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Game Report: Lake Mills 79, Elkhorn 66

02/20/2024, 2:15pm CST
By Mark Miller

Senior Night during Elkhorn High School's boys' basketball game with visiting Lake Mills Monday night saw five seniors who normally do not start for the Elks hit the floor for the opening tipoff.

Five minutes later, Elkhorn found itself in a 15-2 hole.

Coach Eric Larsen opted to insert his usual starters at that point, and the Elks slowly chipped away at their deficit.

By halftime, Elkhorn had used the hot shooting hand of Payton Moore and the speed and quickness of Carter Georgalas to reduce the margin to 39-36.

And then, just seconds into the second half, Owen Paddock drilled a three-point basket as Elkhorn tied the game at 39.

However, Lake Mills went on to dominate the rest of the way, largely because of the play of junior wing AJ Bender, who scored 24 of his game-high 34 points after intermission. 

Bender's strong showing led to the L-Cats' 79-66 victory and improved Lake Mills' record to 20-3. Elkhorn, which was coming off an impressive win over Westosha Central, slipped to 11-12. 

Player of the Game

AJ Bender

AJ Bender, 6-3, Jr., G, Lake Mills
Elkhorn simply had no answer for Bender, who was super aggressive attacking the basket from the wing or in the post, particularly in the second half when he did most of his damage. His quickness, athleticism and soft touch in the lane kept Lake Mills out in front as the Capitol North Conference champions held off a Elkhorn squad that played very well the final 10 minutes of the first half and fist six minutes of the second half. Bender, who owns NCAA Division I scholarship offers from Cal Poly and SIU-Edwardsville, is averaging 22.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.4 assists. He has scored 30 or more points in three of his last four contests. "AJ can finish with either hand in the post and is a tough matchup for opponents because if you double him, he will kick the ball out to one of our shooters," Lake Mills coach Steve Hicklin said. "He has a very good spin move around the basket. I'm not sure what you do with him as a defender if you play him one-on-one."

Play of the Game

With the scored deadlocked at 43, Bender caught a pass just outside the lane, squared up to the basket and then attacked the hoop, scoring over Moore to give the L-Cats the lead for good. A few moments later, sophomore Brady Benish drilled a three-point jumper as Lake Mills took a 48-43 advantage. 

Unsung Hero

Matt Stenbroten, 6-4, Sr., C, Lake Mills
Stenbroten scored 15 points, but more importantly, his physical strength and size helped to keep Elkhorn out of the lane for much of the contest. Also a very good football player, Stenbroten showed his ability to score in different ways as well, hitting a three, scoring in the post and getting to the foul stripe. A four-year varsity performer for the L-Cats, Stenbroten is averaging 6.1 points and 5.7 rebounds. "Matt brings toughness to our team," Hicklin said. "It takes him a while go get into basketball shape after the football season, but he's definitely at that point now. His rebounding is huge for us, and he owns the block."

From the Winning Coach

"This is a game we purposely put on our schedule. We wanted to go against a playoff-level team and we got an opponent that is playing very well right now. Payton Moore and Carter Georgalas were fantastic for Elkhorn. We challenged our guys in the locker room at halftime to make (Moore) put the ball on the floor. We didn't want to let him catch and shoot." -- Lake Mills coach Steve Hicklin

Tidbits ...

Payton Moore

Moore swished six triples in the game and scored 17 of his 20 points in the first half. A 6-foot-4 senior who moves well, Moore has made six three-point baskets in each of his past three contests ... Georgalas finished with a team-best 23 points and used his quickness, ball-handling skill and probing nature to get into the lane and finish with floaters or layups he was able to get over taller defenders ... Paddock also had a strong outing for the Elks as he scored eight points and provided some physical toughness on the perimeter. 

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