Ripon takes out Luther Prep
Luther Prep made three 3-pointers in the opening minutes and it looked like yet another game where outside shooting would carry the team to a victory.
Then shots just wouldn’t fall.
The fourth-seeded Phoenix connected only two more times from beyond the arc and fell to 12th-seeded Ripon 63-47 in a WIAA Division 3 regional semifinal game at LPS on Friday night.
Senior guard Luke Schlomer tallied 17 points and junior guard Nate de Galley added 11.
Senior guard Micah Kieselhorst, the team’s leading scorer at 15.8 points per contest, was held to three on a night where offense was hard to come by at times for the Phoenix.
“This was a great high school atmosphere,” Luther Prep head coach Nate Kieselhorst said. “I was very happy the way we played overall. Shots just didn’t drop. We rely heavily on that. When we have guys averaging 15 points and they come away with three, that’s hard to swallow. Give them credit. It was a physical game but at the same time, I thought we were getting away with just as much as they were getting away with. I thought at first we were giving up too many offensive boards but we only gave up three. It wasn’t like we weren’t boxing (out). They outrebounded us because we weren’t hitting on our end and they were patiently hitting on their end. It might have been trouble that we hit our first two 3s right off the bat because then everybody thinks the floodgates are opening up. We have been living by the outside shot and having success this year ... We had drives going to the basket too and didn’t finish them. It was one of those nights where the ball wasn’t going in. It’s frustrating to say the least.”
Schlomer, Kieselhorst, Malachi Roeseler and Zach Gregorius played together for the first time as sixth graders in the inaugural junior ’Nix program. Alex Lawrence joined them a year later.
They have the same coach leading them as they did in middle school too.
“I can’t say enough about the seniors,” coach Kieselhorst said. “These are the guys I’ve been with since sixth grade. When Micah was in sixth grade we got our first junior ’Nix team together. The five starters out there on the floor were in that group. That’s going to be tough. After coaching those guys since sixth grade all the way coming through here, now senior year. Many people commented that they were overachievers and they probably were this year. We were supposed to be a .500 team, second from the basement in conference. They ended up doing much much more than that. I give them credit for overcoming the odds and surprising people.”
“Us guys have built up a lot of chemistry since sixth grade,” Roeseler said. “It’s rough that this is our last game and we are going to be separating. A lot of people weren’t expecting much out of us this year and we kind of turned that around on some people. It’s too bad we had to go out like this but it is what it is, we had a fun season.”
Luther Prep (14-10) grabbed a 13-4 lead early in the game after Schlomer knocked down a pair of 3-pointers and de Galley returned to the lineup and hit from beyond the arc.
Ripon held the Phoenix to four points in the final 13 minutes, 40 seconds of the opening frame and built a 30-17 advantage at the break.
Luther Prep scored on consecutive trips after junior guard Paul Frick split two defenders to finish at the rack and de Galley finished inside.
The Tigers’ Hunter Auchtong made a 3-pointer on the other end to answer immediately to make it 37-23 at 12:30 mark.
Schlomer drove baseline and hit a floater before de Galley blew by Jackson Morrin to finish off a 3-point play to get the Phoenix within nine.
Luther Prep tried to mount a rally and had the crowd behind them when Frick nabbed a pass and went coast-to-coast for a layup, finishing through contact.
However, Ripon scored the next four points and despite a Schlomer 3-pointer with 4:00 remaining the lead was 51-42.
The Tigers made 10 free throws down the stretch to close it out.
“Their defense wasn’t more special then most defenses we’ve seen,” Roeseler said. “We had open shots, some contested, but they weren’t falling today. We’re usually a good shooting team. Luke Schlomer and Micah Kieselhorst are both shooting in the 40 percent’s from 3 and no one was hitting anything today.”
This senior class has left a blueprint on how to be a good teammate and what it takes to have a winning culture.
“If you mess up, they pick you back up,” junior guard Adam Brands said. “They love to help people out.”
“They put a lot of work into the game and they love it. They enjoy playing with each other helping us out during practice. They’re just a great group of guys.”
Nobody needed to question whether these seniors were giving it their all either.
“All those senior guys, having coached them from sixth grade on, they’ve been a treat,” coach Kieselhorst said. “They’re just super hardworking, respectful kids. They’ll do anything for you. They’ll run through a wall for you if you want them to. Practices were always like what you saw on the game floor tonight. I couldn’t ask for any more than that. They gave it there all and I appreciate that very much. It was a joy and fun to work with them.”
Luther Prep won 14 games this season and 15 a season ago before falling in a regional final. Winning on the court starts with dedication by those in a program off it. Second-year assistant coach Luke Rothe, who dives into game film extensively, is the perfect example.
“He has been phenomenal the last two years,” coach Kieselhorst said. “I can’t put into words how much he has helped the basketball program and me personally. He’s been a huge asset.”
“He’s been a big part of our program these last two years. Considering the success we had last year and this year, he’s been a big part of it.”
Auchtong scored 17 points and Max Beuthin had 15 for Ripon (10-14) which avenged a 69-68 home loss to the Phoenix from Dec. 11.
Frick supplied seven points for the Phoenix who did not lose consecutive games this season.
Ripon travels to play top-seeded Waupun (22-1) today at 7 p.m. in a WIAA Division 3 regional final game.
Roeseler recognized the special bond this group will have for many years to come.
“It’s crazy the friendship you build at a private school like this,” he said. “Playing basketball together since sixth grade and exceeding expectations is everything we wanted to do. We wanted to get into high school and be those big guys out on the court that we had watched since kindergarten.”
RIPON 63, LUTHER PREP 47
Ripon 30 33 — 63
Luther Prep 17 30 — 47
Ripon (fg-ft-tp) — Auchtung 7-1-17, Rogers 1-4-6, Mills 4-3-12, Beuthin 5-5-15, Schneider 2-1-5, Jennings 1-1-3, Morrin 2-0-5. Totals 22 15-23 63.
Luther Prep (fg-ft-tp) — Roeseler 1-0-2, Schewe 1-0-3, Brands 1-0-2, Lawrence 1-0-2, Kieselhorst 1-1-3, de Galley 4-2-11, Schlomer 6-2-17, Frick 3-1-7. Totals 18 6-12 47.
Three-point goals — R, Auchtung 2, Mills, Morrin; LP, Schlomer 3, de Galley, Schewe.
Total fouls — R 16, LP 21.
Fouled out — LP, Kieselhorst.