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D4 Semi-Final Notes: St. Joseph's Kenesie set state record with 51 points; Luther rolls into finals

03/17/2023, 9:15am CDT
By Mark Miller

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Eric Kenesie of Kenosha St. Joseph set a new WIAA boys basketball state tournament record with 51 points

His name now forever etched into the state basketball glory, Kenosha St. Joseph junior Eric Kenesie credited his coaches and teammates following his remarkable 51-point performance in the Lancers' 83-72 victory over Saint Mary Catholic Thursday in the WIAA Division 4 State Tournament at the Kohl Center in Madison. 

Prior to Kenesie's surreal showing, no player in the 107-year history of the WIAA State Tournament had ever scored more in a single game than the 46 points John Diener put up for Cedarburg in 2017.

"After I hit my first couple of threes, it got me a going a little bit," said Kenesie, who surpassed his previous career-best of 42 points set in his most recent outing, a sectional-final win over Kohler. "The confidence I had was good, but my teammates and coaches trusted me and that's what got my confidence going even higher."

Kennesie was remarkable efficient, making 15-of-21 floor shots, 16-of-19 from the foul line and five-of-six from three-point range. He also contributed eight assists, four steals and three rebounds while drawing an incredibly high 14 fouls from Saint Mary Catholic defenders.

In addiotion to setting the WIAA record, Kenesie also set a school record for most points in a game, breaking the 43 points Brian Colbert scored in a game for the Lancers against Badger in 1999. Former St. Joseph star Nick Van Exel, a 1989 graduate, had 42 points for the Lancers against Marquette High in 1989.

Saint Mary Catholic entered the contest as the top-seeded team in Division with a 26-2 record. The Zephyrs led 37-30 at intermission but had no answer for Kenesie and Co. in the second 18 minutes.

"It was a great performance from Kenosha St. Joseph," Saint Mary Catholic coach Paul Bradshaw said. "We just couldn't stop Kenesie. He had a phenominal game. Give him credit He did everything tonight."

In addition to his score, passing, defense and leadership, Kenesie often put on a ball-handling display rarely displayed these days by a single player. He weaved his way in and around Zephyr defenders, splitting double teams to either score or find an open teammate for a layup.

Senior forward Peter Stapleton (6-4) was the main beneficiary of Kenesie's pinpoint passing as he finished with 18 points, many on layups off nice feeds from his talented teammate.

"Eric and I have really good chemistry," Stapleton said. "We run the pick-and-roll well, and I know he will find me if I am open. It was an awesome experience to play in a game like that."

Added Kenesie, "The experience ... I can't put it into words. It'st just great."

Kenesie's mother, an assistant coach with the Lancers, is the former women's coach at UW-Parkside and a former standout player in her own right at St. Joseph. 

Then known as Jenny Knight, she played in the WISAA State Tournament for the Lancers and went on to a strong collegiate career at Louisville.

Kenosha St. Joseph, which competes in the ultra-tough Metro Classic Conference, moves on to Saturday's Division 4 title game with a 19-10 record.

"In the second half, we went out and executed our game plan and we got what we thought we'd get," St. Joseph coach Jose Garcia said. 

Even though he was excited to set the WIAA record, Kenesie said the most important thing was helping the Lancers get the chance to play another game together.

"It means a lot to me to have the record," he said. "But what really hits he is we have the chance now to play another game together and to play for a state championship."

Senior Danny Griffith (5-8) led Saint Mary Catholic with 24 points and senior Charlie Nackers (6-4) chipped in 17, but top scorer Cole Uhlenbrauck was held to just eight points and got just eight field-goal attempts. Uhlenbrauck (6-4), a St. Norbert recruit, came into the contest averaging 21.0 ppg.

"I thought St. Joseph did a nice job of limiting Cole's movement and he didn't get the looks he's gotten for us all year," Bradshaw said. "I thought they did a good job defensively."

Kodi Miller and Luther advanced to the Division 4 title game with a resounding win over Whitehall

Scoring runs of 12 (twice) and 15 propelled Luther to a 79-51 victory over Whitehall in Thursday's nightcap.

Luther improved to 23-2 and will face St. Joseph in the Division 4 title game at 12:45 p.m. Saturday. 

"Luther is a great team and we could not match their physicality," Whitehall coach Tyler Petersen said. "Our shots weren't falling to keep the game close with them."

Luther, which lost twice to Division 3 power West Salem for its lone setbacks this season, led 14-10 before embarking on a 14-2 run capped off by three foul shots by Logan Bahr after he was fouled on a three-point attempt. 

The margin only increased after intermission with Whitehall's deficit growing to as many as 35 points.

"I thought our defense was a turning point," Luther coach Brad Schaper said. "We concentrated on keeping (Devon McCune) out of the lane and finding (Luke Beighley) spotting up. (Beighley) got away from us a few times, but overall it was a good defensive showing by our team."

Three players reached double figures for Luther -- Isaiah Schwichenberg had 19 while Kodi Miller and Bahr each contributed 16. The Knights shot 50 percent from the field and 92 percent (12 of 13) from the free-throw line.

Whitehall, which was making its first trip to the state tournament since 1986 and completed its season with a 22-7 record, got 13 points from Seth Lambeck and 10 from Beighley.

McCune, who came in averaging 17 points, was limited to seven points.

"Luther was a lot more physical and they outhustled most of the teams we've played," McCune said. "It seemed like they were just all over the floor." 

Luther now faces a St. Joseph team that got a record-setting performance from Eric Kenesie in its semifinal win over Saint Mary Catholic.

Schwichtenberg figures to get the challenge of guarding Kenesie, who set a WIAA record with his 51 points in the Lancers' win over Saint Mary Catholic.

"He's a great player," Schwichtenberg said. "You have to be able to hone in on him. Hopefully, my teammates can help me out on Saturday with guarding him and get the job done."

For the latest and most up to date boys' basketball news and recruiting information, follow Mark on Twitter @wisbbyearbook. Email story ideas, recruiting info, etc. to Mark by clicking here.

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