Dons play Barneveld in Division 5 semifinal Friday at WIAA State Boys Basketball Tournament in Madison
By Paul Lecker
MARSHFIELD — Everyone that laces up their sneakers back in November dreams of ending their basketball season in March at the Kohl Center.
Marshfield Columbus Catholic has that chance, but the Dons are not going to settle for just making it. They want to grab a championship.
Columbus Catholic (25-2) will play Barneveld (24-3) in a Division 5 semifinal at 10:45 a.m. Friday at the 2017 WIAA State Boys Basketball Tournament in Madison. Chippewa Falls McDonell (24-3) will take on Shullsburg (25-2) in the first semifinal at 9 a.m., and the winners will face off for the Division 5 state title on Saturday at 11 a.m.
All of the state tournament games will be televised live on WAOW-TV 9 of Wausau, and the Columbus games will be broadcast on WDLB-AM 1450 and wdlbwosq.com.
The Dons are making just their second state tournament appearance since joining the WIAA in the 2000-2001 season. Columbus lost a Division 4 semifinal in 2003, before any of the current Dons were even in school.
To finally make it back and have the chance to win the first WIAA team title in any sport for Columbus has the players eyeing one common goal.
“The feeling has really sunk in now,” Columbus senior point guard Hunter Schultz said. “It’s a dream come true. We have a job to do when we go to state. We’re not going to state just to go. We’re going to state to win two games. We have to stay focused on that.”
Senior forward Charles Payant echoed those thoughts.
“Ever since I was a little kid, we’ve wanted to get down to state. That’s been our No. 1 goal,” Payant said. “Now we have to find a way to do that (win it).”
Barneveld, like Columbus Catholic, was a No. 1 seed in its sectional. The Golden Eagles survived a pair of tight games, winning a regional final over Rio 54-51 and a sectional semifinal over Pecatonica 45-44, before blowing out Hilbert 62-42 in the sectional final.
Barneveld has a balanced scoring attack — with all five starters averaging between 7 and 13.5 points per game — led by senior point guard Matthew Myers.
A sharp contrast from the Dons is that Barneveld has only made 122 3-pointers and shoots just 29.1 percent from long range. Columbus hits 3s at 37-percent clip and has taken nearly 300 more attempts from beyond the arc.
While Columbus is averaging nearly 80 points per game (79.2) and has scored under 68 points only three times all season, Barneveld scores just 61.9 per game and has hit the 70-point mark just four times in its last 22 games.
Coach Joe Konieczny, who in his 12th season will be making his coaching debut at the state tournament, said the Golden Eagles will provide a tough test for the Dons.
“I think they can play whatever style that they want you to play,” Konieczny said. “In some of their games, they run. They have athletes that push it up the floor and leak out on you, and other games they have 30-40 second possessions and break you down.
“We know we play a really good opponent on Friday, and we need to be ready for them. The team we play is incredibly solid. They don’t really have a weak link — seven or eight guys that are really solid, smart basketball players. They have two or three that are very good athletes, and they are very disciplined. We know that we have our work cut out for us Friday.”
Schultz, who missed five games before returning for the Dons’ regional final win over Loyal on March 4, leads the way at 23.8 points per game and 87 3-pointers made. Senior forward Tyler Fuerlinger, the Cloverbelt Conference East Division Player of the Year, is not far behind, totaling 22.0 points. He also puts up 7.1 rebounds, 3.7 assists, and 3 steals per game, all of which are team highs.
Junior guard Nick Malovrh chips in with 13.2 points and 3.9 rebounds per game and is shooting an impressive 44.6 percent (75 of 168) from 3-point range for the Dons.
Despite suffering its only two losses of the season while Schultz was out, senior guard Ryan Dieringer said it made the team stronger.
“We’ve had a couple bumps along the way, but I think as a team we were ready for any challenge we had to face and handled it well together, as one, not individuals,” Dieringer said.
After a 19-3 regular season last year, including an undefeated Cloverbelt East championship, the Dons built a double-digit lead before losing a regional final to Almond-Bancroft.
Columbus got revenge, topping Almond-Bancroft in the sectional semifinal this year. The loss in last year’s playoffs fueled this year’s group to strive for more.
“I was making sure I got up my shots every day, I think everyone was focusing on that, ‘Just stay in-tune all year around,’” Fuerlinger said. “Last year really hurt all of us when we lost in the regional finals. I think we made an extra point to get farther this year.”
For Konieczny, the big step his team took this season will never be forgotten.
“It was our sixth time in sectionals (under Konieczny), and to finally get a group that knocked the door down, it really means a lot to the program,” Konieczny said. “We have a lot of younger teams in our program that were there on Saturday (at the sectional final victory over Gresham), and they can see what it is and now have something to shoot for. I’m grateful for this group of boys that decided it was the year to take the next step.”
(Hub City Times Sports Reporter Paul Lecker is also the publisher of MarshfieldAreaSports.com.)
2017 WIAA State Boys Basketball Tournament
March 16-18, at Kohl Center, Madison
Thursday, March 16
Division 3 semifinals
Prescott (23-3) vs. Lake Mills (24-2), 1:30 p.m.
Appleton Xavier (26-0) vs. Ripon (26-0), 3:15 p.m.
Division 4 semifinals
Cameron (23-3) vs. Darlington (26-0), 6:30 p.m.
