Nies, UW-Platteville knock off St. Norbert in Holiday Tournament
By Murray Gleffe
DE PERE – It was a homecoming for former De Pere Redbirds basketball standout Brad Nies, now playing for the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, when he returned to the area where he grew up playing hoops.
Nies and his No. 3 ranked UW-Platteville (Division III) teammates defeated St. Norbert College 82-57 in the championship game of the Nicolet National Bank Holiday Tournament Dec. 30 at the Mulva Family Fitness and Sports Center.
“It was a great team win,” Nies said. “We had a key guy sick and some others out with injuries. I thought our bench did a great job of stepping up tonight with back-to-back games. Our defense to open the second half was tremendous. It was neat coming back to play in front of family and friends. My 94-year-old grandmother (Rose) was able to make it out and support me, which was special.”
Nies didn’t score in his limited action but pulled down three rebounds.
Jacob Bolwerk led the Green Knights with 22 points, while Evan Glaser added seven points and six rebounds.
St. Norbert (8-4) made 20-of-60 shots from the floor, which included a paltry 20% from beyond the 3-point arc.
The Pioneers (13-0 overall) were paced by Kyle Tuma, who finished with 17 points and two assists.
In addition, Justin Stovall pumped in 14 points, and Logan Pearson notched 12 for Platteville, which shot 50% overall from the field.
The Green Knights (8-4) got off to a roaring start behind a near-capacity crowd.
Parker Lawrence hit a runner in the lane, Jamison Nickolai put his own rebound basket home and Kyle Krueger (Ashwaubenon High School) converted on a fast-break layup to give St. Norbert an 18-10 lead with 10:55 remaining in the first half.
“We got off to a hot start,” St. Norbert Head Coach Gary Grzesk said. “Our guys had great energy, but most importantly, we played great defense.”
After a timeout, the Pioneers showed why are they are a contender to cut the Division III nets down in March.
It started with a conventional three-point play by Tuma and ended with two free throws by Alex Ranney.
After the 21-6 run, the Pioneers led 31-24 with 4:29 showing on the clock.
During the stretch, the Green Knights went cold when Platteville’s defense tightened up.
Just before the first half horn sounded, Bolwerk nailed a corner triple to bring St. Norbert within eight points, 41-33, at the break.
Ben Probst, scoreless at the half, nailed three quick field goals to begin the second half to give the Pioneers a 51-35 lead.
Grzesk burned a timeout to settle down his troops.
It didn’t work, as the Green Knights continued to clank shot-after-shot in the first 11 minutes of the second half.
“We got a couple of stops to start the second half,” Grzesk said. “We didn’t convert on offense, and when (Platteville) made the run, I didn’t like our body language. We hung our heads and didn’t react well to the adversity. We have a young group who is learning.”
Aidan Harrington connected on a 24-foot triple from the top of the key to finally break the ice for St. Norbert, but the damage had been done.
A bit later, the Pioneers poured it on as they built their biggest lead of the night, 76-46, with 4:13 remaining.
Down the stretch, with the game well in hand for Platteville, many local and Wisconsin standouts received time on the floor.
“Give credit to Platteville,” Grzesk said. “They start a bunch of four- and five-year seniors. They are a veteran group who knows how to win in big moments.”
St. Norbert College is back in action Wednesday, Jan. 5, when it travels to Milwaukee to play Wisconsin Lutheran College.
Will Dehn (De Pere, 2021), Josh Nicklaus (Green Bay Preble, 2019), Garrett Grzesk (Notre Dame Academy, 2021) and Patrick Danen (De Pere – 2018, manager) also are members of the St. Norbert team.