Feb. 21—JANESVILLE — A near-perfect first half catapulted Janesville Parker's boys basketball team to its first regional title since 2002 Saturday night.
The host and third-seeded Vikings raced out to an 18-point halftime lead and coasted to a 70-51 win over fifth-seeded Monona Grove in a WIAA Division 1 regional final.
Parker (18-8) joins a sectional field that also includes DeForest, Hartland Arrowhead and Kettle Moraine. Those four teams were seeded Sunday for Thursday's semifinal games. Parker is the No. 4 seed and will play top-seeded DeForest at Baraboo at 7 p.m. Thursday. Arrowhead hosts Kettle Moraine in the other sectional semi.
The Vikings, behind 17 points from Brenden Weis, did little wrong inthe first half. They scored the first seven points of the game and never looked back.
Weis hit three of the team's six 3-pointers in the first half as Parker exploited Monona Grove's 1-2-2 zone defense.
"The last two games we started slow, so tonight we knew we had to kick it into gear right away and we did," Weis said. "Hitting those 3s early gave us a lot of confidence and energy.
"We've been preparing and practicing hard to get to this point. Now, we have to keep it going."
Parker took its first double-digit lead of the game at 17-7 on two Matthew Hartwig free throws with 11:12 left in the half. Monona Grove (5-8) got no closer than seven the rest of the half and only cut an 18-point halftime deficit down to 11 the second half.
Monona Grove's Lance Nelson came into the game averaging 17.9 points a game. The defense of Ethan Thompson and Braxton Conners limited Nelson to one free throw in the first half.
Weis had plenty of help on the offensive end. Junior center Jacob Naber finished with 13 points, while Hartwig and Robert DeLong added 12 each.
Parker stretched its lead to as much as 22 in the second half before Monona Grove went on 10-2 run midway through the second half to cut the deficit to 54-43. The Vikings responded with a 7-1 run capped by two Naber free throws with 2:58 left that made it 61-44 and sealed the win.
Parker coach Matt Bredesen, who took over a downtrodden program three years ago, said his team continues to execute on both ends of the floor.
"This team was really focused starting with the shootaround this morning," Bredesen said. "We knew the 1-2-2 zone was coming, and I thought we attacked it well with constant ball movement and not settling for 3s.
"When we're at our absolute best, we share the ball really, really well, and I think that's what you saw tonight. Shot selection was very good, and that's something we've gotten better at as the season has gone on."
A season that continues Thursday for the regional-champion Vikings.
PARKER 70, MONONA GROVE 51
Monona Grove (51)—Nelson 3-4-11; Tipton 3-0-9; Bracken 4-4-12; Croak 2-0-4; Daugherity 2-3-8; Behnke 1-0-2; Nett 0-1-1; Schroeckemthaler 2-0-4. Totals: 17-12-51
Parker (70)—Thompson 1-3-6; DeLong 5-0-12; Conners 1-0-2; Hartwig 4-4-12; Naber 4-5-13; Weis 9-3-24; Galvan 0-1-1. Totals: 24-16-70
3-point goals—Monona Grove 5 (Tipton 3, Nelson, Daugherity), Parker 6 (Weis 3, DeLong 2, Thompson). Free throws missed—Monona Grove 10, Parker 8. Total fouls—Monona Grove 23, Parker 12