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Torrid shooting Columbus Catholic beats Abundant Life Christian in D5 final

03/16/2024, 2:30pm CDT
By Mark Miller

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Columbus Catholic set several tournament records for shooting from outside the arc during the WIAA State Tournament at the Kohl Center during its two games Friday and Saturday.

The Don players can thank their strong work ethic and the presence of one Shoot-A-Way and two Dr. Dish shooting machines in the Columbus Catholic gym for that success.

Columbus Catholic sank a Division 5 tournament-record 14 threes and overcame a strong shooting performance in its own right from Abundant Life Christian to post an 81-75 victory in the D5 title game Saturday.

On the heels of their then tourney-record 13 made triples in Friday's state semifinal win over Solon Springs, the Dons became the first school in WIAA history to make 27 three-point shots over two contests.

"We have one Shoot-A-Way and two Dr. Dish machines in our gym and they get used all the time, especially in the summer," Columbus Catholic coach Joe Konieczny said. "We got both machines in used condition so we didn't have to pay quite as much money as getting new machines."

Emmitt Konieczny, the son of the Dons' head coach, made five three-point shots and all 10 of his foul shots en route to scoring a game-best 31 points. The Lakeland University recruit scored 14 straight points for his team at the start of the second half as the Dons overcame a 43-42 deficit. His three-point basket, the third in a row for the four-year varsity performer, gave Columbus Catholic the lead for good at 51-49 with 15:47 to go.

"Those were some contested shots he made," Abundant Life Christian coach Mike Thies said. "We tried to do some different things on him defensively, but at some point you just have to say he's making big shots right now."
 
Despite relinquishing the lead, Abundant Life Christian never went away. The Challengers fell behind by 10 points three different times, but managed to claw their way back with hustle, determination and some solid shooting.

Facing a 68-58 deficit, the Challengers got a basket from senior JD Davison in the paint and then a three from senior Nolan Wallace to close within 68-63 with 2:44 left.

Columbus then worked the ball and got a huge triple of its own, this time from senior Charlie Moore with 2:06 left, to regain control at 71-63.

"I consider myself one of the better three-point shooters in the state so when I found myself open, I decided to take the shot," Moore said. "I made it so it's all good."

Moore had 18 points and senior Blake Jakobi added 12 for Columbus Catholic, which made 21-of-22 foul shots after connecting of 17-of-19 against Solon Springs the day before. The 38-of-41 combined total in the two contests set a D5 record for best free throw percentage at 93 percent.

Abundant Life, which finished 12-of-22 from three-point range for 55 percent, got 20 points from Jonah Koon, 17 from Jacob Koon and 14 points and 11 rebounds from Davison. Wallace pitched in 14 points and made four triples.

"If you had told me when I woke up today that we'd go 12-of-22 from three and lose, I'd say you are crazy," Thies said. "That's the best we've shot all season. The difference may have been in free throws and turnovers."

While Columbus Catholic was making 21 of its 22 charity tosses, Abundant Life Christian made nine of its 11 free throws. The Challengers also committed 15 turnovers that the Dons converted into 16 points. 

"Excellent game between two 28-2 teams that shot it exceptionally well," Joe Konieczny said. "Part of our shooting success is our willingness to be unselfish and share the basketball. Our kids are willing to move the ball and get the ball to the hot shooter."

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