De Pere gets over the hump, advances to state
By Rich Palzewic
MANITOWOC – The De Pere boys’ basketball team is one step closer to winning its first state title since the United States was in the middle of the Great Depression — 89 years ago.
Behind a combined 33 points from the Kinziger brothers, the Redbirds turned back Marquette University 57-29 in a WIAA Division 1 sectional final at Manitowoc Lincoln High School on March 11.
John Kinziger led De Pere with 18 points and eight rebounds, while brother Zach added 15 points, four assists, three rebounds and two blocks.
“It feels great,” De Pere coach Brian Winchester said. “I’m extremely proud of this group and the accomplishment of getting to state. These kids were about 5 or 6 years old the last time De Pere made it to state.”
The trip to Madison to the Kohl Center for the state tournament on March 16-18 is the first for the Redbirds (28-0) since 2011.
John Kinziger pumped in 12 points in the opening 14 minutes of the game before committing his third foul — forcing him to the bench for the rest of the half.
“John picking up his third foul early was good for us,” Winchester said. “We had to persevere through that because we haven’t faced that all season.”
Both teams struggled from the field early on, with De Pere holding an 8-7 lead.
With the Redbirds leading 15-12, John Kinziger hit a 3-pointer and a pair of free throws.
Hogan Demovsky then hit another 3 to bump the lead to 23-12.
From there, Zach Kinziger scored five points in the last two minutes of the half — including a driving layup as the first-half buzzer sounded to give No. 1-state ranked De Pere a 30-16 lead at the break.
John Kinziger had a pair of 3-pointers in the opening half, while Gabe Herman, Demovsky and Zach Kinziger also nailed long-range bombs.
The second half belonged to the Redbirds.
After the Hilltoppers (21-7) scored the first two points of the half, De Pere went on a 9-0 run to jump ahead 39-18.
With the score 43-26, the Redbirds scored 14 of the last 17 points of the game to win going away.
Marquette scored only 13 points in the final 18 minutes of the game. The Hilltoppers came into the contest averaging more than 71 points per game.
“Marquette was playing terrific — they were not playing like a No. 7 seed,” Winchester said. “My kids did a great job defending.”
Marquette leading scorer Nolan Minessale, who came into the contest averaging 23 points per game, was held to 16.
Hilltoppers T.J. Adams and Ryan Meehan were scoring a combined 25 points per game this season but were held to four points — all in the second half when the game was out of reach.
“I figured Minessale would get his points, but the key was holding Adams and Meehan down,” Winchester said. “They didn’t get many good looks.”
Part of that strong defense was led by 6-foot-8 junior Will Hornseth, who contributed nine points, eight rebounds and three blocks.
“We strive to get better on defense every game,” said Hornseth, who is also drawing Division I interest. “Holding Marquette to 29 points is what we expected to do.”
John Kinziger, a Division I commit to Illinois State University, said his team won the game by playing solid defense.
“Every day in practice, we spend the first 45 minutes or hour on defense — that’s what we did tonight,” he said.
Hornseth said finally winning a sectional final game makes up for the disappointment of the last two seasons.
“We got to the sectional finals the last two seasons and couldn’t finish it off,” he said. “We’re going to state and trying to get it done.”
De Pere is making its seventh appearance at state. Before 2011, the Redbirds’ last appearance came in 1977.
“We had high expectations coming into the season, now we’ll get our chance to bring home a gold ball,” John Kinziger said.