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Division 5 Semi-Final Notes: Columbus Catholic, Abundant Life move into finals

03/15/2024, 2:00pm CDT
By Mark Miller

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COLUMBUS CATHOLIC 78, SOLON SPRINGS 65

Shooters shoot. 

And teams at the WIAA State Tournament rarely, if ever, change their persona. 

Thus, Columbus Catholic knocking down 13 three-point shots and scoring a 78-65 victory over a solid Solon Springs squad in the semifinals of Division 5 came as no shock to those who have watched the Dons.

Columbus Catholic made 14 triples in its 80-77 sectional-final win over Cashton, and also had 14 in its regional-final victory of Alma Center Lincoln. 

Coach Joe Konieczny, who won his 400th career game, has a lineup full of shooters. And the state got to see that Friday morning as the Dons' 13 triples set a Division 5 record.

The shooting display started in the first half when senior Cy Becker drilled four triples and scored 17 points. It helped Columbus Catholic stay within 36-32 of Solon Springs, which got four threes of its own from senior Dylan Taggart. Becker finished with five triples and 24 points.

"I made my first few and it felt good," Becker said. "I just decided to keep shooting at that point."

In the second half, Emmitt Konieczny and Charlie Moore got it going from deep for the Dons. Moore scored all 14 of his points after intermission and hit three shots from outside the arc while Konieczny hit two back breaking triples late in the game to give the Dons the lead for good.

"They hit some shots with our hands in their face," Solon Springs coach Marcus Marcus Besonen said. "We maybe should have run them off the line a little bit more, but they just have so many guys who can shoot."

Once the Dons got a 68-65 lead, they used their superb ball handling and passing/cutting skills to force Solon Springs to foul. And senior Blake Jakobi stepped up and hit all six of his foul shots in the closing minutes to seal the verdict. 

In addition to their 13 triples, the Dons made 17 of 19 foul shots while improving to 28-2. 

"We beat a really good team," coach Konieczny said. "I just thought we shot the ball well and made our free throws. We were a little rushed and the ball wasn't moving side to side in the first half, but we were much better at that in the second half."

The Dons were able to keep Solon Springs senior Isaiah Kastern (6-5) in check, although the NCAA Division II Bemidji State recruit did score 19 points and haul down 14 rebounds. Kastern came into the game averaging 28.6 ppg.

"They did a very good job of taking me away, especially in the first half," said Kastern, who finished his brillian prep career with more than 2,000 points. "I tried to make the right play by either kicking it out or going up for a shot. But they made it tough."

Despite Kastern's 14 rebounds, the smaller Dons posted a 29-25 edge on the glass with Emmitt Konieczny leading the way with seven rebounds.

"We focused on Isaiah Kastern," said Emmitt Konieczny. "He so tough and athletic. A big part of me getting seven rebounds was Cy and Lucas (Kreklau) getting a body on him. That freed me up to chase down rebounds."


ABUNDANT LIFE CHRISTIAN 42, ALMOND-BANCROFT 37

The two teams combined for 36 turnovers and the play defnitely was choppy. 

But that aside, the game came down to execution over the final few minutes of the game.

And Abundant Life Christian used the "home run" pass against full-court pressure defense to get an open layup by Jacob Koon and a foul with 12 seconds left to take a 40-37 lead. And when Nolan Wallace grabbed an offensive rebound off the missed and-one free throw and went to line to sink two free throws, the Challengers had their first WIAA State Tournament win, a 42-37 verdict over Almond-Bancroft in a Division 5 semifinal.

Abundant Life Christian, which takes a 28-2 record into the D5 final versus Columbus Catholic on Saturday, scored just 14 second-half points, but it was enough to hold off Almond-Bancroft, which trailed 28-19 at intermission.

"The game was a tale of two halves," Abundant Life Christian Coach Mike Thies said. "We played good enough defense and made our free throws at the end to win it."

Abundant Life Christian shot 50 percent (11 of 22) in the first 18 minutes, but just 17 percent (4 of 24) after half.

But the Challengers defense remained steadfast and never surrendered the lead.

Almond-Bancroft got as close as one point when TJ Lamb hit the second of two free throws to make it 38-37, setting the stage for the "home run" pass that led to Jacob Koon's layup.

"We didn't get off to the start we wanted," Almond-Bancroft coach Curt Lamb said. "But our guys battled and gave us a chance at the end. We had trouble finishing around the basket and had too many turnovers in the first half. We also lost some guys on defense that got behind us."

Abundant Life Christian had two players score in double figures -- junior twins Jacob and Jonah Koon with Jacob getting 11 and Jonah 13. In addition, senior JD Davison had 10 rebounds, five assists and four blocked shots.

Junior Ayden Phillips (6-7) led Almond-Bancroft with 17 points and 22 rebounds while junior Brody Dernbach added 11 points. The Eagles finish the season with a 27-2 record.

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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