By KELLY FENTON
The Denmark News
updated from Thursday’s game brief
DENMARK – For the first 16 minutes of the Division 3 semifinal between Denmark and Waupun, the Vikings, decided underdogs, were trading punch for punch, trailed by one and were an in-and-out Zane Short three-pointer from grabbing their first lead in the waning moments of the first half.
Waupun, winners of the 25 of 26 coming in by an average margin of 28 points, then outscored Denmark 9-2 the rest of the way, getting a 28-footer at the buzzer from leading scorer Marcus Domask to carry a 32-24 lead – and all the momentum — into intermission.
Not necessarily. Denmark’s defense limited one of the top offensive teams in D3 to exactly no field goals over the first seven minutes of the second half. An opportunity for the Vikings to draw even or finally grab a lead presented itself. A chance to put all the pressure on the second-seeded Warriors.
Over those seven basketless Waupun minutes, Denmark made up no ground, getting only a couple of Zane Short buckets inside that matched Waupun’s four free throws and the eight-point lead that opened the half was still eight by the time Waupun’s Reece Homan collected one of the Warriors’ 11 offensive rebounds and stuck it back to push the lead to double digits for the first time of the afternoon.
That missed opportunity seemed to be the key in Denmark’s season-ending 60-43 loss to Waupun at the Kohl Center in Madison on Thursday afternoon.
“I’m proud of our guys,” said Denmark head coach Cody Stelmach, who had to bid farewell to his five starters, who were all freshman when he took over the program. “They left it all out there on the floor. There were just a couple of opportunities here or there where we couldn’t quite put a run together in order to be in a position to tie the ball game up.
“But it was a great environment and a fun experience, and I know when these kids get a chance to look back on it, they’ll be pretty proud of themselves.”
Waupun will take on top-ranked Martin Luther (Milwaukee) in the D3 championship on Saturday and will be trying to grab a second crown in four seasons as well as avenge their only loss this year.
Though the Warriors drew as close as seven on Short’s fourth straight Denmark bucket midway through the second half, Waupun used runs of 8-0 and 10-0 over a seven-minute span to put it away and Denmark’s magical season concluded at 23-5.
This Viking squad, comprised of five close-knit senior starters who had played together many for close to a decade, was the first to reach the state tournament since 1985 and only the fourth overall. It is certain to be a team that will be remembered among the school’s greats.
While the Waupun offense, which came in averaging 72 a game, struggled against Denmark’s signature man-to-man defense, its defense picked up the slack, limiting Denmark to just 35.4 percent shooting overall. The rangy Warriors made nothing easy inside as the Vikings missed a bushel basket of bunnies that they normally make and were just 5 of 16 from three as well.
“We were trying to get our normal offense going with our bigs posting up,” Short said. “But when the shots aren’t falling, they aren’t falling. We were trying but they just weren’t falling.”
And while 6-8 post man Patrick Suemnick defended the enormously talented Northern Kentucky-bound Domask brilliantly, his presence on the perimeter denied Denmark its top rebounder inside and Waupun took full advantage to finish with a 15-rebound margin that led to eight second-chance points. Waupun’s pressure half-court defense also snagged six steals that resulted in six fast-break points. Denmark, in contrast, had no second-chance or fast-break points.
Until Domask scored 10 points over a three-minute span late in the game to seal the deal for the Warriors, he struggled. Even with that spurt his 21 points was six below his average.
“We had talked about a couple of different match-ups but Patrick sent me a message earlier in the week and said, Coach, I want (to cover Domask) and that set the tone and we knew he was going to be ready for the challenge and it was a phenomenal job on his end,” Stelmach said. “Patrick did as good a job on him as you could because (Domask) is a phenomenal player and he’s going to find a way to put the ball in the basket.”
Suemnick swatted away three Domask shots in the first half.
“(Suemnick) is a good defender,” Marcus Domask said. “He got me a few times and I kind of learned from it and used more shot fakes to get him in foul trouble. We knew Denmark’s strength was those big guys, so we knew we had to limit their chances and keep them off the glass and take away their strength.”
Short led the way for the Warriors with 16 points, none coming easy. Suemnick, who had nine points in the first half, managed only one more basket after sitting a good portion of the second half with four fouls. Suemnick’s final bucket put an exclamation point on his nearly 1,000-point career when he skied above the basket for an alley-oop dunk off Short’s delivery. You can add that one to a highlight reel filled with just such plays.
Waupun ‘D’ the Difference
But only Zach Gezella with six had more than three for Denmark as Waupun chased point guard Brady Jens way out on the perimeter, often doubling him on the wings and denying him entry passes. Jens, a 1,000-point career scorer could get off only three shots and finished with two points. That left it to Short to do what he does best – create. But 6-4 Quintin Winterfeldt was ready for him and hounded him into 7 of 23 shooting. Still, it was Short who kept Denmark in it early in the second half when Suemnick went to the bench after picking up his third and fourth fouls.
“We tried to use three to stop two,” Waupun Coach Dan Domask said. “Man on man (Short and Suemnick) are going to get clean looks and we try not to give anything too golden to anybody, so our guards did a good job skirmishing in on post play and making shots difficult.”
Stelmach agreed that the Warrior defense was a big factor.
“That’s a big piece of what they do,” he said. “We wanted to get Zane and Patrick on the blocks but without Patrick we had to shift to a four-guard offense and that makes it easier for Waupun to sink down and focus on Zane and double down on him.
“They also do a good job of pushing your offense out,” he added. “So your offense is starting way out and that makes it difficult to get those post entry feeds.”
The Vikings never led but matched baskets over the first nine minutes and were tied 12-12 before an 8-2 Waupun run gave the Warriors a 20-14 lead. An 8-3 Denmark run that included a Gezella three, a Jens acrobatic scoop and Suemnick’s spinner in the lane had the lead to one before that 9-2 Warrior run closed the half.
Waupun grew the lead to 14 with 8:07 left when Denmark threw its final punch, getting back-to-back threes from Gezella and sophomore Brennen Miller to draw within eight. That’s when Domask took over, scoring eight points during a 10-0 run that extended the lead to 18.
The normally sharp-shooting Warriors made only 2 of 11 from deep but went inside to knock down 21 of 39. They outscored Denmark, 42-24, in the paint.
Jack Satori hit an early three for Denmark and finished with three points, and two assists, while Jens added four rebounds and a pair of assists. Short led Denmark with eight rebounds, while Suemnick grabbed three boards and added three assists and a pair of steals.
“Obviously we’ve been together, some of us since second grade,” Short said of playing his final game with Suemnick, Jens, Satori and Gezella. “We’ve grown very close as a unit. I love those guys like they’re my brothers. I’d do anything for them.
“It’s sad to say it’s over. But we all knew it had to come to an end some day and we wanted to go out with a bang. It’s the first time in a long time for a Denmark team getting here. I mean, it’s not the end result we wanted, but it’s going to have to do.”