The top two teams in the Wissports.net Division 3 rankings will repeat their early-season matchup in Saturday’s WIAA state championship game, as top-ranked Martin Luther and No. 2 Waupun cruised to wins in Thursday’s Division 3 semifinals at the Kohl Center.
The Spartans (24-3) and Warriors (26-1) met on Dec. 18 in both teams’ sixth game of the season, with Martin Luther winning 79-64 to hand Waupun its lone loss. The Spartans broke away in the second half to outscore the Warriors 51-35 over the final 18 minutes.
“We try to take lessons with us and, obviously, not repeat them,” Waupun coach Dan Domask said of the impending rematch with the Spartans on Saturday. “I have a vision with some of skill things we do, for a moment like we’re going to have on Saturday. That’s been in my mind for long term and planning, so I think there will be some things that we’ll show better than I think we did last time.”
On Thursday, both teams pulled away in the second half for easy wins – Martin Luther in a 96-61 rout of Northwestern, while Waupun steadily built its second-half lead to beat Denmark 60-43.
Martin Luther 96, Northwestern 61
Senior guard Trequan Carrington became the first Division 3 player to score more than 40 points in a state tournament game, as he finished with 41 points on 18-of-30 shooting. Many of those baskets came off Spartans steals as Martin Luther led by double digits for the final 25 minutes and led by as many as 39 points.
“I just wanted to win,” said Carrington, who broke the previous Division 3 single-game scoring record of 36 points by Marshall’s Jon Krull set in 2002. “We just wanted to play good defense. The offense just came.”
The Spartans, who have won 11 straight games, consistently filled the Tigers’ passing lanes, forcing 21 turnovers that converted to 32 points. That helped break down the Tigers offensive sets and negated the 13-of-27 total on three-point tries that kept Northwestern (21-6) in the game early.
“Their defensive tenacity was incredible,” said Northwestern coach Nolan Graff. They forced us to the point where you could hardly get into any sets. We thought we could be a little more patient with the ball – we’re not talking a stall – but they just forced us right out of that.”
Ace Evans added 21 points for the Spartans, who shot 58 percent from the field, but Martin Luther coach Paul Wollersheim said the seniors buying into the defensive philosophy has made the difference this season compared to previous years when Martin Luther fell just short of state. This year, all but one of the Spartans tournament wins have been by more than 30 points, except for a 10-point victory over Racine St. Catherine’s in the sectional semifinals.
“We really do spend a lot of time in practice working on defense and trying to take advantage of our quickness,” he said. “These guys work hard on the defensive end of the floor and it’s paid off in this stretch here.”
Senior Brody Payton led Northwestern with 19 points while Andrew Klobucher added 11.
If one can call a 21-point, 13-rebound game a quiet performance, then the Warriors’ Marcus Domask had a peaceful day. It was more than enough, however, to give Waupun an opportunity for its second state title in four years.
Count two moments that made a difference for Domask: a three-pointer at the first-half buzzer that gave Waupun an eight-point halftime lead, and second-half foul trouble for Denmark’s 6-foot-8 Patrick Suemnick that forced the Vikings to change strategy on both ends of the floor.
“I didn’t have much falling the first half at all, so that was a good confidence booster, because you always want to go into the locker room feeling good, not feeling bad,” Marcus Domask said of the three that ended the first half. “I didn’t have much falling in the first half at all. It was a good confidence booster. (Suemnick), he’s a good defender and he got me a few times. I tried to learn from that and use more shot fakes and stuff.”
Suemnick, who averaged 19 points and 10 rebounds this season, was tall enough and athletic enough to stay with Domask, until his third foul less than three minutes into the second half forced him to the bench. Suemnick then picked up a fourth foul with just under 12 minutes remaining.
“Before that volleyball-line three-pointer at the half, Patrick held him to 3-of-13 shooting and just did a phenomenal job,” Denmark coach Cody Stelmach said. “Domask is a phenomenal basketball player and he’s going to find a way to put the ball in the basket. Patrick did everything he could. It was a shame he got in foul trouble and it took him off that matchup.”
Domask hit four of his final six shots and also all four free throw tries in the second half as Denmark had to move defenders around. Trevor VandeZande added 13 points for the Warriors.
“I didn’t think we were very crisp on offense and I think all our players are feeling that way,” Dan Domask said. “We have to be a lot better moving forward. We use the phrase ’95 percent’ a lot; that’s what you do without the ball in your hands. I thought we were pretty good in the 95 percent, but the five percent we weren’t so sharp today.”
Denmark (22-5) was led by Zane Short’s 16 points and 11 from Suemnick.