GREEN BAY – After withstanding every comeback attempt made, the Lena boys basketball team could not stop one more, falling 79-74 in overtime to Gresham in a WIAA Division 5 sectional semifinal Thursday night held at Green Bay Preble.
Up 68-57 with under a minute left, it seemed No. 3 Lena (20-6) was on its way to the sectional final and an upset of the No. 1 seed, until a score by Gresham (23-3) and two Lena turnovers on inbound plays changed the game.
Coming out of a timeout with 35 seconds left, down 68-60, Gresham’s Neal Cerveny took over, scoring eight points after on two turnovers, including a four-point play to force overtime. Cerveny led all scorers with 33 points.
In overtime, both teams went back and forth as Connor Heise score four points for Lena for a 72-71 lead before fouling out. The lead would be the last for Lena as Todd Otradovec recorded four unanswered points for Gresham.
Even Gresham head coach Jeff Zobeck was surprised, but his team made plays when it mattered most.
“We never gave up, we battled back and gave ourselves a chance to win and that is all I can ask for,” Zobeck said. “Even inside a minute I didn’t give us a chance, but the kids kept playing, we played really well when we needed to.”
For Lena head coach Jeff Heimke, the final minute will be a tough to forget, but he will remember the drive and effort of his players.
“We played 35 minutes, that’s what it basically came down to,” Heimke said. “Can’t question the heart and character of our kids, that’s what I’ll remember most about these seniors, the heart and effort they played every night. This is going to take a lot of time to shake off.”
Free-throw struggles plagued Lena down the stretch, up 68-66, Hunter Borchert missed two free-throw attempts that were followed by Cerveny forcing overtime with a lay-up.
As a team, Lena shot 16-for-29 at the free-throw line, but made only two in the final six attempts.
“We’ve been in so many close games this year and able to finish them,” Heimke said. “Turnovers and missed free throws tonight in the last minute just kill you.”
The game began with no scoring the first five minutes, but Lena took control with Heise and Borchert leading the way to a 30-21 halftime lead.
Heise led Lena in scoring with 25 points, while Hunter Borchert tallied 23 and Dalton Anderson had 13.
For Gresham, Otradovec recorded 15 points, while Drew Haffner scored 13 and Ray Creapeau totaled 12. Gresham had eight-three pointers as team and shot 13-for-21 from the 3-point line.
Gresham moves on to the sectional final to face Columbus Catholic (24-2) on Saturday at D.C. Everest.
Lena…30 38 6 – 74
Gresham…21 47 11 – 79
LENA – R. Marquardt 3, C. Borchert 5, Anderson 13, H. Borchert 23, Heise 25, Lange 5. 3-pt: Anderson 3, H. Borchert 2, Lange 1. FT: 16-29. F: 19. Fouled out: Heise
GRESHAM – Haffner 13, Skenandore 2, Creapeau 12, Cerveny 33, Bowman 4, Otradovec 15. 3-pt: Haffner 3, Creapeau 3, Cerveny 2 . FT: 13-21. F: 21. Fouled out: Cerveny