PLATTEVILLE, Wis. – The University of Wisconsin-Platteville men's basketball team sent seniors Boston Johnson (Oshkosh/North) and Peyton River (Maquoketa, Iowa) out in style with an 87-80 WIAC victory over UW-Stout in the season finale Saturday night at Bo Ryan Court.
Johnson finished his career in blue and orange with 21 points and a game-high 11 rebounds. River added five points and two assists in his farewell game as the Pioneers snapped a six-game losing streak to close the year on a high note.
Both Johnson and River were honored before the game in a brief Senior Night ceremony in front of the home crowd, but it was reserve Robert Duax (Dubuque, Iowa/Hempstead) that stole the spotlight in the first half. The freshman guard poured in 18 of his career-high 26 points before intermission, including 13 in a five-minute span late in the half to stake the Pioneers to a 14-point lead.
Duax drilled back-to-back triples around the five-minute mark, then made a steal and converted the breakaway layup with 3:05 left to make it 44-30.
Johnson was equally unstoppable in the first-half, making all five shots he attempted from the field, including three from downtown, and six straight free throws on his way to a 19-point first half. The do-it-all senior scored seven points in the final 1:27 to give UW-Platteville a 53-36 halftime advantage.
As a team, the Pioneers shot a sizzling 54.8 percent (17 of 31) in the first half, including 9 of 18 (50 percent) from behind the arc.
River got in on the scoring with a 3-pointer from the wing to make it 60-42 three minutes into the second half and junior Cory Vaassen's (Dickeyville/Cuba City) three-point play a minute later gave UWP its largest lead of the night at 63-42 with 15:49 left in the game.
The visiting Blue Devils chipped away with an 11-3 run over the next five minutes to pull within 12 at 69-57, but the Pioneers were simply too much on this night.
A Vaassen layup and a pair of River free throws pushed the lead back to 19 at 81-62, then Vaassen brought the house down with a one-handed follow-up dunk of a missed jump shot to make it 83-64 with 3:43 remaining.
Stout made the final score closer than it really was with a trio of 3-pointers in the final 1:05, but the Pioneer lead was never really in jeopardy.
Duax grabbed six rebounds and passed out four assists to go along with his career-high 26 points.
Sophomore guard Matt Oestreich (Marshfield) finished with nine points, a team-high seven assists and three rebounds in the win. Vaassen (Cuba City) added nine points and eight boards.
Sophomore Dan Lowe (Byron, Ill.) added nine points and two rebounds in 12 minutes off the bench.
Jalen Patterson scored a team-high 17 points to go along with seven rebounds and three blocks to lead the Blue Devils. John Keefe and John Lahti finished with 11 points apiece in the loss.
Coach Jeff Gard's Pioneers finished the season 11-14 overall and 5-9 in the conference. UW-Stout closed the season at 4-20, 0-14. UW-Platteville finished seventh in the eight-team conference and did not qualify for the WIAC postseason tournament, which begins Tuesday night.
Johnson finished the year as the Pioneers' leading in multiple categories, including scoring (15.0 ppg), rebounding (6.8 rpg) and assists (3.2 apg) while playing in all 25 games. He also made a team-high 91 of 110 free throws (82.7 percent) as the Pioneers were among the national leaders with an 81.3 team percentage from the free throw line.
Vaassen averaged 11.6 points and 6.5 rebounds per game, both second on the team, while playing in 24 games. He also led the team with 26 steals.
Oestreich finished third on the team in scoring at 11.4 points per contest and also averaged 3.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists per contest. He was the only Pioneer to start all 25 games.
Duax averaged 11.4 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.7 assists in 18 games after missing the first seven with a foot injury.
Sophomore Trey Sigel (Rock Island, Ill.), who missed the final game with a foot injury, finished the year averaging 7.4 points per game and was the team's top shooter from 3-point land and the free throw line. He made 20 of 21 free throws (95.2 percent) and a team-high 37 triples on 98 attempts (37.8 percent).
Written By: Jason Nihles, UW-Platteville Sports Information Assistant