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St. Nobert drops game to undefeated Dubuque 

By Rich Palzewic

Contributing Writer

St. Norbert College men’s basketball players Garrett Grzesk (41) and Jamison Nickolai (10) guard University of Dubuque’s Sam Kilburg. Kilburg was named tournament MVP. Rich Palzewic photo 

DE PERE – To close out 2023, the St. Norbert College men’s basketball team hosted the Nicolet National Bank Holiday Tournament on Dec. 29-30 at the Mulva Center in De Pere. 

After beating the University of Olivet in the semifinals (72-58), the Green Knights couldn’t stay with undefeated University of Dubuque in the championship game, suffering an 83-73 loss to the undefeated Spartans (11-0). 

After St. Norbert (9-3) jumped ahead 44-43 early in the second half, Dubuque went on a 12-2 run to go up 55-46. 

The Spartans were never seriously threatened again. 

“There’s a reason why Dubuque is undefeated – they are highly skilled,” St. Norbert Coach Gary Grzesk said. “They defend, and they are well coached. We want to continue to bring in good teams and play good competition so we can learn from it and get better. I wish we had defended them better, but they’re a good team.”

After both teams had a hard time getting into the scoring column to begin the game, the Green Knights trailed 5-0 before going on a 9-0 surge, highlighted by a Garrett Grzesk (Notre Dame Academy) three-pointer. 

“Both teams were good defensively to start the game, but Dubuque was able to maintain that,” Grzesk said. 

Connor Pytleski (Green Bay Southwest) nailed a trio of three-pointers in the first half, but that was offset by Dylan Anderson’s five long-range bombs for the Spartans. 

Anderson would end the evening with 20 points. 

In a back-and-forth first 20 minutes, Dubuque took a 37-35 lead into intermission after Anderson hit a pair of free throws to end the half. 

In the second half, tournament MVP Sam Kilburg took over with the hot hand, hitting five three-pointers for the Spartans. 

Kilburg’s big second half was part of his 20-point night. 

Trailing 70-55 with 7 1/2 minutes remaining, St. Norbert’s Carter Gebler scored eight straight points, including a pair of threes, to pull the Green Knights to within 70-63 with 5:34 remaining. 

But Dubuque scored the next six points to regain the momentum. 

Gebler led St. Norbert with 20 points, while Pytleski and Jamison Nickolai added 16 and 12, respectively. 

Overall, Dubuque was 13-of-21 from beyond the 3-point arc compared to St. Norbert’s 11-of-28. 

“I thought Connor (Pytleski) shot it well and gave us a big lift off the bench,” Grzesk said. “As a freshman, he’s going to have some ups and downs, but he’s doing well – I’m pleased with his play.” 

Grzesk said he’s happy with his team’s 9-3 record to start the season. 

“We have a veteran group, but every year is different,” he said. “Even though we had some success last year, we’re trying to get this team the best version they can be. Last year’s team improved during the second half of the season, but it remains to be seen if this year’s team will do the same. It’s more on the defensive side of the ball with this team.”

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