By KELLY FENTON
The Denmark News
Updated from Friday brief
DENMARK – It was hard to determine at times during the D3 regional at Denmark whether the Viking offense was being patient or tentative against Sturgeon Bay’s various defenses.
“It was probably a little bit of both,” said Denmark head coach Cody Stelmach following his team’s 54-36 win in the semifinals on Friday night. “We preach being patient, but it seems we were doing it a little too much to a fault and got out of our attack mode.”
The Vikings, who improved to 19-4, take on Sheboygan Falls in the championship game tonight in Denmark. Last year the Falcons ended Denmark’s season in the semifinals.
While the Denmark offense was at times a bit sluggish on Friday night the defense couldn’t have played much better, especially after a couple of early back-door cuts and lapses netted the Clippers three quick buckets for their only lead of the night at 6-4 three minutes in.
Sturgeon Bay would make only two field goals and score only four points over the final 14:56 of the first half. Denmark failed to put it away, though, and led only 22-10 at intermission after leading scorers Zane Short and Pat Suemnick combined for only four points. Zach Gezella provided the punch with three three-pointers against the Clippers’ 1-3-1 zone.
“It seems we didn’t finish around the rim as well as we usually do,” Stelmach said. “Zane and Pat missed a few easy ones. (On Saturday) we need to make sure we convert around the rim because they’ll play a 1-3-1 zone. It will be a tougher test. (Sheboygan Falls) is smaller but a little more athletic.”
While Short was not scoring much in the early going, he found a way to contribute nonetheless, grabbing 11 first-half rebounds and finishing, unofficially, with 16. He came alive in the second half to finish with 13 points and three assists. Suemnick led all scorers with 17 points and also blocked two shots while defending the Clippers’ talented 6-7 post player Carson Talbert.
Suemnick limited Talbert to 10 points, nine below his average, and altered shots repeatedly when any other Clippers tried to challenge him.
“I was happy with our defensive performance,” Stelmach said. “Pat’s defense was just huge. He’s played against Talbert in AAU, so we didn’t really have to scout him. Pat did a great job in the high post and guarding against that handoff action. He came to play on the defensive end.”
Gezella’s first three of the night erased the Clippers’ only lead as Denmark outscored Sturgeon Bay 18-4 over the final 14 minutes of the half. Brady Jens scored seven of his 11 points in the opening half to help offset the unusually low output from Short and Suemnick.
The Vikings opened the second half with a fast-break dish from Gezella to Suemnick who also was fouled, and Denmark extended the lead to 25-10. But second-half turnovers (the Vikings suffered 10 of their 16 after intermission) allowed the Clippers to hang around. Still, once Short got going, Sturgeon Bay was unable to ever mount a serious challenge.
Denmark finally began attacking the 2-1-2 full-court press and got a rousing dunk from Suemnick off a Jens feed that grew the lead to 38-25 with 6:40 left. The closest the Clippers got the rest of the way was 42-34 with 2:57 left. Denmark converted 12 of 14 free throws the rest of the way to win going away.
The Clippers made only 2 of 12 three-pointers and missed all six of their free-throw attempts. Denmark owned the boards, unofficially, 35-19, with Jens grabbing five. Satori and Short each dished out three assists, while Gezella and Jens added two each.
Denmark made 17 of 36 shots, 4 of 9 from deep, and converted 16 of 23 free throws.
Last year, Sheboygan Falls torched Denmark for 10 three-pointers en route to a 69-51 victory in the regional semis. Jared Petrie, who scored 25 in that game, has graduated, but back is Connor Spielvogel, who went 4 of 8 from three, and Justin Tenpas. Each had 14 in the game.
The Falcons’ 1-3-1 zone dealt fits to the Vikings in last year’s contest. Sheboygan Falls (16-7) is surrendering just 52 points a game and is coming off a 76-65 win over Kewaunee in the other semifinal.
“We just have to make sure we’re not tentative against their zone,” Stelmach said. “We can’t get caught standing around on the outside. We’ve got be aggressive against it. Movement creates confusion in a 1-3-1 zone and that allows for openings with Pat and Zane slashing in. If the guards are aggressive the openings are there.”