a game that is sure to live on for many years in rivalry lore.

Shooting woes have plagued the Cardinals at times throughout the season, but they came out firing on all cylinders on Monday night. Bangor buried its first six 3-pointers as a team on its way to an early 23-13 advantage.

Cashton eventually settled in and started effectively getting out in transition for some easy buckets, helping fuel a stretch for the remainder of the first half where the Eagles outscored the Cardinals 25-15 to knot the score at 38-38 at halftime.

In the second half, the Cardinals did a much better job of limiting Cashton's transition opportunities and mostly making life difficult for the Eagles when they were in their half-court offense.

"We figured that if we can limit their transition points and have good man coverage on both (Connor) Butzler and Noah (Hemmersbach), then we would be OK," said Bangor head coach Nick Meacham, who got an early present from his team on the night before his birthday. "Then when those guys drove the lane and they met that wall called Chase Horstman, that's big. He played very, very well for us."

Despite the Cashton surge down the stretch of the opening half, Bangor remained undeterred and kicked off the second half with a 9-2 run to open up a 47-40 lead. The Cardinals led by as much as eight when Cashton senior guard Connor Butzler ripped off a personal 8-0 run — featuring a turnaround jumper and a pair of 3-pointers — to tie score at 54-54 as the game entered the final five minutes of regulation.

Even though Bangor senior guard Samuel Cropp had just a single first-half 3-pointer on his scoring ledger up to that point, he came up clutch for the Cardinals in crunch time.

Cropp drilled a triple that put Bangor back ahead 57-54 and later nailed another three that extended the advantage to 63-57. The Eagles kept on pushing and got the deficit down to 65-63 thanks to senior guard/forward Brett Hemmersbach's 3-pointer with 31.4 seconds to go.

After Cropp calmly made a pair of free throws, Cashton senior guard Noah Hemmersbach sliced the deficit to 67-66 by burying a three with 12.3 seconds remaining. The Eagles got the ball back with a chance to tie or take the lead after Bangor senior forward Chase Horstman split a pair of free throws.

Cashton's initial look at trying to get Noah Hemmersbach a shot to tie the game down low was blocked out of bounds by the Cardinals. The Eagles took a timeout with 4.6 seconds left to set up one final play.

The inbound pass went to Brett Hemmersbach, whose contested look just outside the lane was off the mark. Horstman corralled the loose ball and threw it up the court away from everyone so that the last seconds could run off. As the final buzzer sounded, Bangor players mobbed together to celebrate while Cashton players, coaches and fans were left in a stunned state of defeat.

"It's Bangor-Cashton and everyone knows it. That's why there's a crowd here tonight," Cropp said. "It means the world to both of these groups to play in a game like this, and the game lived up to the hype. Getting that stop, it's a great feeling."

It was a well-balanced performance from the Cardinals, starting with sophomore point guard Hayden Massman scoring 12 points — all of which came in the first half. Chase Horstman, Samuel Cropp and junior guard Eli Tucker each tallied 11 points, with Horstman also recording 18 rebounds and seven assists as part of a dominant double-double.

Other leading Bangor contributors included senior forward Willis Pollock with 10 points off the bench and senior guard Nolan Michek with nine points, five rebounds and five assists.

"I'm so proud of our team, how we played together, lasted the whole game and played a complete game," Michek said. "It means a lot that the conference trophy is still up for grabs for a couple more days."

Leading scorers for the Eagles were Noah Hemmersbach with 27 points, Brett Hemmersbach with 14 points, Connor Butzler with 13 points and senior guard Brady Hemmersbach with 10 points.


Bangor closes out the regular season on the road against the Royall Panthers (21-2, 12-1) on Thursday, February 22 at 7 p.m. in Elroy. In an ironic twist, there will be no bigger Bangor fans on that night than Cashton.

Royall clinched a share of the Scenic Bluffs title with its win over Hillsboro and Cashton's loss to Bangor on Monday night. The Panthers secure the conference crown outright by beating the Cardinals on Thursday. If Bangor wins, Cashton and Royall will share the league championship.

Bangor Cardinals, Cashton Eagles, Scenic Bluffs Conference, high school boys basketball


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here