By Greg Bates
DE PERE – The last time the De Pere boys’ basketball senior class won a playoff game was during their freshmen season.
Those seniors made sure a first-round regional playoff loss wasn’t going to be in the cards this year.
The Redbirds drained 13 three-pointers and held Sheboygan South star Josh Govek in check in the opening half in a 79-62 WIAA Division 1 regional semifinal victory March 6 at De Pere High School.
De Pere freshman Johnny Kinziger scored a game-high 22 points and helped his brother, Jake, and teammates earn at least one more game this season.
“I love playing with my brother, and it’s great to be able to play another game with him,” Johnny Kinziger said. “It’s his senior year, and I want to keep playing with him because it means the world to me. Tonight was one of the nights we hit a few extra threes. When we don’t shoot well on nights, we have a great defense and that gets our offense back into it.”
Ben Basten led the way with five three-pointers, as De Pere was 13-for-25 from beyond the arc.
“It means lots to us we get to keep going and getting more wins,” said the senior Basten, who finished with 19 points.
He had a strong all-around evening, going 6-for-11 from the field.
“I credit my teammates,” Basten said. “Dribbling, driving, finding me, finding open spots and having a nice touch getting it in.”
“He was focused tonight,” De Pere coach Brian Winchester said about Basten. “He defended well and took care of that end of the floor. When Ben gets hot, he makes shots. He was incredibly efficient for us.”
While No. 7-seeded De Pere had its offense clicking, the defense was smothering.
Govek, who averaged 24 points in two contests against De Pere in the regular season, finished the game 4-for-16 from the field, being hounded by Jake Kinziger.
Govek, a first-team Fox River Classic Conference selection, got to the free-throw line late, where he finished 12-for-12, and finished with 22 points.
“I thought Jake did a tremendous job of making him work for everything,” Winchester said.
De Pere (16-7) faced Sheboygan South (10-12) twice during the regular season and won both matches by a combined 12 points.
Down 11-8, De Pere went on a 17-3 run thanks to a pair of three-pointers by John Kinziger to put his team up 25-14.
A pesky Sheboygan South squad wouldn’t vanish and pulled with nine, 41-32, at halftime.
The Redwings got to within five points early in the second half, but De Pere went on a 15-2 run to pull away.
“We made a good shot and then the energy from our fans got us going,” John Kinziger said. “We picked up our defense, brought it into transition, got a few buckets and we were off.”
De Pere travels to No. 2 Hamilton (20-3) March 7 at 7 p.m.
Led by one of the top players in the nation, Patrick Baldwin Jr., Hamilton is ranked No. 4 in the state.
“It’s going to be a tough game,” Winchester said. “We’ve got a group of tough, resilient kids, and they know what they’re getting into down there. We’ll have a good game plan and our kids will execute. We’re going to have to shoot the ball, similar to what we did against Sheboygan South. We can’t shoot the ball poorly and expect to beat one of the better teams in the state. We’re going to defend the heck out of them, rebound it and we’re going to give ourselves a good chance to win.”