Story updated from Sunday to include quote, game action and official stats
By KELLY FENTON
The Denmark News
DENMARK – Who knows how long the brand-new Denmark High School Fieldhouse will serve as the Vikings’ gym?
Thirty years? Forty? Fifty?
Whatever the length of its run may be, it seems possible, perhaps even likely, that the 22 rebounds Pat Suemnick yanked down in the Vikings’ season-opening 67-56 win over Valders in the very first game at the facility may still be standing as a record when the last game there is played.
Suemnick was an absolute beast and took full advantage of his new-found strength and agility on Saturday following a rugged summer of work to dominate on both ends.
And, oh, yeah, he also poured in 29 points and swatted away five Valders shots.
“I’m not going to lie,” Suemnick said. “This is the first year I’ve worked out. I’ve got so much more elevation, so much more quickness and agility, it’s crazy.”
And a bit frightening for anyone trying to stop him. That he did this against a team that was runner-up in the state tournament last year makes it all the more impressive, though Valders was decimated by graduation and had no players of comparable height to throw against him.
His performance left his teammates in awe.
“He was a physical specimen,” said Zane Short, who delivered four assists, one an alley-oop in the first half. “We play on the same AAU team, so I knew he had worked really hard this summer. He definitely deserves this. He’s just crazy with his athleticism and his arms. That’s just the connection. I know if I put it up anywhere near the rim, he’ll finish it.”
While Short’s alley-oop delivery resulted in just a lay-in, Brady Jens’ provided the highlight of the night, sending up a looping pass from beyond the arc for a dunk-you-very-much Suemnick slam midway through the second half.
“We’ve been practicing that,” said Jens, who finished with 15 points and five assists. “You know, it’s just being with Pat so long and knowing if I can put it up there close to the rim, he can just go get it.”
Given that Valders lost a 6-7 and two 6-5 players to graduation it seemed obvious coming out for warmups that Suemnick was the weapon to unleash.
“Right away, Brady said, ‘look at the guys out here,’” Suemnick said. “He said, ‘you are more athletic and can get higher than any of them.’ They just threw it up to me. I think my first six points, that’s what happened.”
But even with Suemnick dominating, this was no gimmee. While lacking height, Valders hardly lacked for strength and quickness and used both to drive to the basket and to find open shooters from long range. They jumped to a 7-1 lead as Denmark’s offense went through two periods of stagnation in the first half. But Suemnick soon got it going, scoring on a fast-break lay-up and scoring 10 points over a four-minute span. When Jens hit the first of his two threes during that run to put Denmark ahead 13-10, Valders never led again. But Denmark could never quite shake them, either.
Valders knocked down five threes in the first half and trailed just 29-26 at intermission, but Denmark exploded out of the locker room to score eight straight points and claim a 37-26 lead. Suemnick grabbed six rebounds before two minutes had expired and had all nine of his team’s boards to open the half.
“That’s what Coach (Cody Stelmach) stressed at half, to come out really hardcore on defense,” Short said. “Punch them in the mouth before they punched us. We jumped everything, got a couple of quick steals and rolled that momentum the rest of the way.”
Short also finished with 15 points, two blocks, two steals and five rebounds to go along with his four assists.
Three-pointers continued to keep Valders within reach – they finished 10 of 30 on the night – but they never drew closer than seven, which they did with seven minutes left. Jens responded with a three and Suemnick added two more baskets and the 7-0 run had Denmark leading by 14 with less than four minutes remaining and pretty much put it away.
Jack Satori, one of the core four seniors who have played together for nearly a decade, added four points, three steals and two assists, while Zach Gezella had four points, three assists and three boards.
Suemnick’s eyes went wide when informed of his stat line afterward.
“Really?” he said. “I mean, if I could keep that up, that’s the goal. You gotta dream big and then you have to come out and give it everything. Whatever the numbers are, I’m gonna give it every day.”
It was nice redemption for a Denmark team that has lost three straight years to Valders by an average margin of 17 points.
“Beating them, especially after them coming off a year like last year, it’s a great way to open up this gym and hopefully put Denmark in a new light,” Short said.
The Vikings open North Eastern Conference action on Friday at Freedom before heading up to Southern Door on Dec. 4. Denmark returns home for a conference battle with Fox Valley Lutheran on Dec. 6.
Check back for full stories on both games.