Behind stingy defense, a revitalized transition game, and 14 huge second-half points from Brennan Miller, the Denmark boys varsity basketball team steered clear of late season disaster to overcome a 13-point halftime deficit to topple the Marinette Marines, 69-65, at home on Thursday night and set up high profile matchups with fellow conference leaders Freedom and Wrightstown in the coming days.
Early on, Marinette’s half-court offense found and exploited open shot after open shot led by Jake Poetzl, the stocky 6’ 5” center who nailed four three-pointers in his 17-point first half scoring effort. He finished with 24, tied with teammate Matt Wagner for team highs.
During the dry spell which saw the Vikings fall down by as many as 18, seniors Zane Short and Patrick Suemnick accounted for 21 of Denmark’s 28 first half points before heading into the locker room down 41-28.
Coach Cody Stelmach said the locker room focus was on intensifying pressure and recapturing the game’s tempo. A slight change of technique by Suemnick stifled Poetzl’s go-to post-pick fan to the perimeter that limited Wagner’s passing lanes and shooting options. Timely steals and rebounds fed the offense, capped by a full court heave to Short who found a cutting Suemnick for a two-handed dunk that cut the deficit to 50-51 with 6:28 left in the game.
Poetzl was limited to just seven points in the second half.
One of Miller’s two three-pointers gave Denmark its first lead, 55-52, with 3:48 to go. Miller hit 6 of 8 free throws to protect the victory.
Both teams played exceptionally physical and either side of the fandom divide was able to find questionable calls in the game’s homestretch, but Denmark won the late game free battle and was able to avoid any of its starters from fouling out despite Short and Suemnick each brandishing four with at least two minutes remaining.
Short cashed in on all four of his second half free throws and finished with a game high 26 points in the 69-65 victory.
With the win, Denmark maintained its six-game winning streak and improved to 16-3 overall while keeping their hopes for a North Eastern Conference championship alive. They play fellow conference leaders Freedom on Saturday afternoon at home and face the Tigers in Wrightstown on Monday night. Both teams account for Denmark’s only two conference losses this year.