Xavier shoots down Ripon in state semifinal

Xavier's Sam Ferris drives against Ripon's Hunter Merrill during their Division 3 state semifinal Thursday at the Kohl Center. (Doug Ritchay/WLUK)

MADISON (WLUK) -- The Xavier boys basketball team has been in its share of big games in recent seasons and has had its share of big wins, but Hawks coach Matt Klarner said Thursday's win over Ripon in a state semifinal game was the biggest in program history.

The 81-74 win over the Tigers at the Kohl Center advanced Xavier to Saturday's title game against Prescott, but the reason for Klarner's comment was clear. It was how much respect he had for fellow undefeated Ripon.

"I've been here for six years now and I would say this is probably the biggest win we've had in our program," Klarner said. "Watching on film how talented this basketball team was we knew that we had our work cut out for us. I thought defensively we played really well and I thought we were outstanding in the rebounding department."

Photos: Ripon vs. Xavier

Xavier (27-0) outrebounded Ripon, 39-24, but maybe the bigger story was Xavier's shooting. The Hawks are the No. 2 team in the state in scoring at 83 points per game and they came out firing Thursday. Hunter Plamann scored 19 first-half points and Sam Ferris added 16 as the Hawks built a 45-33 halftime edge with a three at the buzzer.

In the opening 18 minutes, Plamann was 8 for 11 from the field (2 for 3 from 3-point range), while Ferris was 6 for 7 and 3 for 3 from beyond the arc. Furthermore, Xavier was 16 for 25 from the field for 64 percent.

Ripon-Xavier boxscore

"I think it started in warm-ups getting a good sweat in and knocking down some shots to get our confidence up," said Ferris, who had 25 points. "It just translated into the game."

"We kind of had to lead our team today because me and Sam playing here last year had some experience," said Plamann, who had 22 points.

Ripon played uphill all second half and never trimmed the deficit to lower than four points. It was too big of a hill to climb.

"We were definitely playing uphill," Ripon coach Dean Vander Plas said. "We got some good looks in the second half ... they would hit everything but the net. They would hit the rim and spit.

"I think a lot of that is how hard you have to chase them. The three at the (end of the first half) was big. We knew they would give up two to get three."

Ripon was making its first trip to state since 2003 and second in 80 years. The Tigers say good-bye to seniors Bennett Vander Plas (21 points), Eddie Muench (26) and Melvin Lee (15), who were instrumental in the team's success.

Meanwhile, Xavier heads to another state title game.

"I thought we got great shots in the first half," Klarner said. "All but one was heat-check shot. We had great possessions. These guys were ready when the ball was in the air. That was key for us."

Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay