Playing in a jam-packed gymnasium against a team they needed to beat, Columbus Catholic’s Jared Fleischmann took his game to another level.
The Dons’ senior leader scored 32 points, to become the program’s fourth player to reach the 1,000-point milestone, in a convincing 72-52 Cloverbelt Conference victory over Owen-Withee on Friday night.
Fleischmann scored his 1,000th point with 4 minutes, 31 seconds left in the fourth quarter by making both free throws in a 1-and-1 situation. As his teammates and the Columbus fans rose to their feet to show their appreciation for the accomplishment, Fleischmann simply pumped his fist and ran down the court to get back on defense. He scored two more points to bring his career total to 1,002. It was Fleischmann’s second 30-plus game in the past six days.
“It was really a great win,” Fleischmann said. “We focused on this all week because we knew we had to get it. You know, 1,000 points I could feel it, it was there, but I didn’t think I would get it this game. When I got it, the fans went crazy. It was a great feeling.”
That accomplishment gave the whole team a sense of pride.
“It doesn’t get much better than that,” said Dons senior Bryce DeSmet, who finished with 15 points. “I’ve been playing with him my whole life and to see him reach that milestone was great.”
Fleischmann’s historic points put the Dons up 59-40 and they kept charging hard, scoring 13 more to bring their quarter total to 25 points.
“He has a night that was aligned with the stars kind of like we had a few games ago,” O-W coach Russ Weiler said. “We were down by six at halftime and we maybe cut it to three or four, but we were never able to get over the hump. We got the shots we wanted, but we didn’t finish and that was the key to the game.”
With Owen-Withee, Neillsville and Columbus Catholic all tied for the Cloverbelt lead — all with three league losses — and Spencer two games behind, Monday’s games will settle the league race. O-W travels to Neillsville, while the Dons host the Rockets.
“You couldn’t ask for it to be any better with the top four teams playing on the last night of the season,” Weiler said. “It will all come down to it Monday night and I would guess the fans will love it.”
Owen-Withee closed the gap to three points at 27-24 on baskets from Austin Milliren and Kolton Kaduce, only to watch Columbus quickly push the lead back out to six.
When the third quarter ended, the Dons had a commanding 15-point lead. Even the Goerlitz brothers, senior Albert and freshman Josiah, who combined for 35 points, were not able to help their team close the gap.
“It was a great night for our program and for Jared Fleischmann personally, but more important for him, it was a big win for our program,” Dons coach Joe Konieczny said. “To have the atmosphere we had tonight was great with parent’s night and the seniors able to play in front of a crowd like that made it a special night for the Columbus program.
“I think the best four teams in the Eastern Cloverbelt are playing head-to-head Monday and it will be fun. We’re playing a team that we know a lot about and they know us and it will be similar at Neillsville. It’s late February and it’s going to make great games for all of us.”
Leading scorers: O-W, Kolton Kaduce 4, Austin Milliren 9, Bryce Niemi 2, Albert Goerlitz 18, Josiah Goerlitz 17; CC, Alex Baierl 3, Bryce DeSmet 15, Jared Fleischmann 32, Jacob Puent 10, Derek Green 7, Evan Nikolai 5. Free throws: O-W 1-6; CC 18-23. 3-pointers: O-W 3 (J.Goerlitz, Milliren, Kaduce; CC 6 (Baierl, DeSmet 2, Fleischmann 3, Green).
Records: Columbus Catholic 16-4, 14-3 Cloverbelt; Owen-Withee 16-4, 14-3 Cloverbelt.