LA CROSSE — In a season full of close calls and tough breaks, the La Crosse Logan boys basketball team had about as brutal an ending as could be conceived.
The Rangers led by seven points with 29.2 seconds left, but Bloomer’s Payton Dachel hit a turnaround 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Blackhawks a 72-71 win Saturday morning at the Midwest Players Classic.
Dachel was fouled on a 3-point attempt with 2.6 seconds remaining, and made the first two free throws to cut the Logan (3-8) lead to two points at 71-69. Dachel missed the third intentionally to set up a potential offensive rebound for Bloomer (11-0), but Rangers sophomore Jacksun Hamilton couldn’t corral the ball before it went out of bounds. The buzzer sounded, but officials determined that half a second should be put back on the clock.
Bloomer called a timeout to set up a final play, and Dachel caught the ball near his hip, turned, and buried a 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded again. No call was made immediately on the floor, but the referees determined that Dachel got the ball off in time.
"We really wanted all of our other shooters to be decoys," Bloomer coach Greg Van Grunsven said. "We wanted it to go to Payton out on the corner, but Logan did a really nice job of staying with him. He had to get the ball a little higher out on top than we wanted to, and he just made a shot. We envisioned him being a little clearer out in the corner, but credit to Logan for forcing him a bit higher."
The Logan bench, along with a healthy portion of the La Crosse Center crowd, was visibly upset with what appeared to be a late release by Dachel, a Winona State football recruit who finished with a game-high 32 points.
“In the officials’ opinion, it was off in time, and that’s how we saw it from our bench as well,” Van Grusven said. “We thought it was the correct call.”
The loss was the sixth straight for the Rangers, who got 15 points from senior Josh McGrath and 14 points from junior Maguire Werner.
“Obviously, you just build off the positives,” Logan coach Andy Fernholz said of the heartbreaking finish. “We competed, we were right there, and we had an opportunity at the end. We just have to finish it out, and play a full 36 minutes.”
Rangers senior CJ Siegel was limited to nine points thanks to foul trouble, and fouled out with 1 minute, 36 seconds to play, but McGrath, Werner and nine points from sophomore Devin Moran helped Logan hang right with the Blackhawks, who received votes in the latest Division 3 AP rankings.
"I think this is just a group of kids that just competes to the very end," Van Grunsven said. "We had some breaks that went our way, made some baskets, and we finally made some free throws down the stretch that helped us."
Masen Miller scored 13 points and Bradley Sarauer added 10 points.
Saturday's game was a quick turnaround for the Blackhawks, who won at Hayward 64-43 on Friday. That win not only kept Bloomer unbeaten in Heart O'North Conference play, but opened up a two-game lead in the league standings for the Blackhawks over the Hurricanes and Northwestern.
Bloomer hosts Cumberland on Friday.