The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

    Men’s season ends in heartbreaking fashion

    Senior Dan Archambault waited in the huddle as coach Terry Gibbons designed a play with 13 seconds remaining in overtime.

    UW-Oshkosh held a 75-72 advantage despite being the heavy favorite to survive the first round of the WIAC playoffs.

    The timeout expired and Archambault took the court. With the clock rapidly trickling down, he found himself with the ball just behind the three-point arch. With a defender in his face, he pulled up for the shot.

    The ball hit the left side of the rim and fell out. Senior Jesse Breidenbach grabbed the rebound and tried another three-point shot. Nothing.

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    Oshkosh went on to make two free throws and seal its victory over the Blugolds with a 77-72 decision Monday in the Kolf Sports Center in Oshkosh.

    “It was a hard-fought game,” Archambault said. “We were ready, we battled the whole game and unfortunately came up short at the end.”

    It was the final game for Eau Claire seniors Archambault, Breidenbach, Casey Drake and Will Jefferson, all of whom have been with the team for four years.

    “They’re outstanding young men,” Gibbons said. “They’re the epitome of what a student athlete is all about in college athletics.”

    Eau Claire finished its season with an overall .500 record at 13-13 and a 6-10 record in the WIAC. It was the Blugolds’ 11th straight loss in Oshkosh dating back to 1995.

    Eau Claire struggled to break ahead of Oshkosh in the first half, making only six shots from the floor, but converting on 10-of-12 free throw attempts. Oshkosh never allowed the Blugolds to pull ahead as they held the lead nearly four minutes into the second half.

    “It’s just kind of the way the game went,” Drake said. “We followed (Oshkosh) and they were just making their free throws.”

    At the start of the second half, Oshkosh quickly set the tone with a dunk by sophomore center Kerry Gibson. The Blugolds began to chip away at the lead until a Jefferson three-pointer gave Eau Claire its first lead at 33-31 with 16:08 on the clock. Oshkosh tied the game at 36 a piece before Eau Claire took off on a 10-0 tear to lead 46-36.

    “We gained some momentum and hit some big shots in a row,” Archambault said. “After that 10-point lead … we couldn’t get any shots.”

    The Blugolds lead narrowed through the remainder of the half as Oshkosh heated up, pulling the game within one with 6:45 left in regulation. The Blugolds then extended their lead to five, but found themselves in a 57-57 tie as time expired.

    Gibbons said he felt confident in what his team could do after taking Oshkosh into overtime on their own court.

    “We’re on the road, it’s tournament time and we’re pushing the number three seed to the wire,” he said. “Our thoughts are … let’s go.”

    In overtime, both teams exchanged the lead with neither being able to break away by more than three points. With 59 seconds left, both teams were locked in a 70-70 tie until Oshkosh senior guard Andy Fernholz nailed a three-pointer to put the Titans on top 73-70. Oshkosh never looked back from that point as Eau Claire added two more points to the final score.

    “That’s the bittersweet about it,” Gibbons said. “The sweet thing is we fought tooth and nail … the bitter is that Fernholz hit a three-point shot.”

    Oshkosh will move on to play second-seeded UW-Stevens Point as Eau Claire heads to the offseason four players short.

    “For all the seniors that played in that last game, we all fought hard and made big plays,” Archambault said. “Even though we went down, we went down swinging.”

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    Men’s season ends in heartbreaking fashion