Strong second half propels De Pere past West De Pere
By Greg Bates
DE PERE – It took just one half in the season opener for the De Pere boys’ basketball team to realize what will be its formula for success this year.
Relying on outside shooting — especially when shots just aren’t falling — isn’t going to solely get it done.
The Redbirds, the top-ranked team in the state in Division 1, need to work the ball inside outside, allowing big man Will Hornseth touches in the paint.
After intracity rival West De Pere took a lead into halftime against De Pere, the Redbirds implemented their offensive philosophy to perfection in the second half. De Pere turned it up in the final 18 minutes and pulled off a 71-56 victory on Saturday afternoon in a packed gym at De Pere High School.
“A win’s a win,” De Pere coach Brian Winchester said. “There’s certainly expectations for how we want to play and how we want to go about every possession, but at the end you want to make sure the scoreboard goes the way that you want it to.”
With the excitement of the season opener, De Pere (1-0) jumped out to a 15-1 lead, but West De Pere (0-2) didn’t go away. Andrew Baumgart got to the rim for the Phantoms and also hit from the outside, scoring seven points.
West De Pere went on a 25-9 run and took a 30-29 lead into halftime.
“We had a good start coming out and it really started with our defense and then our intensity kind of went down,” De Pere point guard John Kinziger said. “When your intensity on defense goes down and your offense starts to follow, and we really couldn’t hit anything.”
De Pere shot just 9-for-30 (30%) overall in the opening half, 3-for-15 (20%) on 3-pointers.
Settling for long-range shots and not getting to the rim isn’t De Pere basketball.
“I thought on the offensive end the game slowed down a little bit — just the whole game flow slowed down and we got caught maybe in a little bit more of a half-court game, and then we just fell in love with just being on the 3-point line,” Winchester said.
After a halftime adjustment, De Pere’s offense went to work in the second half. Back-to-back baskets by John Kinziger and his younger brother, Zach, gave the Redbirds a 52-38 advantage with 10:33 remaining in the game.
Baumgart had a putback basket, Ethan Heck hit a jumper and Riley Kraft got a hoop as West De Pere was right back into it, down 58-54 with 3:33 on the clock.
But De Pere responded — in a big way.
Guard Hogan Demovsky, starting in place of an injured Gabe Herman, drained a corner 3-pointer. Zach Kinziger hit a jump shot and De Pere’s lead was quickly back to nine, 63-54. That all but sealed the win as Redbirds closed out the game on a 13-2 run.
“Huge shots by those guys and it got everyone fired up and got us jacked up for defense,” John Kinziger said. “Big shots like that are huge when it’s only a four-point game.”
The biggest reason for De Pere outscoring West De Pere 42-26 in the second half were quality of shots and opportunities around the rim. De Pere was 15-for-24 (62.5%) from the field and 5-for-8 (62.5%) from 3-point range.
Zach Kinziger led all scorers with 23 points and John Kinziger added 22 points. The duo combined to shoot 15-for-25 (60%) from the field.
Baumgart scored a team-high 16 points, Heck had 13 points and Easton Deschane put in 11 points.
“I thought West De Pere did a really good job on both ends of the floor,” Winchester said. “They got the tempo going the way that they wanted to, which was a little bit slower. They’re a good basketball team, and they will be very good by the end of the year. They’ve got good athletes, tough kids and some guys that can play and shoot it.”
After West De Pere lost its season opener two days earlier to Green Bay Southwest, 69-62, the Phantom players were determined against their rival.
“We went in there with an underdog mentality,” West De Pere coach Todd Deschane said. “We knew we were going to have to play an exceptional ball game to pull out the victory and everything like that. We just did everything we could. That second part of the first half, that energy and effort that they exhibited and played with was just outstanding. I told them, ‘That’s championship-level play right there.’”
Getting tested in the season opener was a good learning experience for De Pere’s team. Emphasizing inside touches is the main takeaway from the victory.
“Sometimes you harp on it and you talk about it in practice and you know what can happen and then it happens,” Winchester said. “Sometimes kids don’t believe you until it actually happens the way that you’re telling it could happen. Then you go back and watch the film and continue to correct it. We’ll fix it.”