Tea Area used a strong defensive effort in the State A semi-finals to defeat Tri-Valley 60-47 Friday night at the Premier Center. The Titans have now won 10 of its last 11 games and will face top-ranked Madison Saturday night. The loss snaps a nine-game winning streak for Tri-Valley.
Tri-Valley struggled all night to score and were limited to just 30 percent shooting, including a 28 percent effort in the second half. Tea Area registered nine blocks, and the Mustangs had to work tirelessly for every point. The 47 points scored by Tri-Valley is its season low, well below its season average of 64 points per game.
“The last couple games we’ve really locked down on defense and the guys have boughten into it,” Tea Area coach Chris Fechner said. “We’ve had guys buy into their roles, and it’s helped us become a much better defensive team. We’re not going to change anything now.”
The brothers of Ethan and Noah Freidel scored 40 of Tea Area’s 60 points, as the Titans shot 46-percent from the field as a team. Senior Ethan Freidel had 21 points on 6-of-16 shooting, and sophomore Noah Freidel had 19 points on 7-of-11 from the field.
“That’s pretty much how it’s been for us,” Fechner said of the Freidel brothers. “But they’ll be the first to tell you that it’s the guys setting screens for them and getting them open. They’re going to get a lot of our points, but that’s the nature of how they play basketball.”
The Titans (20-4) didn’t give up anything easy inside, and it seemed appropriate when Seth Kocer had a monster block on Tri-Valley’s Will Steineke with 1:18 to play and the Titans with a nine—point lead. Steineke and Jayden Burggraff led the Mustangs with 14 points each. Cade Falor added 13.
Tri-Valley (18-7) got down 32-24 early in the third quarter when Kaleb Joffer scored with 6:40 to play. Tea Area looked to have an opportunity to bury the Mustangs, but Tri-Valley went on a 7-2 run to cut it to three with 3:12 to play when Falor scored. The two traded baskets for much of the remainder of the third quarter and Tri-Valley again had it to three points at 39-36 with under a minute to play in the quarter.
“We just needed to slow down a little bit, catch our breath and go back to what we were doing when we were getting our shots,” Fechner said. “We started getting three-happy, and we just weren’t knocking those things down. We needed to attack the basket, but our defense really set it all up.”
But the Titans set the tone early on defense, registering a pair of blocks on Tri-Valley’s first three trips down the floor to open the game.
A Noah Freidel 3-pointer for Tea with 3:54 to play in the first half pushed the Titans lead to 23-16, it’s biggest lead of the game at that time. But the Mustangs responded moments later when Burggraff scored to cut it to five. Try-Valley looked to cut it to three when Steineke had a good look under the basket on the Mustangs’ next trip down the floor, but Tea Area’s Alec Hohn-Mack swatted it away nears the Tea Area student section, and the Premiere Center roared.
The Titans weren’t done there on the defensive end as Kocer had another impressive block under the basket, sending Tri-Valley’s Noah Jewett’s shot into the student section, with just 1.4 seconds remaining in the half. Tea Area led 30-22 at the half.
The win sets up familiar foes between Madison and Tea Area for the Class A title. The two met earlier in the year with Madison winning by eight on Jan. 6.
“We’ve had great battles with them, either on the football field or the basketball court lately,” Fechner said “They’ve got great athletes and they move the ball well. We’re going to have to stay poised, and we’re going to have to knock down shots.”