by Dave Boehler
Beacon Sports Editor
MADISON – Delvin Barnstable, take a final bow. Jacob Ognacevic, the encore is all yours.
The two Sheboygan Lutheran boys basketball players – Barnstable a senior and Ognacevic a junior – combined to score 32 of their team’s first 38 points to carry the Crusaders to a 77-69 victory over Marshfield Columbus Catholic in the Division 5 state championship game this afternoon at the Kohl Center.
Top-seeded and second-ranked Lutheran finishes with a 27-2 record in winning state for the first time since 2012. The Crusaders are also the first boys team from Sheboygan to claim two WIAA state titles.
“It just feels amazing,” Ognacevic said. “We’ve put in a lot of work into this, especially Coach. He’s always watching film, always looking out for us. Not just on the basketball court, like outside, too. He’s trying to make us better people, and I’m very grateful for that. I’m just happy that we could win it for him, the team too, and the school.”
Ognacevic not only finished with 35 points on 14-of-23 shooting, he broke a Division 5 record with 19 rebounds to erase the previous mark of 17 set by Drummond’s Ben Best in 2012. Ognacevic’s two-game tournament total of 33 rebounds also erased former Lutheran standout Sam Dekker’s total of 29, also held since 2012.
“It’s pretty cool,” he said. “It feels good to break those records. It wasn’t really my goal but I’m happy that I broke it.”
Columbus Catholic coach Joe Konieczny admitted there was nothing his team could do to slow down Ognacevic.
“He was actually the one we were trying to key on,” he said.
Barnstable contributed 17 points – all in the first half – to go with four rebounds and three steals.
“I think me and him just came out to really prove something,” Barnstable said. “We got us off to a good start and it carried through the rest of the game.”
Second-seeded and fourth-ranked Columbus Catholic, which ends with a 26-3 mark after reaching its first WIAA championship game, gave up the first nine points and trailed the entire contest.
Barnstable started the game with a basket and three-pointer before Ognacevic scored the next six points.
Barnstable added a free throw and Ognacevic sank a three-pointer from the right wing, as the two combined to give Lutheran a 15-5 lead with 11:55 left.
Later, Barnstable went on a personal 8-0 run, capped by a four-point play – he swished a three and was fouled on the play – to give the Crusaders a 38-27 lead with 3:21 left.
It was part of a 20-6 run by Lutheran at the end of the half to give the team a 49-31 advantage at the break.
The Crusaders seemed to be in control until Columbus Catholic scored eight points in a row to get within 70-66 – the smallest deficit since 29-25 – with just 1 minutes 16 seconds left. The margin was also four points with 44 seconds to go but Ognacevic scored the final four points of the game.
“I just thought to myself, ‘I can’t let this happen. We’ve got to go out with a state championship,’” he said.
Now, Ognacevic hopes his encore leads Lutheran to another championship next season to make the Crusaders the first to claim back-to-back titles since Division 5 was formed in 2011.
Other highlights of the game included senior Graden Grabowski adding eight points and freshman Casey Verhagen tying a Division 5 record for most assists in a game with 11 assists and setting a record for most in a tournament with 20.
“I give a lot of credit to my coaches,” Casey said. “They watched film after the semifinal win for like three or four hours. I think I excel against the zone (defense). Some of my teammates are cutting to the rim all the time, and they were able to hit shots.”
Also, freshman Robby Michael played a key role off the bench by matching his season-best for points with 10 by making all three of his shots and both free throws.
Michael’s grandfather would have been at the game but he had to watch on television from Sheboygan because of terminal cancer.
“When I finished the game I thought about him,” Michael said. “I think he was proud that he saw me play to my potential.”