On one side was Marcus Domask, the newly crowned Mr. Basketball, a proven champion hungry for one more high school victory.
On the other was Greendale Martin Luther’s three-headed monster of powerful seniors, making the school’s first-ever visit to the WIAA state tournament and hungry to bring home the gold.
Something had to give during Saturday’s WIAA Division 3 state championship game. As it turned out, what came up short was Waupun’s shooting touch.
The Warriors hustled and scrapped against the deep and talented Spartans, but shooting problems — especially from 3-point range and the free throw line — allowed Martin Luther to earn a 58-49 victory at the Kohl Center.
The statistics sheet explains why the third-seeded Warriors (26-2) couldn’t stay with the top-seeded Spartans (25-3). In fact, it makes it hard to understand how Waupun was able to keep the game close — it was 48-48 with 1 minute, 55 seconds to go, before Martin Luther ended the game with a 10-1 scoring run.
The most pertinent statistics: Waupun made only eight of 17 free throws, including one of three in the final 1:55; and the Warriors shot only 3-for-14 from 3-point range.
“Yeah, that won’t get it done, will it?” asked Waupun coach Dan Domask. “I’d say those were our season lows. I will say, our effort was really good. You can’t fault kids for missing shots. We played hard enough without the ball to have a chance.”
But so did the Spartans’ three senior leaders: 6-2 guard Ace Evans, 5-10 guard Trequan Carrington and 6-5 guard Xzavier Jones. They combined for 45 of Martin Luther’s 58 points, with Evans scoring 20 and Carrington 19, and also made a combined 15 of 17 free throws.
“To be able to jump out early, and (then to) be mentally tough enough to make some plays when they came back and tied the game — and make our free throws — I’m just really impressed,” said Martin Luther coach Paul Wollersheim.
“I knew late in the game, when it was a close game, we got this far (and) there was no way we were coming out with a loss,” Evans said.
Domask, named Mr. Basketball earlier Saturday by the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association, struggled as much as any of his teammates. He shot 5-for-15 from the field, including 1-for-8 from 3-point range, and 4-for-8 from the line.
“We weren’t really ourselves,” Marcus Domask said.
Martin Luther opened a 30-21 halftime lead, scoring the last four points of the half. Waupun battled back, tying the score at 40-40 on a driving layup by 6-5 senior forward Reece Homan with 8:06 remaining, and again at 48-48 on a layup by Homan with 1:55 to go.
But Evans answered with a layup and two free throws to make it 52-49, and in the final 27 seconds, Carrington sank two free throws and Evans made two free throws and a driving layup.
“We just slowed down when the game was tied and went to our bread-and-butter guys to make plays, and they made plays,” Wollersheim said. “And we made our free throws, which was huge.”
Waupun got 16 points and nine rebounds from Homan, 15 points from Domask and 14 points from senior guard Trevor VandeZande. The only other Warriors player to score was senior Quinten Winterfeldt, who had four points.