It was a game of runs and records, of youth and composure.
Most of all, though, it was a game for the big fella.
Sheboygan Lutheran’s Jacob Ognacevic, a 6-foot, 7-inch junior center, racked up 35 points and 19 rebounds Saturday to lead the Crusaders to a 77-69 victory over Marshfield Columbus in the WIAA Division 5 state championship game at the Kohl Center.
Ognacevic, who had 19 points and 14 rebounds in the Crusaders’ semifinal victory on Friday, would have broken the two-game Division 5 tournament record for rebounds with 33 — had Marshfield Columbus' Bryce Fuerlinger, a 6-4 senior forward, not come up with nine rebounds on Saturday after grabbing 25 (another D5 record) on Friday for a record two-day total of 34.
The previous record-holder was another Sheboygan Lutheran big man: Sam Dekker, who had 29 rebounds while leading the Crusaders to the 2012 state title.
“He’s 6-7, he kind of shoots over you. And he rebounds so well,” Marshfield Columbus coach Joe Konieczny said of Ognacevic, who shot 14-for-23 from the field and had eight offensive rebounds.
Ognacevic’s steady demeanor and consistent performance was a major key for the Crusaders (27-2), who built a lead as large as 20 points but also watched Marshfield Columbus (26-3) trim the margin to four points in the final minute, behind yet another frantic scoring rush.
“They crept back at us (and) made it a little bit uncomfortable,” Lutheran coach Nick Verhagen said. “But the way these guys kept their calm … (and) made shots they needed to in the second half. … It was special.”
But that wasn’t the only record-setting performance for the Crusaders. Freshman guard Casey Verhagen, the coach’s son, recorded 11 assists on Saturday to give him a two-game total of 20 — another Division 5 tournament record. Verhagen also scored seven points.
Delvin Barnstable, a 6-foot senior forward, added 17 points and freshman guard Robby Michael added 10 for the Crusaders, making all three of his shots from the field and both his free throws.
All of that overcame the urgent performances of Columbus senior guards Ethan Meece, who finished with 22 points and five rebounds, Noah Taylor (17 points, six rebounds) and Jarred Mandel (13 points, eight rebounds).
Marshfield Columbus shot 51 percent from the field but was outrebounded, 55-34, and committed 12 turnovers.
But the Dons also played with emotion, digging themselves once and again out of ruts with sheer determination.
Marshfield Columbus cut early deficits of nine and eight points down to 29-25 with 4:50 before halftime, only to have Lutheran end the half with a 20-6 scoring run for a 49-31 halftime lead.
The Dons answered by opening the second half with a 14-4 run to make it a 53-45 game, only to have Sheboygan Lutheran open it back up to 66-53 on a score by Ognacevic with 3:25 to go.
But Columbus was far from finished, battling back to cut its deficit to 70-66 on a driving layup by Taylor with 1:16 to go. After three Lutheran free throws, Mandel hit a 3-pointer for a 73-69 deficit with 44 seconds left. But Ognacevic capped the victory with a basket and two free throws.
“They chopped down some big 3s on us, some double-clutches from the top of the key,” Nick Verhagen said. “I would have liked (the finish) to be a little more comfortable, but I was glad we showed we were able to handle the pressure.
“This is the most calm, cool, collected group I’ve had since I’ve been here,” the seventh-year coach said. “I’m going to work on loosening them up a little bit.”