By KELLY FENTON
The Denmark News
story updated from Saturday night’s brief
DENMARK – The difference between the first Denmark-Luxemburg-Casco meeting in December and the second one on Saturday night was the difference between bobsledding and curling.
The December battle was a frenetic, up-and-down, exhausting affair that produced nearly 160 points in a Denmark victory.
Saturday night’s, in contrast, was sluggish and measured and mostly stagnant. Not a lot happened. But the results were the same: a critical Viking win, 53-37, that left Denmark still atop the North Eastern Conference standings at 11-2. And while the game itself was perhaps unnoteworthy for its action and aesthetic appeal, it was significant for the line Denmark post man Patrick Suemnick put together in a dominating performance: 25 points, 15 rebounds, six blocked shots.
“They single-teamed me,” said Suemnick, who admitted he felt he had something to prove. “When they go man on me, there’s not a lot they can do. Their coach last year at the ranking meeting said that his post player (6-4 Nathan Coisman) was going to be the best post player in the conference this year, so tonight I had to go out there and prove I’m there, too.”
Coisman finished with 13 points, two below his average. He went out early in the first contest with an injury. That first meeting produced nearly as many points by halftime that this one produced in total. The Vikings rallied from 14 down to beat the Spartans 84-74 on Dec. 20. In this one, the two teams could manage a combined 16 points through the first 10 minutes as Luxemburg-Casco was determined not to get into another shootout and held its possessions for a minute or more at a time.
“We knew they were going to slow the ball down on us, so we just had to be ready to play smart defense,” said Denmark head coach Cody Stelmach. “That’s what I was happy with the most. We didn’t take unnecessary risks on defense and get ourselves out of position. They’re not used to slowing it down so I think it took them out of their rhythm.”
On the other end, with the exception of Suemnick’s repeated spin moves in the lane for buckets, Denmark seemed stuck in mud on its end. The turnovers were few for both teams; the made shots almost fewer. The Spartans (6-7) never led and were last tied at 10-10 on leading scorer Ryan Robillard’s pull-up with 5:20 left in the half. Robillard, hounded by defensive shadow Jack Satori, finished with just eight points – eight below his average.
“I don’t know how stagnant we were offensively,” Suemnick said. “It was more they slowed it down so much when they were on offense and had such long possessions that we were tired when we had the ball. We worked hard defensively and stayed down and played tough defense.”
Another Suemnick spin move inside at the 4:21 mark produced a lead Denmark would never relinquish. The play of the night came on a Zane Short steal. Short drove on a fast break to the top of the circle before spinning and whipping a pass back to Satori, who immediately found Suemnick down low for a dunk and a 22-13 halftime lead.
“We missed out on a few transition opportunities and if we’d converted those, I think the game could have been over sooner,” said Stelmach, whose team improved to 13-3 overall. “We were surprised they kept singling Patrick so our guys knew we had to slow down and work the ball around and get it into Patrick. I think they were worried about Zach hitting those seven threes the first time. When Patrick can get comfortable and get in the zone, he has a whole different array for moves he can use.”
The Spartans got within seven early in the second half, but never closer as a 10-2 run grew the lead to 39-22 midway through the second half. The largest lead was 20 on a Short three-pointer with six minutes left. Short finished with 17 points, six boards, three assists and two steals.
Only four Vikings scored: Zach Gezella, who nailed 7 of 8 threes in the first encounter, made two on Saturday and finished with seven, while Brady Jens scored four points. Each had a pair of steals. Satori didn’t score but had five rebounds and three assists and played clampdown defense on Robillard.
The Vikings played one of their cleanest games of the season, finishing with only seven turnovers and knocking down 18 of 40 shots overall, 4 of 11 from deep. They forced 13 Spartan miscues and limited them to 15-of-40 shooting, 4 of 13 from deep. They also kept them off the line; Luxemburg took only six attempts and made three. Denmark won the battle of boards handily as well.
It marked the third straight game in which the high-powered Vikings failed to crack 60 points after 12 straight games of doing so.
“There’s no concern there,” Stelmach said. “The last three teams we’ve played have wanted to slow it down. The second time around, teams are starting to adjust and are not pushing the pace against us and minimizing possessions. They know if Zane and Patrick get out on the break, that’s when we’re the strongest.”
After what should be a fairly easy contest at last-place Oconto Falls on Monday, a rugged – and decisive – three-game gauntlet of fourth place Marinette (Thursday), co-leader Freedom (Saturday), and co-leader Wrightstown (Feb. 18) awaits. Only Wrightstown is on the road.
“We control our destiny,” Stelmach said. “If we take care of business, we can be conference champs. We have the ability to do it, so it’s going to be a fun next couple of weeks.”