No surprise, Battlers back at state: Talented Battle Lake boys take on undefeated UpsalaPublished 9:07am Wednesday, March 20, 2013
After fighting their way through an extremely tough section, the Battle Lake boys basketball team will step on the court of Williams Arena in Minneapolis Thursday carrying the momentum of a 10 game winning streak and the support of the community.
After winning the Little Eight Conference, the Battler boys were not favored to capture the Section 6A title. The section boasts last season’s Class A champ Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa and tough competitor Ada-Borup, but after being tested in four games, the Battlers claimed the section title and their first state berth since 2004-05.
“It’s always a great accomplishment to make the state tournament,” Battle Lake Head Coach Dan Peterka said. “Beating tough Wheaton-Herman-Norcoss and Ada-Borup teams to get there was no easy task.”
The Battlers will once again face a tough opponent in the undefeated Upsala Cardinals (30-0). Led by the strong guard play of junior Christian Pekarek, the Cardinals average 81 points per game and dominate the boards with just under 35 rebounds a game.
Pekarek has averaged over 23 points a game, on his own, and shoots 57 percent from beyond the arc. Teammates senior Avery Smieja and junior Dylan Zimmerman are windex men for Upsala as they have combined for 476 rebounds this season.
“Upsala is a very athletic and aggressive team. They attack the basket hard as well as shoot the three very well. They are aggressive defensively and want to force their opponent into turnovers so they can get into their transition game,” Peterka added.
Offensively, Battle Lake has been able to adjust well to different scoring opportunities. Whether Tony or Tyler Ukkelberg shoot around the perimeter or Dan Marso and Petric VanErp work inside the paint, the Battlers have found a nice balance in their scoring attack. The Battlers will have to make the most of their trips down the court as the Cardinals have shot an outstanding 51 percent from the field.
Peterka knows that in order for Battle Lake to have success defensively, they need to stop Upsala’s penetration and pressure their shooters.
This will be the Battlers second appearance in the tournament. Many fans saw a steep climb to get to the state tournament, but Peterka knew he had a talented team and if they found their groove that they would be able to challenge any team.
“I think we have exceeded our expectations a little bit but I also feel we have a talented team. We have put it together late in the season and have been playing very well.”
The Battlers will hit the court Thursday at 3 p.m.