By KELLY FENTON
The Denmark News
DENMARK – If they didn’t already know it, the Denmark Vikings probably found out on Friday night that a 28-point victory does not necessarily a happy head coach make.
Denmark followed their important and tough road win at Little Chute earlier in the week with a 72-44 trouncing of Clintonville in Denmark, and while the torrid shooting – 26 of 39 overall, 8 of 13 from three – was cause for celebration, the ball handling and decision making definitely was not. After handling a ferocious press with relative ease on Tuesday in Little Chute, the Vikings were careless from the get-go against overmatched Clintonville, finishing with 22 turnovers, a large portion of those unforced.
“I don’t want to put a damper on a 30-point win,” said Denmark head coach Cody Stelmach. “But we hold ourselves to a higher standard. We’re not that good that we can just roll the ball out there and be okay. They have to make sure they’re focused the full 40 minutes.
“I’ve got to do a better job of getting them prepared and focused before the game.”
A measure of just what an advantage the Vikings had over the Truckers on Friday was this: Four minutes into the game, Denmark had turned it over five times … and led 12-3. That was the result of Denmark’s sharp-shooting and hounding defense that forced its own slew of Clinton turnovers. The Vikings finished the game with 10 steals that lead to 20 Trucker miscues.
“Defensive-wise, we were fine,” Stelmach said. “We just put ourselves in tough positions with all the turnovers. But the defense is getting better every game. That’s what we have to hang our hats on because with Jens out we’re going to be a little limited offensively.”
Guard Brady Jens missed his fifth straight game with a fractured ankle. Stelmach said that best-case scenario is a mid-January return with a worst-case return of Feb. 1. Denmark was already in need of a more balanced scoring attack, even with Jens playing, and Zach Gezella may have provided an answer for that against Clintonville, raining in four threes, and joining Pat Suemnick (24 points) and Zane Short (13) in double figures.
Denmark improved to 4-2 overall, 3-1 in North Eastern Conference play.
After making 16 of its first 23 shots at Little Chute, Denmark came out smoking on Friday, knocking down 8 of its first 10 and 11 of 17 and finishing the night at 67 percent shooting.
Before a minute had elapsed, three threes had been lofted and all went in. Gezella hit the first two for Denmark. His second one, with 17:07 left in the first half, put the Vikings up 6-3. That was as close as the Truckers would be the rest of the way.
“Zach has shot the ball very well the last few games,” Stelmach said of Gezella, a rangy senior who has also been solid on the boards. “The first couple of games, maybe the game was moving a little too fast for him, but now it’s starting to slow down and he’s much more comfortable. We’re going to need that because they’re going to leave him to double down on (6-8 Patrick Suemnick).”
It didn’t take long for Suemnick to take full advantage of his 4-inch height advantage on the tallest Trucker. He followed his 29-point, 13-rebound performance at Little Chute with 24 points, eight rebounds, three blocks and two assists.
The play of the night in an otherwise less-than-dramatic affair came at the 12-minute mark when Donovan Short hustled to make a behind-the-back save of a ball heading out of bounds on the sideline. His desperation heave back into play sent the ball toward the baseline, where Zane Short also made a leaping save of the ball, while at the same time spotting Suemnick alone under the basket for a thunder dunk.
Seth Alexander followed with a steal and layup and Zane Short’s driving basket pushed the lead to 18-5.
It was 41-18 at intermission. The Truckers made only two two-point buckets against the looming presence of Suemnick and Donovan Short inside. Half of their 14 buckets overall were three-pointers, and Denmark limited Clintonville to 14-of-49 shooting.
The lead in the second half grew to as large as 33.
Short had three assists, two steals and a block to go along with his 13 points. Gezella grabbed five boards and two steals and also dished out a pair of assists. Brennen Miller scored seven points and had two assists, and Jack Satori, dished out four assists and grabbed four boards and two steals. Donovan Short scored four points and had four rebounds, and Michael Rabas also chipped in four points.
As for the sloppy performance, Stelmach had a warning.
“We’re not just preparing for Clintonville,” he said. “We’re preparing for Luxemburg and Wrightstown and Freedom and the regionals and some really good teams.”
After a non-conference game against Kewaunee on Monday, Denmark faces perhaps their sternest test yet with a road trip to Luxemburg-Casco on Dec. 20. The Trojans had a big win over Wrightstown earlier this month but fell to Fox Valley Lutheran on Friday.