Lutheran’s chance to repeat as state champ is over

Boys basketball sectional finals – and state tournament – called off

The Crusaders, shown after winning the regional title, will not have a chance to defend their state title. – Photo by Jenni Pickel

Reigning state champion Sheboygan Lutheran got to enjoy its boys basketball sectional semifinal victory Thursday night for about 2½ hours.

Then the news came: the WIAA cancelled the rest of the season – including the girls state tournament that already started – because of the Coronavirus.

Lutheran sophomore Casey Verhagen saw it on social media around 11:30 p.m.

He went upstairs to interrupt his father/coach, who was watching film, taking notes and texting his assistants about Randolph, which was supposed to be the Crusaders’ next opponent in a sectional final on Saturday.

“Casey was my informant and then my phone went wild,” Nick Verhagen said.

Just like that, Lutheran’s plans of becoming the first Division 5 team to win back-to-back championships were over.

“We tried to say the right things as his dad and as his coach and his mother and someone that supports him in everything he does,” Verhagen said, “But from my world, there’s nothing on this planet besides his family, his faith, his school that matters more to Casey than basketball. And competing for something that’s like right next door. It’s just right there. There’s a wall that’s been put up for him. As a young man, as a 15-year-old boy, there’s a not-fairness that I can see through that.”

And just like that, senior Jacob Ognacevic played his final high school game shortly after the Valparaiso recruit became the third boy in Wisconsin to score 1,000 points in a season.

“I know that Jacob had the same emotion,” Verhagen said. “He was a little more composed this morning, but I knew that Casey is not the only one. I’m sure that across the state, for the young men and women that are still hopeful to see this season through, I’m sure that they’re not the only ones that had the same reaction.”

The coach will meet with his team after school and already knows one thing he’ll say, among many others.

“Let’s hit pause and let’s take care of the people in our life, and our family, and our faith, and our school,” Verhagen said. “And then we’ll realign ourselves as a basketball program in the next couple of days.”

By then, however, school might not even be open any more.

“Because if you’re not going to allow 160 people to congregate in a gym or 250 people congregate in one location – I just got a message that church is cancelled on Sunday – if you’re not going to allow those things to happen, how do you allow school to continue?” Verhagen said. “How are you going to be able to make those things connect? There’s no way that you can say state basketball can’t have 170-200 people in a gym at the same time and church can’t have 250 people at the same time, but school can?

“There’s no way.”

Categories: Sports

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