Trailing Watertown Luther Prep 10-2 just a little more than four minutes into Friday’s regional semifinal, Ripon Tiger head boys’ basketball coach Steve Brooks called a timeout.

"The message was just to calm down,” he said. “All week we've been talking about just being us; We don't have to do anything but be us and if we do that we're good enough to win these games ... We weren't worried about [the seeds]. We knew that we competed with this team in December when we weren't playing real well and we were down a man and if we could come here and … play together we’d be OK.”

The Tigers, who were the No. 12 seed in their 13-team half-sectional, responded as they closed out the first half on a 28-7 run to take a 30-17 lead into the break. They went on to defeat the No. 4 seed Phoenix 63-47 on the road.

The victory avenges a 69-68 home loss to Watertown Luther Prep earlier this season and a 55-52 regional semifinal defeat at the hands of the Phoenix last year.

With the win, Ripon moves on to face the No. 1 seed Waupun Warriors tonight (Saturday) at 7 p.m. in Waupun for the regional title and the right to advance to sectionals.

It will be a tough obstacle for the Tigers as they were swept by the Warriors, who are ranked No. in the state in Division 3 by, by an average of 31.5 points.

"We'll have a game plan; it will be different from what we've done the previous two times and the coaches have talked a lot about how we're going to handle it,” Brooks said. “And for the kids, we want to go against the best, so we're excited to go back there and there's no pressure on us. The pressure is all on them. They need to deliver a regional [title], they need to deliver a sectional [title] for their community and that's the hype that's gone along with them. So we're looking forward to an opportunity to play against a good team and we know we survived tonight and we get to play another day."

A big reason the Tigers survived to see another day was the play of their defense as it allowed just seven points in the final 13 minutes, 40 seconds of the first half.

"Just had more energy, Brooks said. “We talked a lot about just some some non-negotiable things: dropping to the level of the ball and just help side. There was more of an emphasis on the defense in getting stops and then once we got a stop, limiting them to just shot for possession and they did a better job. So definitely defense turned into offense and we made a run because of that.”

The defense wasn’t the only reason the Tigers were able to break out of their early slump offensively. They also were able to generate better looks and knocked them down.

Hunter Auchtung, Max Beuthin and Isaac Mills had a lot to due with that success as they combined to score 23 of the team’s 30 first-half points. Auchtung and Beuthin each scored eight points, while Mills added seven points.

"In the timeout we just talked about just slowing down and being us,” Brooks said. "We don't have to do anything different than what we've done all year. We just have to execute because no matter what the team is you still have to guard it. So once we did that … we settled in and we started to run some things and then once we got the lid off the basket and we hit some shots, we were OK.”

Ripon’s offense came out a big sluggish again to start the second half as it didn’t score in the first four minutes, but allowed the Phoenix to cut just two points of its lead.

Auchtung then provided a spark as he scored scored six-straight points for Ripon to extend the advantage to 36-23.

“The kids at halftime were talking about matchups and Hunter's that kind of kid where he gets that look in his eye and you just turn him loose,” Brooks said. “The kids want to keep getting him the ball and he did a great job of mixing it up, inside and out.”

The Tigers then started to slow the game down a little bit and led by at least nine points the remainder of the way.

“We were smart with the ball, we took our time, we didn't force things for the most part and just worked the clock a little bit because we knew if we could keep a lead going into the last six or seven minutes they would have to stretch out their 'D' and come after us,” Brooks said.

Ripon did receive five-straight big points from senior reserve Jackson Morrin during that stretch, which included a 3-pointer and a basket off a nice pass.

“I've talked to him, too, about just making the most of his opportunities,” Brooks said. “As a senior, he's dialed in right now and he doesn't want this to be done. So we put him in and he did some good things in the first half and in the second half, I said 'I need three, four good minutes’ and he went in, hit some shots and those are big shots to keep momentum going for us, so I was proud of him.”

The Tigers also delivered at the free-throw line as they made 13 of 18 attempts in the second half to help seal the victory, which included 5 of 6 in the single bonus.

For the game, they finished 15 of 22. Watertown Luther Prep, meanwhile, was just 6 of 12 at the free-throw line.

“We had guys wanting to go to the line and they had that look like 'I'm going to go and at least get one for us,’” Brooks said.

Auchtung finished tied for the game-high in points with 17, while Beuthin and Mills added 15 and 12, respectively.

Ripon also received six points from Luke Rogers and five points apiece from Morrin and Hunter Schneider.