De Pere pounds Homestead, heads to sectional final
By Greg Bates
OSHKOSH – De Pere big man Will Hornseth likes to say the Redbirds are a second-half team.
Well, it’s hard to argue they aren’t a second- and first-half team.
Up by 14 points at halftime against Homestead in a Division 1 sectional semifinal on Thursday night, the De Pere boys’ basketball team came out of the locker room and exploded on a 23-4 run to all but end the game. The top-ranked and undefeated Redbirds finished off an 82-53 victory at Oshkosh North High School to advance to a sectional final for the third straight season.
“We’re all pretty excited right now, but we know this is just another one on our journey to what our main goal is,” De Pere senior John Kinziger said. “We just have to enjoy this one tonight, get home, get to bed and we know we have a good Marquette team on Saturday.”
De Pere’s three-headed monster of John Kinziger, younger brother, Zach, and Will Hornseth were unstoppable. The trio combined for 62 points as Hornseth scored a career-high 30 points, including four dunks.
“People know us for our 3-point shooting, but when you put the presence of Will on the inside, it’s tough for them to guard,” said John Kinziger, who registered a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds. “If they’re taking it away, we’ve just got to punch gaps and Will’s going to be right there for the dump-off and dunk.”
Homestead, which was downed by De Pere 64-41 on Jan. 28, started the game with an early lead but scored just 11 points in the final 15 minutes of the first half.
“I just thought we played really well on the defensive end tonight,” De Pere coach Brian Winchester said. “Early on we really limited (Tim) Franks. We stopped (Solomon) Garrison from getting to the rim, that was huge for us. It just kind of maybe snowballed a little bit on them offensively.”
With a 35-21 advantage at the break, De Pere kicked it into another gear on both ends of the court in the first six minutes of the second half. Hornseth had two uncontested dunks and Pryce Gregoire had a slam as the team went on a 23-4 spurt to put the Redbirds up, 58-25.
“Coming out of halftime, we just get after it,” Hornseth said “We know we’ve got to keep up pressure. We’ve just got to keep doing what we’re doing and continue.”
Homestead (21-6), ranked No. 5 in the state in Division 1, could only close its deficit to 23 points as De Pere cruised.
De Pere (27-0) now has a date with No. 7-ranked Marquette (21-6) on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at Manitowoc Lincoln High School.
Winchester is expecting a hard-fought game for a shot to head to the state tournament.
“They’re really athletic,” Winchester said. “(Nolan) Minessale’s a really athletic slasher, really good with the ball in his hands. Their point guard (Ryan) Meehan, very crafty, shoots the 3 at 50%. (T.J.) Adams is another wing for them who shoots the 3 in the high 40s. They create a lot of chaos offensively — it’s all dribble drive back-cuts. They just put a ton of pressure on you where you’ve got to guard and they play fast. We like to play fast, but we’ve got to control the tempo of the game in our favor, our definition of
fast has to happen for us.”
De Pere has advanced to a sectional final in the previous two years and lost both games — falling by a combined five points.
The Redbirds, which haven’t been to state since 2011, need to get over the hump to punch their ticket to the Kohl Center.
“I think we washed our past memory out — this is just another game,” John Kinziger said. “You can call it a sectional final, but in the end it’s just one more game closer to what our end goal is.”
Winchester believes having that sectional final experience is going to be helpful for his guys.
“I believe these guys are on a mission,” Winchester said. “They’re a player-led team. I’m happy to be watching them play is really what’s going on. I think their desire to get it done on Saturday gives me a lot of confidence.”