Titans back-to-back WIAC champions

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  • Morgan Feltz / The Advance-Titan — Seniors Levi Borchert, Hunter Plamann and and Eric Peterson pose with their families during Senior Day at the Feb. 11 game.

  • Morgan Feltz / The Advance-Titan — It’s mine! A Titan isn’t about to let go of the ball, despite the swarm of Eagles around him.

  • Morgan Feltz / The Advance-Titan — Students and fans cheer on the Titans, who defeated UW-La Crosse 91-88 and became back-to-back WIAC champions

  • Morgan Feltz / The Advance-Titan — Titan Jonah Rindfleisch jumps for the ball.

  • Morgan Feltz / The Advance-Titan — Levi Borchert dribbles the ball past an Eagle as he heads to the net.

  • Morgan Feltz / The Advance-Titan — Levi Borchert uses all his body as the Titan beat UW-La Crosse and become WIAC champions.

  • Morgan Feltz / The Advance-Titan — Jonah Rindfleisch cuts down the net following Oshkosh’s victory.

  • Morgan Feltz / The Advance-Titan — The Titans celebrate with fans following UW Oshkosh’s 91-88 win against UW-La Crosse at the Kolf Sports Center on Feb. 11. Oshkosh was crowned back-to-back regular season WIAC champions.

  • Morgan Feltz / The Advance-Titan — Will Mahoney dribbles by an Eagle player in the Feb. 11 win over UW-La Crosse.

  • Morgan Feltz / The Advance-Titan — The UW Oshkosh swim team cheered on the Titans basketball team in their swimsuits.

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Jacob Link, Co-Sports Editor

The UW Oshkosh men’s basketball team captured back-to-back Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) championships for the first time in school history Feb. 11 after defeating UW-La Crosse 91-88 at the Kolf Sports Center.

The Titans (19-5, 12-1 WIAC) secured the top seed in the WIAC tournament with the victory and will have home-court advantage, as well as a first round bye, in next week’s tournament. This season, Oshkosh is undefeated at Kolf, going 10-0.

Quinn Steckbauer said he was thrilled that the team was back-to-back conference champs.

“It’s a tough conference and everybody is competitive and battling hard every game,” he said. “To come out on top is a great accomplishment for us.”

Morgan Feltz / The Advance-Titan — Will Mahoney dribbles by an Eagle player in the Feb. 11 win over UW-La Crosse.

UWO’s Hunter Plamann scored a game-high 25 points on 5 of 8 shooting from behind the arc. Senior forward Levi Borchert, who played 39 minutes in the game, finished with his 37th career double-double after scoring 24 points and grabbing a game-high 11 rebounds. Off the bench, guard Will Mahoney scored 22 points and grabbed seven boards while converting a game-high 10 free throws. Oshkosh, ranked 17th in the nation by d3hoops.com, dominated UWL in fast break points, outscoring the Eagles 13-0.

Borchert said the team played really well on both sides of the ball. 

“We had some problems on defense, but we had a good offensive game,” he said. “We got big time stops and when they had scoring runs, we were able to put a stop to it.”

La Crosse’s Austin Westra led the team with 17 points on 6 of 9 shooting from the floor. Three other players finished in double figures and the Eagles outshot UWO from behind the arc 46% to 38%.

The Eagles (18-6, 9-4 WIAC) hit back-to-back shots to start the second half, giving La Crosse a four-point advantage. UWL maintained a four-point lead until a pair of Borchert free throws sparked a 5-0 run that saw the Titans retake the lead after a Mahoney 3-pointer.

“La Crosse is a talented team and they kept coming at us,” Steckbauer said. “We stayed together and tried to answer every punch that they threw at us and were able to be ahead by the end of the game.”

With 12 minutes to go in the game, Oshkosh embarked on an 8-0 run following a pair of Steckbauer free-throws to extend the Titan lead to eight points. La Crosse quickly called a timeout and responded with a 12-0 run behind back-to-back 3-pointers from Craig Steele to give the Eagles a 70-66 advantage with seven minutes to play. Oshkosh finally started to hit their 3-pointers and tied the game at 74 after Mahoney connected on a shot from behind the arc.

Mahoney’s 3-pointer jump started a 12-4 run that gave the Titans a five-point lead with less than two minutes to play. La Crosse continued to stay two possessions of UWO, and a Steele 3-pointer cut the Oshkosh lead to three points with 20 seconds to go. Borchert converted on a pair of free throws, but UWL hit another 3-pointer, bringing the Titan lead to one-point with seven seconds left. Mahoney hit both of his free-throws and Steele missed the game-tying 3-pointer at the buzzer as Oshkosh secured their first back-to-back regular-season conference championship since 1967-68 when the Titans played in the Wisconsin State University Conference.

UWO forward Jonah Rindfleisch scored the first points of the game after converting on two free-throw attempts to give the Titans an early 2-0 lead. The teams traded

Morgan Feltz / The Advance-Titan — Reed Seckar cuts down the net following Oshkosh’s victory.

baskets for most of the first half until UWL’s Westra converted on a three-point play, which kick-started a 9-0 run that gave the Eagles a 27-20 advantage with 10 minutes to go in the half.

Borchert, who led all players with 15 points in the first half, almost single-handedly kept UWO in the game by scoring four straight baskets midway through the half to keep the UWL lead to seven points. With six minutes to go in the first half, Mahoney scored six points in less than 20 seconds to narrow the Eagle advantage to two points.

The Titans kept the contest a one-score game in the final minutes of the half, and Plamann converted on a 3-pointer with 39 seconds left to give UWO the lead. UWL’s Jake Gross drove down the court on the next possession and made a lay up to regain the lead. With 12 seconds to go, the Titans inbounded the ball and found an open Borchert, who hit a buzzer-beating layup to give Oshkosh a 46-45 advantage going into the locker room.

Borchert and Steckbauer said the team was able to repeat as conference champs because of the work the team put in during the offseason.

“A lot of us live here and we are very close to each other,” Steckbauer said. “We try to take it one day at a time and work really hard each day. We don’t look ahead too much, just focus on the next opponent.”

“I think alot of us invest so much, whether it’s in the weight room or getting shots in the gym outside of practice,” Borchert said. “We also invest in each other, and the team is super connected.”

Oshkosh secured a share of the WIAC regular-season title Feb. 8 after taking down UW-Whitewater 72-68 at the Williams Center.

Steckbauer led the Titans with 20 points while Rindfleisch, Borchert and Plamann each finished with 13 points.

The teams traded baskets to open the game, but a pair of layups gave the Warhawks (17-7, 8-5 WIAC) an early six-point lead. The Titans were unable to find an answer for UWW early in the game, and Oshkosh found itself down 19-11 with 11 minutes to play in the first half. The Warhawks maintained at least a six-point advantage for the rest of the half as UWO went into the locker room trailing 36-29.

The Titans opened the second half on a 9-2 run and tied the game at 38 after a Borchert layup. UWO began to heat up, and the Titans took their second lead of the game after an Eric Peterson jumper. UWW tied the game with 15 minutes to go in the game and built a six-point advantage through a string of jumpers. UWO responded with a 7-2 run to cut the lead to one point following a Borchert layup. Oshkosh took the lead for good after a Plamann 3-pointer, and the Titans grinded out their 18th win of the season.

Oshkosh competed against UW-Stevens Point (10-14, 3-10 WIAC) in the final game of the regular season Feb. 15 at 7 p.m. at Quandt Fieldhouse. Check the UWO athletics website for results.