by Dave Boehler
Beacon Sports Editor
WEST BEND — It must’ve been a good batch of Lucky Charms.
That is what Sheboygan Lutheran’s Jonah Jurss eats before every game, and the way things went Saturday afternoon, he might have more for dinner.
Jurss and Jacob Ognacevic combined for 27 of the Crusaders first 32 points en route to an 83-69 victory over Rio in a Division 5 boys basketball sectional final at West Bend.
“That’s my lucky breakfast,” Jurss said.
Lutheran qualified for its third trip to the WIAA state tournament and first since 2014 – they won the championship in ’12 – and will play Friday morning at the Kohl Center in Madison.
Lutheran’s opponent and game time will be determined based on the re-seeding of the four remaining teams.
“The first thing I’m going to tell them (in the locker room) is how proud I am,” Crusaders’ coach Nick Verhagen said. “They’ve worked so hard – and it sounds cliché – but it’s so true. We’ve done so much stuff in the offseason, and we’ve been at the top of our game from the beginning of the season.”
Lutheran, seeded first in its playoff bracket and ranked second in the final state coaches’ poll, won its sixth game in a row to improve to 25-2.
Second-seeded and tenth-ranked Rio was hoping to reach state for the first time since 1923. But the Vikings, who upset top-seeded and No. 1-ranked Randolph on Thursday, finish with a 22-5 mark after their eight-game winning streak was snapped.
“From the first day of practice, this was our goal,” Ognacevic said. “We knew we had the talent to do it and we knew we had the work ethic to do it. It was just crazy that it came true.”
Ognacevic, a junior who finished with 28 points, scored Lutheran’s first six points and then gave way to his sophomore teammate.
Jurss followed by scoring 12 of the Crusaders’ next 13 points – all on three-pointers. His fifth, from the left wing, gave Lutheran a 26-5 lead with 8 minutes 46 seconds left in the first half.
“Every time I caught the ball and it left my hands, something about that feels different when it’s going in,” Jurss said. “My hands were square on the ball, it left my fingertips and it was going in.”
Jurss began the day averaging just 6.5 points per game and he had only one point in the sectional semifinal, but he matched his season high with 18 points – all on threes.
“We know that Jonah has the ability to do that stuff,” Verhagen said. “It’s all about his confidence. And he was super confident coming in to the shootaround this morning. … It was a big advantage for us, for him to be able to spread that defense out. He can change games that way. I told him before the game, ‘you’ll change this game defensively. Any thing you do offensively is extra for us.’”
When Jurss left the game because of two fouls, Ognacevic again took over. He made a free throw and then converted a three-point play for a 32-10 lead with 6:40 to go.
“I just tried to do whatever I could to help our team win,” he said.
Lutheran also got 18 points from Delvin Barnstable, who loved hearing the student section chant “no school Friday” with 41 seconds left in the game.
“I’m excited about that too,” he said. “I thought it was funny and started laughing. I heard it in school this past week. Everybody wanted us to go to state so they could miss school on Friday.”
Afterward, Lutheran received its sectional championship plaque and students rushed the court. Shortly after, several small children in attendance got autographs from their favorite players.
For Jurss, it was a first-time experience.
“I guess it’s kind of cool, a little kid coming up to you, looking up to you and kind of wishing they were out there too,” Jurss said.