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N.E.W. Lutheran falls in state tournament

By Murray Gleffe

La Crosse — After having its way in sectionals – winning both games by a combined 60 points – the Green Bay N.E.W. Lutheran boys’ basketball team met its match.

The No. 3 seeded Blazers fell 67-40 to No. 2 McDonell Central Catholic in a WIAA Division 5 state semifinal game March 4 at the La Crosse Center.

“We were 0-9 on threes, and we don’t shoot like that,” said Mark Meerstein, N.E.W. Lutheran head coach. “You have to make shots when it’s down to the final four teams, and we simply didn’t do that. We needed to be in the 70s, and we weren’t even close to that point total.”

Marshal Bukowski led the Blazers with 16 points on 5-of-18 shooting.

Jake Siegenthaler paced the Macks with 25 points.

McDonell Central Catholic shot 64 percent from the floor, while N.E.W. Lutheran (16-11 overall) shot 31 percent.

It took nearly three minutes for the first basket to be scored.

Central Catholic (17-4) took an early 13-6 lead after Siegenthaler split two N.E.W. Lutheran defenders and scored.

A bit later, the Macks took their biggest lead of the half, 23-13, with about six minutes left until halftime.

The Macks’ 2-1-2 zone defense kept Bukowski in check much of the first half.

The senior didn’t score until the 5:27 mark when he connected on a pair of free throws.

“The Macks got wide on their zone, and we didn’t attack,” said Meerstein. “We waited for them to set their defense. We talked all week in practice on how to prepare for them. We tried some back-door stuff but didn’t execute.”

Despite being red-hot from the field, McDonell Central Catholic turned the ball over 24 times, and the Blazers took full advantage down the stretch of the first half.

Elijah Lange scored back-to-back baskets off steals to cut the lead to 23-19.

Before the first-half buzzer sounded, Logan Hughes ripped a 24-foot 3-pointer to give Central Catholic a 26-21 lead heading into intermission.

The Macks used the momentum to go on a 13-1 spurt to start the second half.

During the run, Siegenthaler couldn’t be stopped.

The southpaw connected on three triples and hit a runner in the lane to give McDonell Central Catholic a 39-22 lead with 14:37 remaining.

“He hit those 3-pointers coming out of the break while we were late on rotations,” said Meerstein. “We thought we could continue to scramble, but we were one step late on defense. It has to be better when you’re playing at state.”

The Blazers attempted to cut into the margin with the speed of Lange and the second-half output of Bukowski, but their shooting woes put a dagger in any comeback hopes.

“It was a tough day,” said Bukowski. “They were physical up front, and we didn’t match their physicality back.”

After Tanner Opsal put a layup in and Eddie Mittermeyer connected on an elbow jumper, the Macks built a 60-34 lead with four minutes remaining.

Both teams emptied their benches during the final two minutes, as Central Catholic advanced to the championship game to face No. 1 Hustisford.

“It’s fun to bring new kids to the state tournament,” said Meerstein. “It never gets old. I don’t care if we never win a gold ball. Our call is to be great Christian teammates on the floor and enjoy the company of each other in the hotel.”

Box score:

N.E.W. Lutheran: 21, 19 — 40

McDonell Central Catholic: 26, 41 — 67

Blazers: Bukowski 16, Lange 10, Lynch 10, Meerstein 3, Dhein 1.

Macks: Siegenthaler 25, Hughes 10, Janus 10, Mittermeyer 7, Anderson 6, Opsal 6, Newton 2, Hauser 1.

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