Crusaders share boys basketball title with Oostburg, Howards Grove
by Dave Boehler
Beacon Sports Editor
OOSTBURG – Sheboygan Lutheran’s first loss of the season cost the boys basketball team sole possession of first place Monday night.
The Crusaders, ranked No. 1 in the Division 5 state poll by the coaches’ association, suffered a 76-64 loss at Oostburg.
Had Lutheran won, it would not have had to share the Big East Conference championship.
Instead, the Crusaders (17-1 overall), the Flying Dutchmen and Howards Grove – the Tigers defeated Random Lake Monday – have to split first place after a wild final night of the regular-season league schedule.
So after finishing 12-1 in the Big East and watching their 23-game winning streak in league games (not including conference tournament action) come to an end, how does Crusaders’ coach Nick Verhagen look at the result?
“As the best thing that could possibly happen to us,” he said. “It has to be. We don’t have any other option, and how these young men handle adversity, because they haven’t faced that very much – if at all. Some of them haven’t lost, ever, in high school.
“So it’s how we respond to this and how we absorb this feeling, and remember what it feels like and never want to feel it again.”
Oostburg, also 12-1 (15-2 overall), was able to claim its first conference championship since 2013 as a result 21 points from Derek Oonk and 18 from Cam Jaeger.
A basket by Gradem Grabowski gave Lutheran its last lead of the night, 36-34, when the Flying Dutchmen answered with an 8-0 run that was capped with 13 minutes 56 seconds remaining.
“They were just really patient against the things we were doing offensively,” Verhagen said. “And our shots didn’t drop. We were 1 of 14, I think, from three in the second half. The three-point shots have got us through a couple of games in the past. The second half, our threes were just there and didn’t drop. In the past, we hit those and we overcome some runs.”
Another Oostburg run, this one by a 9-0 count, was the knockout punch.
During that time, Lutheran’s deficit went from five points to 14 after missing five shots, including four from three-point range.
A basket by Logan Brock gave the Flying Dutchmen a 64-50 lead with 5:24 to go.
“It’s disappointing, but our defense was lackadaisical,” Crusader Delvin Barnstable said. “I feel like we could’ve done better. … We were missing shots, turning the ball over and not playing the greatest defense.”
A slam dunk by Jacob Ognacevic, however, got Lutheran within 66-60 with 2:42 remaining. The junior, who finished with 33 points, thought the comeback was on.
“Yeah, of course,” Ognacevic said. “It was a three-possession game and I felt we could’ve come back. But they hit a tough three, and that’s just how it goes sometimes.”
Oostburg’s next possession resulted in a three-pointer from the left wing from Jaeger for a nine-point lead with 2:26 left.
“They found me and I was able to knock it down,” Jaeger said.
And bump his team and Howards Grove into a three-way tie for first heading into the Big East tournament this weekend.
“It’s neat to do it with a good group of guys,” Oostburg coach Kevin Bruggink said. “These guys handle themselves pretty well on and off the floor, so that makes it extra special.”