FOND DU LAC – The Bay Port boys basketball team had the talent to make a run to the WIAA state tournament this season.
That’s what will make the Pirates’ 85-75 loss to Hartland Arrowhead in a Division 1 sectional semifinal on Thursday night at Fond du Lac High School even more difficult to accept.
“I think so,” said Bay Port coach Nate Rykal, whose team had won 18 straight entering sectionals. “We had a chance to win this game and didn’t pull through, and we are a team that has pulled through 18 in a row and 22 out of 25 where we have done the right thing and been able to win.
“Yeah, it stings. It stings a lot. I told the guys in the locker room that it’s going to sting for a long time. It’s something that they will probably never forget, because it’s a game that I think we had.”
Indeed, the final score didn’t reflect how close this game was or just how decent a position Bay Port was in to win it.
The Pirates (22-3) led by two points with just under three minutes remaining when everything quickly and completely unraveled.
It started with a deep 3-pointer from Arrowhead senior guard Marko Matejic on a set play.
Matejic had gotten open thanks to a screen from big man Ben Seefeld, and it shifted the momentum entirely over to his team.
“That was a huge, huge play,” Arrowhead coach Craig Haase said. “We took the lead and we just kept going from there.”
It started an 11-0 run that put the Warhawks up 81-72 with 58 seconds remaining.
Trevell Cunningham and Alec Hamilton followed with layups after Matejic’s big shot. Tommy Durand and Seefeld each added two free throws.
The Pirates missed 12 of their final 13 shots.
It was the first time all season Bay Port had allowed 80 or more points. It just could not come up with enough stops no matter what it attempted.
When it couldn’t contain Arrowhead’s dribble penetration, it went to a zone only to watch the Warhawks hit a 3. The Pirates did that three times, and each time it ended with the same result.
Bay Port, meanwhile, was outscored 57-46 in the paint.
“Darned if you do, darned if you don’t,” Rykal said.
Arrowhead (20-5) shot 50 percent overall (33-for-66) and 50 percent from 3-point range (6-for-12). It was consistently good throughout, shooting 50 percent in both the first and second half.
The Warhawks had five players finish in double figures, led by Seefeld’s 18. Durand and Cunningham each had 16, while Hamilton had 14 and Matejic 12.
It appeared to be Bay Port’s game early after it scored 17 of the first 23 points and hit seven of its first nine attempts that included three 3-pointers.
Arrowhead immediately responded with a 14-2 run to take its first lead, but Bay Port built its advantage back to nine with 6 minutes, 24 seconds left in the half.
The Pirates shot 60 percent in the first 18 minutes, but had to settle for a tie at halftime after the Warhawks scored the final five points in the closing minute.
It included a 3 that was banked in at the buzzer from Durand, one that he did not appear to get off before the horn sounded.
Haase was asked if he thought the shot got off in time. He paused and sort of smiled.
“No comment,” he said.
Rykal also didn’t think it should have counted
“It’s a huge momentum swing,” Rykal said. “I’m pretty sure if you watch it on tape, I don’t know positively, but I thought for sure it was still in his hand.
“You can’t do anything about that. They thought it went in. That’s an extra three points. That’s a huge swing.”
There were five ties in the second half until Arrowhead finally took control.
The Pirates shot 29.6 percent in the final 18 minutes when they needed just a few more baskets to perhaps change what happened late.
It ruined a big game from junior forward Jack Plumb, who had 22 points and 10 rebounds and drew praise from Haase afterward.
Jordan Nolle and Jake Stelzer each added 15 for Bay Port.
“You have got to give them a ton of credit for making plays,” Rykal said. “(Matejic) hits that huge 3, and (Durand) made some big plays down the stretch for them.
“It’s just really difficult. The guys played really hard, we just didn’t get enough stops and they made a lot of plays. They made a lot of plays that I didn’t see them make on tape before. It’s unfortunate they made them against us.”
Hartland Arrowhead…42 43 – 85
Bay Port…42 33 – 75
HARTLAND ARROWHEAD – Cunningham 16, Durand 16, Hamilton 14, Given 6, Seefeld 18, Matejic 12, Sharma 1, Chycinski 2. 3-pt: Matejic 4, Durand 2. FT: 13-17.
BAY PORT – Tinch 5, Stelzer 15, Frieder 9, Nolle 15, Plumb 22, Johnson 2, Nagel 3, Maternoski 4. 3-pt: Nolle 3, Stelzer 3, Tinch, Frieder, Nagel. FT: 14-22.