Timberwolves end 6-year dry spell with sectional title

Timberwolves end 6-year dry spell with sectional title

COLFAX — Bill Ipsen knew that for Judah Christian boys' basketball to have a shot at reaching Carver Arena next week, it would take pushing his players out of their defensive comfort zone.

The Tribe had molded its current identity around playing opponents man-to-man, but Ipsen made sure his players all season long remembered how to run a 2-3 zone so that they could be ready in the postseason for a team like Cissna Park that has a strong post presence.

But even a well-practiced disruption couldn't make Cissna Park's power source — 6-foot-7 twins Christian and Julian Stadeli — flicker as the Timberwolves followed their dynamic senior duo to a 55-33 victory during Friday night's Class 1A Ridgeview Sectional championship game.

"We came out and I thought gave them a good punch right there in the first quarter," Ipsen said.

"We just couldn't sustain it. We tried to fight around, but hats off to their footwork. That's a lost art in basketball, especially in high school, to find guys like that who want to go back to the basket, win the ball and do the dirty work."

Whether it was getting their hands around a rebound inches above their competitors or stuffing the Tribe's best inside shooters on their way to the hoop, the Stadelis pumped life into the Timberwolves (30-4) after they fell behind 12-5 early in the first quarter.

A combined five points between the twins in the game's opening quarter validated the defensive shakeup for the Tribe (29-3), but the Timberwolves' clan of five seniors hadn't forgotten what losing on the sectional-title stage felt after falling 59-30 to Ridgeview as sophomores in 2017. And none were eager for another taste.

"Early in the second (quarter), maybe late in the first, we really started to feel them out and our guards started hitting shots, and (Julian and I) were there to rebound most of the time," said Christian Stadeli, who finished with a game-high 17 points. "We play the inside out really well."

With Julian Stadeli netting 13 points, the senior brothers scored nearly 60 percent of Cissna Park's 27 points in the second half and, when they weren't scoring, were drawing enough attention from Judah defenders to find one of their hot-handed teammates along the perimeter.

A crafty combination of overhead cross-court passes and sometimes ceaseless ball movement created fair looks for guards such as senior Bailey Sluis, who scored nine points on three three-pointers, or junior Keegan Boyle, who tallied all six of his points from the free-throw line after drawing fouls.

"I know Judah has a couple of really good shooters, too, but we have two that are above them," Cissna Park coach Kevin Long said of Sluis and sophomore Ian Rogers, who drained two three-pointers. "And when we can shoot the ball at the perimeter like that, and then have 6-7 and 6-7 inside, we're very hard to guard."

What looks the Tribe did the manage to fire away all night seemed determined not to swish through the basket, as a number of three-point tries rolled in and out of the rim with just one — a long heave from junior Tyler Grenda — actually falling down.

Senior guard Philip Coulter scored a team-high 10 points in his final game for the Tribe, while senior Josh Candler added another nine points and forced a handful of turnovers in the first half.

"We gave it a good effort," Ipsen said. "We just couldn't get a shot to fall, couldn't buy a basket. Some of that was their defense, some of it we just couldn't hit."

Sectional champions for the first time since 2013, the Timberwolves will now prep for a super-sectional game on Tuesday night at Redbird Arena against Yorkville Christian (23-11), a win away from reaching Peoria next weekend. Long and his players know the stakes only get higher next week.

But on Friday night at least, Long was content to enjoy the sight of his veterans lining up behind a step ladder to cut down their piece of the sectional net.

"I'm so happy right now for the (five) seniors," Long said. "They worked their tails off for four years. The leadership is just outstanding. They deserve this."