Sports

Unity’s state title hopes dashed with cancellation

Above The Fold Media | For the Leader
Jaxon Flaherty winds his way through Cameron defenders in the WIAA sectional game last Thursday, March 12. - Photos by Joshua Cramlet
But season produced conference title and a 22-3 overall record
AMERY – The news was disappointing to Shaun Fisher for several reasons.
Unity’s boys basketball coach had the Lakeland West’s top player in his senior season, had a sectional matchup he expected to be an interesting game, and the team was on the verge of making a rare state-final appearance for the program.
Instead, the Eagles and Lakeland West Player of the Year Jaxon Flaherty had their hopes dashed with the cancellation of remaining postseason games as concern over the coronavirus continued to build.
"It was pretty disappointing to hear,” Fisher said. "My initial response was favoring postponing the games rather than canceling them, but it became easier to understand with events since then.”
Just hours before WIAA confirmed the cancellation of remaining playoff games for winter sports, the Eagles believed they’d extended their season with a 59-42 win over Cameron on Thursday, March 12, to follow their regional championship.
Flaherty scored a game-high 23 points for the Eagles, providing first-half scoring that allowed the team a lead entering halftime. He scored 15 points in the first half, including nine from 3-point range. Ian Payne’s four first-half 3-pointers for Cameron were the lone factor keeping Unity’s lead from being double digits entering the break.
"We could have easily been up by 11 points going into the half,” Fisher said. "(Cameron) hit a half-courter with two seconds left (in the half), but we were still up by eight and in the second half our defense was stifling.”
Unity limited Cameron to just 17 second-half points, which Flaherty and Zach Collins nearly matched on their own. Flaherty added eight points in the second half while Collins scored nine of his 11 points after halftime. The defensive effort gave the Eagles an honor in addition to a playoff win.
"We held Cameron to under 50 points both times we faced them this season and those are the only two games they were held under 50,” Fisher said. "Our defense was pretty good all year.”
Dan Sorensen added 10 points for the Eagles and Jake Bloom had eight. The win moved Unity a game closer to the state finals and would have led to a matchup with Luther on Saturday, if not for Friday’s confirmation of postseason cancellation.
"That would have been a competitive game and the teams would have been matched up well,” Fisher said. "It’s one of the hard things to process for the players.”
Instead, the Eagles must be satisfied with the Lakeland West title they earned with a 10-2 in-conference record, a 22-3 overall record and a regional championship. Unity ended the season with a 19-game winning streak that started in mid-December and included three playoff wins.


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