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Kinziger nets 1,000th career point in De Pere victory

By Rich Palzewic
Sports Editor

DE PERE – Barely three seasons into his high school basketball career, De Pere’s John Kinziger hit a milestone it takes most elite players much longer to accomplish.

As part of his 31-point night, the junior Kinziger went over 1,000 career points about six minutes into the second half in the Redbirds’ 88-67 nonconference victory Dec. 4 against cross-town rival West De Pere.

Needing 17 points entering the game to join the 1,000-point club, Kinziger accomplished the feat in his 51st career game and first of the 2021-22 season.

“It feels good to get it off my chest,” Kinziger said. “I knew I only needed 17 coming into the game, but I had no idea (that bucket) was the one to put me over until I heard the crowd cheer and saw the signs. Now I don’t have to worry about it anymore, and I can concentrate on playing basketball.”

De Pere Head Coach Brian Winchester said it’s unusual to see the accomplishment so early in a player’s career.

“For most elite players, they wouldn’t hit that milestone until the end of their senior year,” he said. “That’s a tribute to John – he’s a scorer, but he also gets his teammates involved. I’m proud of him and couldn’t be happier for him. He’s a fine example of a young man and has lots left to accomplish in his career.”

The Redbirds (1-0 overall), playing in their first game of the 2021-22 season, came into the game preseason ranked No. 1 in Division I.

The Phantoms (2-1) were playing their third game of the year, this one in front of a raucous crowd.

“What an atmosphere,” Winchester said. “It was great to see a packed gym with a loud crowd after not seeing this last season (because of COVID-19). It was a good first game for us to play.”

In a back-and-forth first half, West De Pere grabbed a 35-31 lead after Kaden Hannula hit a 3-pointer, but De Pere then went on a 9-0 run fueled by Jack Jorgensen and Kinziger.

Jorgensen hit a 3-pointer and two free throws, while Kinziger added four three throws during the spurt.

The Redbirds took a 40-37 lead into the break.

De Pere bolted out to a 49-40 lead a few minutes into the second half after 6-foot-8 sophomore Will Hornseth scored seven consecutive points.

“In the first half, we relied too much on our isolation (offense),” Winchester said. “West De Pere also defended well. Overall, in the second half, we did a better job of moving the basketball. When we got the combo of Will (Hornseth) and John (Kinziger) going, that was the difference in the game.”

The Phantoms responded with their own 9-0 run to tie the game at 49-49.

In the process, Winchester picked up a technical foul after a non-call in front of the Redbirds’ bench.

“I was proud of the effort of my kids,” West De Pere Head Coach Todd Deschane said. “We switched things up offensively in the second half and got out of our rhythm.”

From there, De Pere ended the game on a 39-18 surge to win going away.

“I knew coming into the game what a quality opponent De Pere would be,” Deschane said. “Even though this was De Pere’s first game, them scrimmaging against themselves in practice would get them ready. My guys played hard.”

Deschane also had nothing but praise for Kinziger.

“He’s one-of-a-kind and a great player,” he said. “We love playing against him. It’s a pleasure to watch him play. He puts the time and effort in.”

Hornseth added 16 points for the Redbirds, while Jorgensen chipped in with 12.

Nathan Heikkila led the Phantoms with 18 points, and Kaden Hannula added 14.

De Pere is next in action Tuesday, Dec. 7, when it hosts Green Bay Southwest to open Fox River Classic Conference play, while West De Pere host Menasha in a Bay Conference clash the same night.

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