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Elmwood can't hold early lead, lose to No. 1 Randolph 46-37

Seth Jones and Randolph's A.J. Alexander struggle for airborne basketball.5 / 6
Levi Wolf has the ball down low trying to put it into position to shoot.6 / 6

MADISON - A 17-year absence from the state tournament made no difference to Elmwood to start its Division 5 semifinal contest against Randolph at the WIAA State Boys Basketball Tournament Thursday afternoon in the Kohl Center. The Raiders held an 11-2 lead on the No. 1 ranked Rockets.

But even though EHS held the lead at halftime, they couldn't hold it in the second half. Randolph won going away 46-37.

The Raiders got off to a great start with a nine-point lead before the first media timeout. Raider head coach Chris Segerstrom credited his team's focus for Elmwood's success.

"We did a very good job treating it like another game and not be intimidated by the venue, the big stage or their tradition," Segerstrom said. "That's been true during the playoffs where we had the regionals disrupted by the weather, the fact we had snow day this week and had to practice in different gyms leading up to today. I couldn't be more proud of the way they handled themselves and in reflect itself in the game's start."

But a confident and collected Randolph squad certainly didn't panic. They came right back to tie the score at 14-14 behind 10 points from sophomore point guard Duke Vander Gailen. However, Elmwood's five three-pointers in the first half compared to Randolph's zero kept them in front at halftime 25-21.

The second half was a different story though as Randolph outscored the Red and Black label 25-12. The Rockets, 26-2 overall, went on a 10-2 run that took up much of the third quarter. Elmwood didn't score a field goal until only :45 seconds were left in the quarter and trailed 33-27.

But Segerstrom felt the game was still in Elmwood's hands despite the run. And at the start of the fourth quarter a basket by Webb brought EHS within two at 33-31 while a jumper by Tom LaFlex made the score 36-33 midway through.

This was Elmwood's high-water mark unfortunately as Randolph outscored Elmwood 10-6 to stay in front. The Raiders missed several opportunities to take the lead or draw closer. They were also held without a three-pointer in the second half and they were held without a scorer in double figures. Logan Wolf had eight points but none in the second half, limited by foul trouble. Kyle Webb finished with eight points while Eli Fredrickson had six points and Seth Jones and Levi Wolf each scored five points.

"We needed to do a better job closing out on their shooters and we did that in the second half," Randolph head coach Bob Haffele said. "Elmwood played very well and we were fortunate we were still in position to where we could take over the game if we started playing better defense."

Randolph also had their top players come through for them in scoring with Vander Galien's 13 points, Aaron Retzlaff's 16 points, most of them in the second half, and Jay Peters's 11 points, also mostly in the second half. Randolph also outrebounded Elmwood 32-23.

Elmwood concludes this most successful season for them with a 23-5 overall record. Randolph, meanwhile, will play for its 10th state championship at 11 a.m. Saturday when they face undefeated and No. 2 ranked Green Bay NEW Lutheran. The Blazers, 28-0, edged No. 6 Drummond, 24-3, in an exciting opener to the state tournament 62-59.