Charlie Bender

Lake Mills senior forward Charlie Bender shoots a jump shot during the team's WIAA Division 2 regional semifinal against Whitewater at LMHS on Friday. The L-Cats won 55-36 and Bender scored a game-best 21 points.

LAKE MILLS — Senior forward Charlie Bender scored a game-high 21 points, including 18 in the first half, as the top-seeded Lake Mills boys basketball team beat fourth-seeded Whitewater 55-36 in a WIAA Division 2 regional semifinal at LMHS on Friday.

Lake Mills, which is ranked eighth in the final Associated Press D2 poll and improved to 20-5, jumped ahead 34-20 at halftime. Bender had his average in the first stanza and connected on seven shots, including three of his four 3-pointers before the break.

"Whitewater played zone in the first half," Lake Mills boys basketball coach Steve Hicklin said. "Charlie got some 3s against that and some midrange stuff. Adam (Moen) caught it at the free throw line then caught and faced. He made some good decisions for us."

Moen scored eight of his 12 points before the break while senior guard Drew Stoddard and senior forward Jaxson Retrum scored 10 apiece. Retrum, who scored eight in the second half, drew the assignment of Whitewater 7-foot, 325-pound senior post Jake Martin.

"Our main focus was to take away his easy shots at the basket," Hicklin said of defending Martin, who finished with a season-low five points. "We wanted to force their supporting cast to step up and make plays to get to 50 points. Jaxson did a great job on (Martin) and obviously had a lot of help on the backside."

Martin, who average's a team-leading 18.8 points, was held to single digits for just the second time this year as Whitewater finished its season 8-12.

"Defensively this is one of those games you love to see," Hicklin said. "It takes a team to defend a guy like Martin with that kind of size. When you hold a team to the low 30s, especially a team with a guy that has that kind of height advantage, it's a good thing. We're happy with how tonight went and looking forward to playing tomorrow."

Lake Mills, which has won five in a row, was playing its first game as a D2 team in Hicklin's tenure as the tournament field was modified this season to include an equal amount of teams in each division, sending teams statewide up a rank.

The L-Cats have won each of their playoff openers since 2011.

Lake Mills hosts third-seeded Stoughton in the regional final on Saturday at 7 p.m. The Vikings topped second-seeded Waupun 68-42 on Friday, improving to 4-5 in their truncated season.

LAKE MILLS 55, WHITEWATER 36

Whitewater  20  16  —  36

Lake Mills  34  21  —  55

WHITEWATER (fg ft-fta pts) — Martin 2 1-2 5; Grosinske 4 0-2 9; Zimdars 2 0-0 5; Aron 1 0-0 2; Brown 3 0-0 8; Nichols 2 2-2 7. Totals 14 3-6 36.

LAKE MILLS — Stoddard 4 0-0 10; Carrigan 0 0-1 0, Foster 1 0-0 2; Retrum 5 0-0 10; Moen 6 0-2 12; Bender 8 1-1 21. Totals 24 1-4 55.

3-point goals: WW 5 (Grosinske 1, Zimdars 1, Brown 2, Nichols 1); LM 6 (Stoddard 2, Bender 4). Total fouls: WW 12; LM 8.

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