Manitowoc Roncalli (13-13) vs. Milwaukee Destiny (24-1), 8:15 p.m.
Friday, March 17
Division 5 semifinals
Chippewa Falls McDonell (24-3) vs. Shullsburg (25-2), 9 a.m.
Marshfield Columbus Catholic (25-2) vs. Barneveld (24-3), 10:45 a.m.
Division 2 semifinals
La Crosse Central (24-2) vs. Waunakee (24-2), 1:30 p.m.
Cedarburg (24-2) vs. Milwaukee Washington (22-4), 3:15 p.m.
Division 1 semifinals
Stevens Point (22-4) vs. Madison Memorial (23-3), 6:30 p.m.
Hartland Arrowhead (21-5) vs. Brookfield Central (24-2), 8:15 p.m.
Saturday, March 18
Division 5, 11 a.m.
Division 4, 12:45 p.m.
Division 3, 2:30 p.m.
Division 2, 6:30 p.m.
Division 1, 8:15 p.m.
Division 5 Notes
Columbus Catholic Dons
Record: 25-2, Champions of Cloverbelt Conference East Division (15-1).
Projected starting lineup: Charles Payant, 6-0, sr., F, 4.4 points, 2.8 rebounds per game; Ryan Dieringer, 5-9, sr., G, 3.7 points, 2.7 rebounds per game; Hunter Schultz, 5-11, sr., G, 23.8 points, 3.9 rebounds per game, 87-208 3-pointers (41.8 percent); Nick Malovrh, 5-10, jr., G, 13.2 points, 3.9 rebounds per game, 75-168 3-pointers (44.6 percent); Tyler Fuerlinger, 6-2, sr., G, 22.9 points, 7.1 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 3.3 steals per game, 57 percent shooter from field (232-407).
Top reserves: Jarred Mandel, 6-2, so., F, 5.9 points, 3 rebounds per game; Ethan Meece, 6-1, so., F, 3.3 points, 1.4 rebounds per game, 70 percent shooter from field (33 of 47); Noah Hansen, 6-3, jr., F, 1.9 points, 1.8 rebounds per game; Peyton Nystrom, 5-9, jr., G, 9.5 points, 1.1 rebounds per game.
Barneveld Golden Eagles
Record: 24-3, Champions of Six Rivers East Conference (11-1).
Projected starting lineup: Matthew Myers, 6-0, sr., G, 13.5 points, 2.5 rebounds, 4 assists per game, 51-153 3-pointers, 84 percent free throw shooter (69 of 82); Mike Zouski, 6-2, sr., G, 12.9 points, 4.7 rebounds per game, team-high 71 free throws made; Kauy Fargo, 6-1, jr., G, 8.9 points, 3.4 assists per game; Malcolm Reed, 6-4, so., F, 8.4 points, 3.6 rebounds per game; Lucas Evans, 6-5, sr., C, 7 points, 5.7 rebounds per game.
Top reserves: Trey Laube, 6-2, sr., G, 3 points, 1.9 rebounds per game; Jacob Slaney, 6-3, jr., C, 2.9 points, 3.7 rebounds per game; Jonas Ignatius, 2.5 points, 1.7 rebounds per game; Samuel Shatrawka, 6-1, sr., F, 1.4 points, 1.6 rebounds per game.
Chippewa Falls McDonell Macks
Record: 24-3, Champions of Cloverbelt Conference West Division (11-1).
Projected starting lineup: Grayson Knowlton, 6-5, sr., F, 16.1 points, 6.4 rebounds per game, 52 percent shooter from floor (166-318); Hayden Baughman, 6-6, jr., F, 14.6 points, 9.6 rebounds, 3.5 blocks per game; Austin Amelse, 5-10, sr., G, 16.1 points, 7 rebounds, 3.1 assists per game, team-high 55 3-pointers made; Nathan Hoglund, 6-0, sr., G, 11.4 points2.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists per game; Wesley Benish, 5-9, sr., G, 3.1 points, 1.1 rebounds per game.
Top reserves: Cory Hoglund, 6-0, so., G, 4.3 points, 2.7 rebounds per game; Ryan Sorensen, 5-10, sr., G, 4 points, 2.5 rebounds per game; Alex Ohde, 6-7, sr., F, 1.2 points1.4 rebounds, 1.3 assists per game; Jordan Moulton, 1.2 points per game.
Record: 25-2, Champions of Six Rivers West Conference (12-0).
Projected starting lineup: Hunter Matye, 6-5, sr., G/F, 14.3 points, 7.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists per game; Joseph Meyer, 6-9, sr., F/C, 14.1 points, 5.2 rebounds per game; Noah Wand, 6-4, sr., G/F, 11.1 points, 4.4 rebounds per game, team-high 45 3-pointers made; Lance Lierman, 6-3, sr., G/F, 6.3 points, 3.4 rebounds per game; Nathan Wedige, 5-8, sr., G, 1.8 points, 2.3 rebounds per game.
Top reserves: Jeremiah Bailey, 6-4, sr., F, 6.7 points, 4.2 rebounds per game; Cameron Doyle, 6-3, sr., G, 3.9 points, 1.4 rebounds per game; Jacob Berendes, 5-10, so., G, 2.2 points, 1.4 rebounds per game; Alex Wand, 6-3, so., F, 2.3 points, 3.7 rebounds per game.