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Mineral Point wins first Division 4 state title over Kenosha St. Joseph

03/16/2024, 4:00pm CDT
By Dick Knapinski

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Drew Aschliman's putback with less than two seconds left lifted Mineral Point to a Division 4 title

Another state tournament game, another coronary for the Mineral Point Pointers.After Thursday’s last-second three-pointer by Landon Thousand completed a late semifinal comeback against Aquinas, the Pointers survived being the hunted in Saturday’s Division 4 state title game with another last-gasp shot giving them a 62-61 win over Kenosha St. Joseph and their first state championship. This time, it was sophomore Drew Aschliman providing the unforgettable moment on a put back of Jaxson Wendhausen’s missed three-pointer with one second remaining (see video of Ashliman's basket below).

“Yeah, I saw Jaxson go for that shot and there really wasn’t anybody on the backside for rebounding,” said Aschliman, whose lone basket in his five-point total came with 1.4 seconds left. “So I just got the rebound and put it back up.”

That sounds easy, but it ended a late unraveling that saw the Pointers lose an 11-point lead to the Lancers over the final two minutes. Mineral Point led 61-50 after Thousand’s basket with 2:42 left, but St. Joseph picked up the defensive frenzy that worked so well against Marathon in Thursday’s semifinals.

“We got those first couple of turnovers when we pressured them so we kept pressuring them,” St. Joseph senior Eric Kenesie said. “Those steals gave us transition points, so we kept the pressure up to get the comeback.”

It was enough that Pointers coach Dan Burreson, who usually maintains and preaches a calm bench during games, could feel things getting pretty wobbly.

“I’m sure panic was about to set in,” he said. “At the same time, it’s so tough to communicate out there. You try to communicate but it’s so difficult. We used a timeout or two and maybe we should have used another, but I’m real proud of how we held it together especially once we fell behind.”

The Lancers led for only 12 seconds in Saturday’s championship, but it was nearly at the perfect time. Kenesie, who had six points, two steals and two assists in the final 2:30, scored the last of his game-high 23 points on a 10-footer in the lane with 13 seconds left to put St. Joseph up 64-63 at the end of its 14-2 run.

Burreson let his team play through it, though. Thousand drove hard toward the lane and kicked the ball left, where Wendhausen was lined up to try for his seventh successful three-pointer of the game. After Aschliman put back the miss for the lead, the Lancers called time out, but Kenesie’s last half-court try fell short at the buzzer.

St. Joseph’s late comeback was its second major rally of the game. After Mineral Point led 30-15 with 2:08 left in the first half, the Lancers scored the final seven points of the first half and the first eight of the second to tie the game with 15:26 remaining.

“We’re a fighting group and we usually have high energy on defense, but it just wasn’t there in the first half,” St. Joseph coach Jose Garcia said. “I said in the (TV) interview at the half that we had to rebound and our guys battled back.”

The Pointers set a Division 4 record with 15 three-pointers in Saturday’s championship, two more than Roncalli hit in a 2018 tournament game. Mineral Point’s 24 threes in two state games also set a Division 4 record.

In the title game, the outside barrage was sparked by Wendhausen. He hit six of his 10 tries on Saturday as the Pointers shot 51 percent from behind the arc, compared to its 37.9 percent average for the season.

“Yeah, I definitely have those nights,” said Wendhausen, a 45 percent three-point shooter this year. “In the semifinal game I went oh-for-six, so I knew I had to step it up and that’s exactly what I did.”

Wendhausen’s 20 points led Mineral Point, which claimed its first championship in its fifth appearance at the tournament. It had placed second in 1974 Class C and 2015 Division 4. Thousand added 15 points, while Eli Lindsey had 12 and Alex Ross 11 in the win.

St. Joseph’s which placed second for the second straight year after losing to Luther in last year’s title game, also got 14 points from Dominic Santarelli and 11 from Tommy Santarelli.

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