The New Glarus boys basketball team’s previous trip to the WIAA state tournament came 87 years ago.

After such a lengthy wait, the Glarner Knights decided they should stick around for a while upon returning this year.

Fourth-seeded New Glarus booked a weekend stay, stunning top-seeded, top-ranked and defending champion Manitowoc Roncalli 44-41 in a Division 4 semifinal Thursday night at the Kohl Center.

“I have a confident group of boys,” New Glarus coach Travis Sysko said. “I think they believed in themselves all year. … We knew we could play with these guys.”

Senior guard Jaden Kreklow scored a game-high 21 points and senior guard Zach Feller had 13 points, all in the first half, for the fifth-ranked Knights (25-2).

“It means the world to me,” said Feller, Kreklow’s first cousin. “I feel blessed to be in this position. I am extremely humbled to be here. Just to be able to go here with my teammates I grew up with, and coach Sysko, and my dad (Rudi Feller), (who’s) the assistant coach, and this community. …. For this team to be able to do this for the town of New Glarus, it feels amazing.”

Capitol South Conference champion New Glarus, which won its 16th consecutive game, advanced to the Division 4 title game against second-seeded Oshkosh Lourdes (26-1) at about 12:45 p.m. Saturday.

New Glarus, which switched from man-to-man to a seldom-used 2-3 zone in the first half, limited previously undefeated Roncalli (26-1) to 30 percent shooting from the field — including 4-for-22 (18.2 percent) from 3-point range.

“I thought our defense was as good as it’s been all year,” Sysko said. “Just a great effort by our kids to hold a team like that to 41 points.”

Said Roncalli coach Joe Garceau: “They were up in our shorts. There were limiting our looks, obviously trying to take Chombi (Lambert) away, knowing he’s one of our scoring threats. But I just felt the ball got too sticky in our hands and we weren’t able to move it as well as we like — (with) the way they packed it in.”

The 5-foot-10 Kreklow, who scored 11 points off New Glarus’ 15 second-half points, drove to the basket and scored on a putback of his missed shot, giving the Knights a 43-41 lead with 1 minute, 15 seconds remaining.

After Jets senior Matt LeVene missed a 3-point attempt, New Glarus gained possession on a rebound by 6-4 sophomore Mason Martinson with 53.3 seconds left. Kreklow, described by Sysko as the best basketball player he’s coached, then added the first of two free throws with 22.5 seconds left — extending New Glarus’ lead to 44-41.

“When they started coming out (on defense) and I was able to drive, that really opened things up for me,” said Kreklow, who entered averaging 24 points per game.

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Roncalli senior guard Lambert, who had a team-high 12 points, missed a 3-point shot with 12 seconds left. Martinson missed the front end of the one-and-one free-throw situation with 9.9 seconds to play, giving the Jets one more possession.

But LaVene missed a 3-pointer from the right wing with about 5 seconds remaining and, after corralling the rebound, senior Daniel Burgarino missed a 3-pointer from the left wing as time expired.

“It hurts,” said Lambert, who entered averaging 22 points per game and finished 4-for-17 from the field. “I kind of let my team down, kind of let the city down. I really just can’t believe what happened. I still can’t believe it. I’m not showing much emotion other than denial.”

In a key first-half stretch, the Knights used an 8-0 run to erase a 27-21 deficit, with the 6-foot Feller doing all the damage.

“I think it was a momentum shift,” Feller said. “My shot felt good. My teammates were able to find me. I was able to knock down a couple shots to get us going.”

Feller connected on a 3-point shot, scored on a drive to the basket and made another 3-pointer, giving the Knights a 29-27 lead with 2:26 left in the first half.

“On our scouting report, we said, `He’s a streaky shooter that can get hot in a hurry,’’’ Garceau said of Feller. “Unfortunately, for us, there in the first half, he did just that. He got hot and made some big shots for them and gave them momentum.”

It will be the first title game in four state trips for New Glarus, making its first appearance since 1932.

“We are all confident players,” Kreklow said. “We knew coming in, the matchups were there. We knew each guy would be able to contribute. … We knew that we could do work out here and get that `W.’

New Glarus 29 15 — 44

Manitowoc Roncalli 27 14 — 41

NEW GLARUS — Feller 5-9 0-0 13, Janssen 0-0 0-0 0, Kreklow 10-21 1-2 21, Martinson 0-0 0-0 0, Craker 0-0 0-0 0, Gassman 0-1 0-0 0, Schadelwait 0-0 0-0 0, Siegenthaler 0-3 0-0 0, Martinson 4-9 0-1 8, Schuett 1-3 0-0 2, Streiff 0-0 0-0 0, James 0-0 0-0 0, Zwiefel 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-46 1-3 44.

MANITOWOC RONCALLI — Burgarino 3-8 0-0 6, Lambert 4-17 2-2 12, Pautz 1-2 0-0 2, LeVene 3-10 1-1 9, Linzmeier 0-0 0-0 0, Jagemann 0-0 0-0 0, Schroeder 0-0 0-0 0, Orth 0-0 0-0 0, Beckner 0-0 0-0 0, Jacoby 0-0 0-0 0, Heinzen 1-2 0-1 2, Behringer 3-11 4-5 10, Mueller 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 15-50 7-9 41.

3-point goals — NG 3-16 (Feller 3-5, Gassman 0-1, Martinson 0-1, Schuett 0-1, Siegenthaler 0-3, Kreklow 0-5), MR 4-22 (LeVene 2-8, Lambert 2-9, Burgarino 0-1, Pautz 0-1, Behringer 0-3). Rebounds — NG 8-20-28 (Martinson 8, Gassman 7, Kreklow 5); MR 16-20-36 (Behringer 14, Burgarino 8). Assists — NG 8 (Kreklow 4); MR 8 (LeVene 4). Turnovers — NG 9, MR 10. Steals — NG 7 (Gassman 3); MR 5. Blocks — NG 1; MR 1. Total fouls — NG 13, MR 10.


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Jon Masson covers high school sports for the Wisconsin State Journal. He has covered a variety of sports — including the Green Bay Packers and Wisconsin men's and women's basketball and volleyball — since he first came to the State Journal in 1999.