MADISON – Nate DeYoung knew full well the challenge that was in front of him at the Kohl Center.
Xavier’s 6-foot-4 junior forward was one of several Xavier defenders asked to provide defense on 7-foot-1 Prescott center Owen Hamilton in Saturday’s WIAA Division 3 state championship game.
DeYoung not only helped corral the Northern Illinois recruit on defense, he also added 18 points and 18 rebounds in a superb performance that helped the Hawks upend Prescott 73-47 and claim their first WIAA state title.
It was Xavier’s third championship overall. The Hawks also won WISAA titles in 1963 and 1995.
“With (Hamilton) being 7-1, I just knew that we had to be physical with him and for rebounding,” DeYoung said. “Scoring-wise, I have to credit my teammates for finding me. They would drive in and find me and get assists and then we would get points. I’ve just got to credit my teammates for that.”
Hamilton finished with 21 points and 16 rebounds, but was 9-of-18 from the floor and fouled out with 4:23 remaining in the game.
He was 14-of-15 from the field in scoring 33 points in Prescott’s 74-67 victory over Lake Mills in Thursday’s semifinal.
“(Hamilton) is a kid who takes up so much space in the lane. We hadn’t seen anything like that this year,” Xavier coach Matt Klarner said.
Jack of all trades: Xavier’s Jack Teerlinck was one of the players Klarner turned to in defending Hamilton.
The 6-foot-3 senior has a stout, burly body and was a key player for the Hawks’ football team at outside linebacker last fall.
He played just 10 minutes, but helped thwart Hamilton and also helped out with five rebounds while also scoring a bucket.
“(Hamilton) was definitely a lot taller than me so I knew I had to get into him and force him to take shots or have them directly over me,” Teerlinck said. “I knew I couldn’t let him get into me and then push me in and get right next to the basket.”
Teerlinck joined DeYoung and Will Schlicht along with Henry Egan to help defend Hamilton.
“We had a few game plans to stop him and our first one was to have kind of like a double-team with Will and Nate, just to try and keep him off the glass,” Teerlinck said. “The other game plan was for me to try and push him out of the paint and have him take some further shots, some mid-ranges.”
Keeping Hamilton a few more steps away from the basket made a world of difference, according to Klarner. Teerlinck played a big part in that game plan.
“Jack has played a lot of different times during the season,” Klarner said. “In the playoffs, we cut our rotations down and he hasn’t gotten as many minutes as he got during the regular season. He still went in with the same attitude and same energy and I told him right away after the game on Thursday that we’re going to call on you in the state championship game and he just told me, ‘Yeah, I’ll be ready,’ and he was.”
Cleaning the glass: The Hawks won the rebounding battle in both of their state games against bigger teams, outrebounding Prescott 56-35 on Saturday and Ripon 39-24 in the semifinal.
While Xavier didn’t have a starter over 6-foot-5, the Hawks used hustle and desire to be a force around the glass.
“We have some big kids, but we don’t have 7-1,” Klarner said. “But we talk about it every day in practice, toughness and positioning. That’s how we want to rebound and a drill doesn’t go by where we don’t think about it or talk about it or mention it. I think that’s what makes us different.
“A lot of teams probably say we want to rebound the ball, but every single day we hold our kids accountable for it.”
That doesn’t mean the players don’t complain a little.
“Oh, they get irritated,” Klarner said. “They want to have a day where they don’t have to pound on somebody. And they’re like, ‘Ah, do I have to box out this kid again?’ And we keep on them about it and we don’t let it falter because we know that in a big game like this is when you need it and I thought we did a nice job today.”
High-flying Hawks: Prescott coach Nick Johnson said it was tough to keep up with Xavier’s high-octane offense.
The Cardinals had watched the Hawks get the best of Ripon in Thursday’s state semifinal and knew that the speed and athleticism of Xavier would present a big challenge.
Xavier’s 20-3 run in the first half helped the Hawks build a 34-25 lead that provided the impetus for the victory.
“They’re so good in transition and we stressed the last two days in our practice and our walk-throughs that it’s a turn-and-sprint and you have to get back and build a wall,” Johnson said. “But they’re so good and so quick on how they release and they would send guys down the floor, and then how they finish around the rim.
“I think that was a big part, the first half, when they built that big run and they went on a 20-3 run and they were getting easy buckets. Credit them and I think there was a point there where our guys were getting tired and it showed.”
Second no more: It was Xavier’s third consecutive trip to the Division 3 state championship game. The Hawks lost to Waupun 59-58 last season and to Brown Deer 74-60 in 2015.
Getting the gold on the third try was something sweet for Teerlinck.
“It’s incredible,” he said. “Sure, two silver balls in a row, that’s something to be proud of. But I was tired of silver and I think the team was tired of silver. And the whole Xavier community was tired of silver. To finally go out and get the gold was really special.”
He said it: “Teerlinck came in and Will Schlicht and Nate DeYoung and Henry Egan all stepped up big for us. They did a real good job of guarding him in the post and keeping his numbers down.” — Xavier guard Hunter Plamann, on his team’s defense of Hamilton.