Jalen Johnson celebrated the announcement of his Gatorade State Player of the Year award with a 16-point performance Friday afternoon.
But his younger brother, Kobe, was the record-setting star of the Nicolet boys basketball team's 70-46 victory over Elkhorn in a WIAA Division 2 state semifinal at the Kohl Center.
Kobe Johnson, a 6-3 sophomore guard, set a tournament record by going 13-for-13 from the free-throw line, the most free throws ever made without a miss in a Division 2 game. He led the Knights (26-1) with 20 points.
“I just knew I had to come out and play strong," Kobe Johnson said. "If I come out strong, I know that we’ll play a little bit better.”
Jalen Johnson, a 6-9 junior forward named the state player of the year by Gatorade earlier on Friday, contributed 16 points, 11 rebounds, four steals and three assists to the Nicolet attack.
The Johnson brothers played for Sun Prairie as it qualified for the WIAA Division 1 state tournament last year, but moved to the Milwaukee area and enrolled at Glendale Nicolet over the summer.
“Coming into this game, Kobe had a huge chip on his shoulder because last year he wasn’t able to play during this game (while with Sun Prairie)," Jalen Johnson said. "So, just coming out here and proving that he can play also was big for him.
"I was really happy for him. He played how he is capable of. It was kind of a relief to see him just play comfortably in this type of environment. He really embraced it.”
Jamari Sibley, a 6-9 junior forward, totaled 13 points and six rebounds for Nicolet — ranked No. 1 in the state, seeded No. 1 in the tournament and ranked No. 7 in the nation by USA Today.
But it wasn't a cakewalk all afternoon for Nicolet.
The Elks used defense and strong rebounding to turn an early 10-4 deficit into a 24-19 lead with 3:19 left before halftime, on a jump shot by junior guard Devon Davey.
“I wish I had an answer for the slow starts. They are not good for me," Nicolet coach Allan Hanson said. "I think we wear on a lot of teams. I think our depth, and our length and our speed, wear teams down (going) down the stretch.”
Nicolet scored the final six points of the first half, including a go-ahead dunk by sophomore forward James Graham with two seconds left, to make it 26-25 at the break. And the Knights didn't stop there, scoring the first seven of the second half to make it 33-24 with 14:30 to go. Nicolet senior guard Sonny Phinisee scored his team's first six points of the second half.
Elkhorn (23-4) cut the lead to 35-30 with 13:28 to play, but Nicolet pulled away behind a 35-16 scoring run, completing a 51-22 run that started late in the first half.
Elkhorn had a 14-9 rebounding edge at halftime but wound up being outrebounded in the second half, 20-8. The Elks got 13 points from Luke Umnus.
Nicolet will meet Milwaukee Washington in the Division 2 championship game at 6:35 p.m. Saturday. Milwaukee Washington defeated La Crosse Central 72-71 in overtime in the second Division 2 semifinal Thursday.