De Pere advances to state title game
By Greg Bates
MADISON – Survive and advance.
The De Pere boys’ basketball team didn’t play its prettiest game of the season, but it did enough to move on to the Division 1 state championship game.
The Redbirds trailed by two points to Kettle Moraine with 13 minutes remaining and answered with a 10-0 run. De Pere didn’t trail from that point on, earning a 55-44 in a state semifinal game Friday night at the Kohl Center.
“We’ve got to be a lot better tomorrow night on the defensive end,” De Pere coach Brian Winchester said. “I know we gave up 44, but it was just some uncharacteristic things from us. But that being said, we showed a lot of toughness, a lot of grit, a lot of character. I think we were down two at one point, didn’t flinch, came back and made a little bit of a run and just kind of chipped away and built a little bit of a lead. Never really felt comfortable, but I thought our kids did a great job coming back.”
Top-ranked De Pere heads to the state title undefeated, playing its third closest game of the season.
“We’re going to celebrate tonight and wake up tomorrow, be ready for the game,” said De Pere big man Will Hornseth. “We’re going to come out even harder.”
Winchester chimed in.
“I don’t know how hard we’re going to celebrate, but we’re going to enjoy it,” Winchester said. “We’re going to get to bed.”
“I’m going to do some celebrating at least, Coach,” Hornseth quipped.
One win away from a state title and a perfect 30-0 season and the De Pere players and coach are as cool as ever.
Things got a little too close for comfort for the Redbirds early in the second half. Kettle Moraine’s Alex Koenig knocked down a 3-pointer to put his team up 36-34 — its only lead of the game — with 13:16 remaining.
De Pere answered in a big way.
Hornseth put down a thunderous dunk off an assist from Kinziger in the paint. Kinziger then drained a 3-pointer. Zach Kinziger and his older brother each hit a pair of free throws and Hornseth got another bucket inside to make it 44-36.
The quick 10-0 run turned the tables. During De Pere’s spurt, Kettle Moraine missed five straight shots and a pair of free throws.
Winchester loved what his guys did defensively during that run.
“We stopped helping off of shooters as much,” Winchester said. “That was maybe something that we didn’t necessarily miss in our preparation, but just the big stage, this game causes you to do some things that you might not normally do. We were caught in the middle of our help situations just a little bit too much, but we corrected that enough and made them take some tougher shots. I mentioned Hogan had that block in the corner, that was kind of a key momentum part of the game as well for us. Good adjustments by the kids to do that.”
Kettle Moraine (18-11) scored the next five points, but Gabe Herman converted a layup. On the next sequence, the Lasers’ Ben Bestor attempted a 3-pointer, but Hogan Demovsky got a big block. Making his way down the court, Demovsky got a pass from John Kinziger and hit a 3-pointer — his only shot of
the game — to stretch it back out to an eight-point lead at 49-41 with 4:57 left.
“Hogan Demovsky I thought was really good for us,” Winchester said. “I huge play recovering to a shooter in the corner and then knock down a 3 of his own.”
De Pere went 10-for-10 from the free throw line in the second half to secure the win. In contrast, Kettle Moraine was just 3 for its last 13 from the field.
The Redbirds shot 50% (19-for-38) from the field, but an uncustomary 27.3% from 3-point range. To counter De Pere’s ineffectiveness from beyond the arc, it was stellar on the inside.
De Pere scored 30 of its points in the paint, led by Hornseth with 19 points. The junior was efficient 9-for-12 from the field.
Heading into the game, Hornseth knew he could be the key inside.
“Will had a big mismatch and he’s (been) very efficient for us all year, so we can always trust Will,” Kinziger said. “He did a really good job of just going and kicking their butt and getting those buckets. We couldn’t hit from outside too well tonight, that will change tomorrow.”
“If they’re taking away the 3 or we’re not hitting from outside, we have the option to go inside, and I think that I’m pretty efficient down there and I like to be physical with them, move them around, try and get my stuff,” Hornseth said. “It’s what I’ve grown up doing, how I play basketball. Just like John said, kicking butt down low.”
John Kinziger had an off night, shooting 4-for-13 (30.8%) from the field. He was 0-for-4 from 3-point range. He scored 15 points and Zach Kinziger put in nine points.
De Pere moves to the state title to face Arrowhead (27-2), which beat Neenah 73-61 in the other Division 1 state semifinal game. The championship game is Saturday at approximately 8:15 p.m.
This will be De Pere’s first trip to the state title game since 2011-12. Winchester and the Redbirds fell to Madison Memorial 80-78 in three overtimes. It was a heartbreaker for the program.
It’s a game Winchester fondly remembers.
“We want to go win it for the guys that were in that locker room,” Winchester said. “I sat next to Reece
Zoelle and Brett VandenBergh after that game, that was a tough moment for us. I want to win one for
those guys, that’s important. And Reece has been in and Brett’s been in, these (current players) know
who they are and what they mean to the program. So, tomorrow night we’re playing for our team, our
community and everybody who’s played and put on a Redbird uniform.”