State notebook: Not your ordinary Friday for Lutheran

by Dave Boehler
Beacon Sports Editor

Lutheran’s Jacob Ognacevic scores two points in his team’s semifinal victory over McDonell Central on Friday. – Photo by Jenni Pickel

MADISON – Most Friday mornings, Delvin Barnstable is in math or theology class.

Not today.

The Sheboygan Lutheran senior and the rest of the boys basketball team were winning a Division 5 sectional semifinal game that started at 9:05 a.m. against McDonell Central at the Kohl Center in Madison.

“It’s awesome,” he said. “It’s just like a dream come true. It feels so great to see yourself on the Jumbotron, and all the fans around watching you play.”

Yes, the state tournament has that effect on all teams no matter the division.

And to the Crusaders’ credit, they admitted there were a few nerves early, especially since the school hadn’t been to state since 2014.

Crusader Graden Grabowski watches his shot Friday. Lutheran will play for the Division 5 state title at 11 a.m. Saturday – Photo by Jenni Pickel

“At the start, yeah,” Lutheran’s Graden Grabowski said. “It’s a real bright court, a lot of people, huge stadium, but it was a good experience.”

The Macks, who were making their fourth straight trip to state, actually held a 9-4 lead after scoring seven points in a row.

“They came out and they were a lot stronger than we thought,” Grabowski said.

SCOUTING COLUMBUS CATHOLIC: The Dons advanced to the championship game against Lutheran at 11 a.m. Saturday thanks to a last-second shot that resulted in a 69-66 victory over reigning state champion Bangor Friday afternoon.

The shot came from junior guard Tom Nystrom, who did not have any points before that and was attempting just his third shot of the game.

Second-seeded and fourth-ranked Columbus Catholic is 26-2 and is in its first WIAA title game.

Five Dons made the all-Cloverbelt East Conference team, including three on the first team. Five seniors start, highlighted by Bryce Fuerlinger, who averages a team-best 16.6 points per game.

“When one or two of our main guys have an off-night, we have one or two or three others that can step up,” Columbus Catholic coach Joe Konieczny said.

Fuerlinger is also the Dons’ tallest player, but he is only 6-foot-4. Lutheran’s Jacob Ognacevic, who leads his team in scoring with 30 points per game, is 6-7.

WHAT A WHIRLWIND: Lutheran held a pep rally at the school on Thursday and then the team drove to Sun Prairie High School for a shootaround.

After that, the Crusaders checked into their hotel, rested a bit, ate dinner, went to the Kohl Center to watch Manitowoc Roncalli in its semifinal game, went back to the hotel for a team meeting before a 10 p.m. bed time.

Barnstable says he went to sleep at 9:40.

“I was focused,” he said. “As soon as we got done with our meeting, I went straight up to the room and went to bed.”

The team had to wake up by 6:30 Friday morning, but most of them get up that early anyway for school.

And at least one of them did not get up hours before the norm with an excitement for the game similar to that of Christmas morning.

“I wanted to get as much sleep as I could and I really don’t have a problem with sleeping,” Grabowski said. “Around 6:30 coach knocked on the door and we were ready to go.”

NO VACANCY? The WIAA organizes where the teams stay for the tournament, and Lutheran’s hotel was out in Verona. The Madison suburb is 11 miles away but depending on the time of the day, it can take longer than one would think.

“We got the 1 seed but we play at 9:05 and we’re 40 minutes away,” Verhagen said. “We’ll make the best of it.”

VIEWING PARTY: 3 Sheeps Brewing Company in Sheboygan will host a viewing party for the championship game at 11 a.m.

The Brewery will allow students in if they are with a parent or grandparent, and parents will be responsible for minors.

Fans are welcome to bring their own food, order a pizza for delivery, and there will also be a food truck on premise. Coke products and beer from 3 Sheeps will also be on sale.

At night, 3 Sheeps will be the gathering place as well to welcome the team and their families back from Madison.

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