by Dave Boehler
Beacon Sports Editor
Watch Sam Dekker hit a game-winning shot in 2012 to lift Lutheran to a one-point victory over Racine Lutheran in the Division 5 state championship game. Video by Dave Boehler
It was the shot heard round Sheboygan: Sam Dekker’s last-second game-winning three-pointer to give Sheboygan Lutheran a 67-66 victory over Racine Lutheran in the Division 5 boys state basketball championship game.
It was March 17, 2012, and current Crusaders’ head coach Nick Verhagen was on the sideline as an assistant.
Lutheran trailed by two points and called timeout with about 13 seconds left.
The Crusaders had to inbound the ball and go the entire length of the court, so Verhagen and the rest of the coaching staff thought Dekker would get double-teamed at the very least. Maybe the defense would even throw three players at him.
But Lutheran was able to easily inbound the ball to Dekker, who dribbled toward half court with just one defender – Niko Graf – on him.
There was another defender waiting for Dekker at halfcourt, but he ended up being useless as Dekker drove past him toward the right baseline.
“I remember thinking I couldn’t believe he got the ball,” Verhagen said. “And I couldn’t believe that they weren’t doing something more to stop him. I couldn’t believe they let him get the basketball on the run.”
Dekker continued dribbling to the right corner with Graf following him.
With 6.3 seconds left, Dekker pulled up for a three-pointer with Graf’s left hand in his face and drained the game-winning shot.
Verhagen recalled Dekker, who now plays in the NBA, saying in the timeout he was going to shoot a three-pointer.
“It was a shot and a situation that will live in Wisconsin high school history forever,” he said.
Verhagen’s son, Casey Verhagen, is a freshman on this year’s team and he was sitting next to his mom in the stands at the Kohl Center.
“We just jumped around,” Casey said. “It was an awesome feeling. Seeing everybody there was just awesome.”
Racine Lutheran attempted a half-court shot that hit the backboard but really wasn’t close to going in, as Dekker already had both arms raised as he triumphantly walked near halfcourt. He glanced into the stands and then was mobbed by his teammates to celebrate the Crusaders’ first WIAA state title.
Lutheran junior Jacob Ognacevic, who recently broke Dekker’s single-season rebounding record, watched the game with his parents on TV.
“I think the last sequence of plays I was pretty shocked,” Ognacevic said. “I was pretty young – I was 10 so I don’t remember much – but I remember him sinking like three 3s at the end of the game and it was just crazy.”
Lutheran trailed by seven points with under 40 seconds to go.
Dekker made a layup and was fouled for a three-point play to cut the deficit to 65-61 with 30 seconds left.
Racine Lutheran missed two free throws and Dekker hit a three-pointer to cut the margin to 65-64 with 15 seconds left.
Racine Lutheran made one of two free throws for the 66-64 lead, and current senior Graden Grabowski, who watched the game on TV, still remembers the next shot was from the right corner.
“It’s really crazy, because when you’re watching Sam Dekker, you never think you’re actually going to get (to state),” Grabowski said. “Then senior year comes and you’re ranked No. 1 (in the state) so you think it might be possible. But there can be a lot of hardships through the season. It’s just really cool to actually be able to go.”
Lutheran plays Chippewa Falls McDonell in a semifinal game at 9:05 a.m. Friday.
I’ll be covering the game just like I did back in 2012 for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Back then, I thought I’d use my phone to videotape the shot for the sole purpose of having my own instant ‘replay’ in case something happened, and to be able to describe it as best as possible in the newspaper.
Instead, I left the Kohl Center with quite the souvenir.