Shinners’ defense helps De Pere advance
By Greg Bates
DE PERE – Boys’ basketball player Maddax Shinners wasn’t going to let his final home game at De Pere be the final game of his high school career.
The Redbirds senior hit three big baskets, but it was his defense against one of the area’s best players that helped No. 2-seeded De Pere beat No. 3 Appleton North 62-49 in a WIAA Division 1 sectional semifinal game Feb. 25.
“Coming into this season, I didn’t know how many games we were going to get,” Shinners said. “We’re lucky to be playing these games, and we’ve earned our right to advance.”
De Pere advanced in large part because it was able to shut down Appleton North star Max Nelson.
The junior came into the game averaging 21 points per game.
Shinners’ tight defense only allowed Nelson to score a season-low six points and attempt seven shots.
“We knew my matchup with him was going to be the key to winning the game,” said Shinners, who finished with seven points, hitting all three shots he put up. “He’s a good player, and we did our thing tonight.”
De Pere head coach Brian Winchester called Shinners the star of the game.
“Maddax’s effort and the way he stuck to a few of the things we asked him to do, where you got to help a bit because their screening actions are good off the ball. They’re tough to guard. Maddax was tremendous handling that, being in the right position, staying on his hip.”
Appleton North (15-12) took an 8-3 lead before De Pere (22-3) took a timeout and regrouped.
The Redbirds ramped up their defense and created some opportunities.
Shinners got a steal near midcourt and coasted in for a dunk to cap an 11-4 run to put De Pere up, 21-14.
“We got a stop, they missed a shot and I’ve been visualizing about getting a dunk in front of our students for a while,” Shinners said. “It felt extraordinary.”
The run by De Pere also woke up John Kinziger, who was sitting at two points with about two minutes remaining in the opening half.
The sophomore star hit back-to-back 3-pointers that sent De Pere into the locker room with a 31-21 advantage.
“We started moving the ball better, hit some outside shots, and then the defense picked up,” Kinziger said. “We got the crowd into the game, and it went from there.”
With De Pere tying its biggest lead of the game, 43-28, Appleton North went on a 9-0 run to cut its deficit to six.
Jack Jorgensen hit his third of four 3-pointers, and Kinziger followed with a three of his own, as De Pere’s lead ballooned to 12 points, 49-37, with 8:12 remaining.
The Redbirds, ranked No. 6 in Division 1 in the final WisSports.net Coaches Poll, maintained their double-digit advantage the rest of the contest.
Jorgensen finished with a game-high 18 points, and Kinziger added 17 points.
“Jorgy hit some big shots for us – he has all year,” Winchester said. “Somebody always steps up. John is pretty consistent for us every night, but it was Jorgy’s night tonight. He banged some threes. Some nights it’s Max Donaldson, and Will Dehn has been consistent. North did a good job of running him off the 3-point line at times. Somebody’s going to be left open for us, and usually, that guy is capable of knocking down shots.”
The victory sends De Pere to face top-seeded River Falls (20-2) Saturday night with a trip to state on the line.
The Wildcats, ranked No. 7 in the final state poll, feature a pair of 6-foot-9 players in JT and Liam Dougherty, but it’s Zac Johnson and his 24.1 points per game that leads the way.
“We’ve been working on some concepts all week for what we need to do to River Falls, but we’re not reinventing ourselves,” Winchester said. “We’re a good team, and we are who we are. On Saturday, we’re going to be a good version of who we are, that’s what we have to do.”