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Men’s basketball season ends without a playoff berth

March 11, 2019

The University of Wisconsin River Falls Men’s basketball team had their season come to a conclusion against UW – Whitewater on Feb. 16, 2019, after a 77-74 loss in the closing seconds of regulation.

A classic “win and in” game for both teams essentially served as a road playoff game for the Falcons. It began in typical 2018 Falcon fashion, six minutes into the game the Falcons were down 12-6. The Falcons would then go on a quick 7-2 run and close the gap to two points.

After trading baskets for a few minutes, the Warhawks put together one of their biggest scoring runs of the game. They produced a 13-2 run to put themselves up 30-21 with eight minutes to go in the first half. The scoring run continued over those eight minutes, as the Warhawks held a 14-point lead at the conclusion of the first half of play.

“Our mentality was simple, we knew we were fighting for our season, so we just knew we had to give it all we had,” Junior Matt Keller continued. “We made some adjustments on our ball screens and we had to guard Melvin Brown Jr. better.”

The 2018 season came down to one half of action for the Falcons. Despite a 14-point deficit, the Falcons came out of the half with a bang. They scored a quick nine points in the first three minutes with points coming from Austin Heidecker, Julian Jackson, and Jack Stensgard.

Keller said about the early burst of offense, “we got some stops and strung together a couple runs that led us back into the game.”

In the final game of his career as a Falcon, Heidecker did exactly what he did best. He had a game-high 18 points in addition to his eight rebounds and two assists.

After battling back during the first 12 minutes of the second half, the Falcons had managed to tie up the game at 58 after a pair of Alex Ohde free throws. Over the course of the next ten minutes, both teams played each other about even.

With four seconds left in the game, the Falcons were down three points with possession of the basketball. Time was running down, and the Falcons didn’t have a chance to set up a real offensive play. Stensgard took the final shot from near mid-court, unfortunately for the Falcons, he couldn’t connect. The game’s final score was a 77-74 defeat on the road at UW – Whitewater.

Keller said about the closing seconds, “It came from a missed free throw and Heidecker had an outlet to Jack. He took a half-court shot and unfortunately it didn’t fall. We didn’t have too much time to work with, but we gave ourselves a chance.”

For the three seniors on the Falcons roster, this defeat was the final game of their careers as Falcons. For Logan Halvorson, he was a consistent role player. Providing a spark off the bench to keep the offense rolling when the starters came out of the game. Outside of basketball, Halvorson made the WIAC Scholastic Honor Roll two years in a row, 2015-2016.

Heidecker was a dominant force throughout his career as a Falcon. He averaged a double-double during the 2018 season which included 12.8 points per game, along with 10.6 rebounds. Heidecker was not only a basketball player as a Falcon, but he was also an excellent student. He made the WIAC Scholastic Honor Roll three years in a row, from 2015-2017.

In his senior season, Clay Seifert served as a valuable role player. He averaged over five points per game, three rebounds, and he shot over 30 percent from the three-point line. He was one of the best two-way players on the team. In one game during his junior year, he had four steals against Platteville. It showed how versatile he was as a defender.

Keller reflected on his time with the soon to depart seniors, “Those are my guys, my brothers. I know I and a lot of other people are going to miss them next year. They all had great careers here and helped a lot of the younger guys throughout the year. They added tremendous value to our team through their leadership and personalities, on and off the court.

When asked about how the team will be affected by losing the seniors Keller said, “We will have to have some of these young guys take a huge stride in the offseason to be ready to step into a playing role next season. The good thing is, we played a lot of guys who have some experience to build off of now.”

For the Falcons as a whole, the 2018 season was an unexpectedly difficult year. They finished the season with an 11-14 overall record including a 4-10 record in their WIAC games. This was the first season since 2013 that the Falcons have had a home court losing record. Along with being the first season since 2014 that the team has not qualified for the conference tournament.