By Alex Strouf, The Denmark News
You could feel the tension and excitement in the air of the Wrightstown High School gym last Thursday, Feb 2nd, when the Denmark High School varsity boy’s basketball team travelled to face conference opponent Wrightstown.
The headline of that game was not the implications the outcome could play. The focus wasn’t on the home team. Heck, the focus wasn’t on either team. It was on one player.
Since 2004, no Denmark High School student has been able to pour in 1,000 career points at the varsity basketball level. Teetering on the brink of it was Denmark senior Blake Derricks, who was only 10 points away entering the contest. Derricks was averaging 22.8 points per game entering Wrightstown.
As the tip occurred, you could tell that Denmark was, as usual, running their offense through Derricks. First possession, a shot went up from beyond the arc. No good.
Derricks clearly looked unsettled. There was a lot of pressure on him.
“It’s definitely the most nervous I’ve ever been for a game,” said Derricks.
From there it took a while for Derricks to find his jive, while sophomore Brady Jens, likely the next member of the 1K club for Denmark, found his groove.
Derricks in the final ten minutes of the first half, with four free throws, a three pointer, and a layup.
At halftime, everybody knew what was coming.
With a sign tracking Derricks’ distance from success courtside, the Denmark senior knew it was time to get it over with.
During the Vikings first possession of the second half, the circulation continued. Derricks held the ball a foot or two outside of the left wing. He kicked it inside to sophomore Patrick Suemnick, who was standing at the elbow. Suemnick kicked to his left (Derricks’ right) to Denmark junior Samuel Sipiorski, who sat eight feet above the baseline. After a quick jab step, Sipiorski found Derricks wide open just left of the top of the key, and about a foot outside. Derricks saw his opportunity, and without hesitation, fired it.
“I knew I was a point away,” said Derricks. “I just shot it with confidence.”
Derricks backpedaled to a defensive stance as the crowd around him erupted into a standing ovation filled with a proud community.
Denmark sophomore Zane Short couldn’t help but immediately hug Derricks, which made the referees stop the game for a moment of celebration. The Denmark bench sprinted to congratulate their captain on his accomplishment.
Derricks headed back to the bench to hug his coaches and an injured teammate, where his parents, Dean and Jill, waited for him as well.
“After I hit it, just getting to hug my parents and getting the moment with them,” Derricks said of his favorite moment from the night. “That’s something I’ll never forget.
“Also, getting to thank and wave to everyone that came out. That’s something not of a lot of players get to experience.”
Despite the history, the Vikings were unable to pull off the conference victory, which went down the wire. Derricks finished with 18 points in the contest, which placed him at 1,008 overall, just eight points behind his dad’s cousin, Bob Olsen, who finished with 1,016 points and a state championship in 1985.
“It’s pretty cool. I have obviously never seen him play, but my dad and coach [Bill] Miller say how good of a player he was.”
It only took Derricks one more game to pass his ‘uncle,’ after scoring 34 points in Oconto on Saturday, Feb 4th. On Monday, Feb 6th, the Vikings travelled to Oconto Falls, where Derricks added 15 more to his record. As of Tuesday, Feb 7th, Derricks is in fourth place for points all-time by a boy with 1,057. Nathan Kafka, who reached the mark in 2004, is in third with 1,128 points, while Travis Kornowski graduated with 1,145 in 1997, and Dan Kuehn, who finished with 1,267 career points in 1985, leads the list.
Derricks, who has played possibly the biggest part in some of Denmark’s biggest accomplishment over the past three season, has been at the varsity level since his sophomore year. Derricks averaged just under nine points per game as the Vikings’ sixth man.
After that, the team was in his hands.
As a junior, Derricks winded up as a second team A
ll-Conference member, averaged 20.4 points per contest as a starter and captain.
This year, his performance has gone up. In the offseason, Derricks spent time with an Amateur Athletic Union team named the Wisconsin Blizzard, which serves as an offseason elite team. Derricks credits some his newest skills and raised confidence to the high level of competition.
“It was super neat playing a bunch of really good players and such high competition,” said Derricks. “That was my first year doing it, but it was a lot of fun.”
Derricks, this season, is averaging 23.0 points per game and has continued to show that his game is so much more than a good shot. Derricks is making a great case for himself to be named 2017 Northeastern Conference Player of the Year.
“I’m not really focused on that,” said Derricks. “It’d be an honor if it happened, but I’d rather win a regional title or something like that before focusing on something like that.”
Although one accomplishment is forever in the record books, it’s clear Derricks’ focus hasn’t changed where it was before the start of the season.
Derricks and his team return to action this Friday, when they continue their fight for a home playoff game in a big conference matchup against Marinette.