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Newman Catholic's Mason Prey lets out a roar as the Cardinals won a Division 5 state title
A first-year coach, a 60-plus-year WIAA boys championship drought, and a team known for second-half comebacks were all possible hurdles to Newman Catholic’s pursuit of its first Division 5 state title on Saturday.
None of that mattered.
The Cardinals (27-4) secured their first WIAA boys basketball championship with the determination of seven seniors who had the ability, along with the experience of a state 8-man football title this past fall. It also marked the first WIAA boys basketball championship for a Wausau school since Wausau High School won the 1960 title over Menomonie.
It’s 70 degrees in here instead of 30 on a football field,” Connor Krach said after his 21-point performance led Newman on Saturday, a total that matched his season high. Krach had also quarterbacked the Cardinals football team to their state title.
“It’s a great feeling since it’s a different band of brothers.”
Cardinals coach Jeff Waldvogel, a Newman graduate who took the head coaching job last fall, rather late in the annual cycle, said the senior experience made it easy to fit in.
“This was a very accepting group. Without these guys accepting the coaching that we did, and we changed a lot of things, it wouldn’t have happened,” he said.
It also happened with a bounceback performance from senior Mason Prey, who had 18 points and eight rebounds in the title game after being held to just eight points in a frustrating semifinal game against Royall.
“Today I had a little anger in my mind, so I just let it all out there,” Prey said. “We knew it was our last game no matter what so we wanted to be happy with the result.”
Newman led by as many 14 points at the half following a 7-0 scoring run in the first half’s closing minutes, but the Cardinals understood that McDonell (29-2) had made comebacks throughout the season, including in the sectional final and in Friday’s state semifinal against Fall River.
The Macks played that true to form in the title game. They carved the margin to 46-44 on Eddie Mittermeyer’s four-point play with 8:13 left. Newman was able to stave off the rally each time with baskets of its own over the closing minutes, however, maintaining at least a seven-point lead over the final 3:30.
“We’re a second-half team and we always find a way to come back,” said Mittermeyer, who finished with 17 points but hit only three of 16 three-point tries. “We found some sparks to get us back in the game but we just couldn’t end it.”
Canan Huss led McDonell with 28 points and 11 rebounds on Saturday, finishing with 49 points and 23 rebounds for the tournament.
Newman, which shot 47 percent from the field and 45 percent on threes, also got 15 points from Isaac
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