Roncalli coach Joe Rux is aware of the height disparity between his Jets and Brown Deer. Just don’t expect him to care.
When Roncalli (25-1) and Brown Deer (21-5) meet Friday at 9:05 a.m. at the Kohl Center in Madison in a WIAA Division 3 state semifinal, the Falcons will have four players 6-4 or taller, including 6-9 senior Devante Jackson, compared to two for the Jets.
“You look at (Brown Deer) on tape and they’re very athletic and long,” Rux said of the Falcons. “…If you look on paper we don’t match up height-wise. Athleticism-wise we don’t match up at all. We’re a team, though, that relies on our team concepts more than any one individual.”
Jackson leads Brown Deer in scoring at 15.6 points per game but have two more players averaging at least 12 in 6-6 senior forward Jerry Luckett (14.3) and 5-10 junior point guard Lorenzo Byers (12.4).
Brown Deer is a team which likes to utilize a full-court press to get a team out of their rhythm offensively.
“They can do a lot on the defensive side in terms of zones and man-to-man pressures. They will look to control the tempo and create turnovers early,” Rux said about the Falcons’ defensive strategy. “…I think we matchup well based on our discipline and their efforts to create havoc in the full court. We’ve been pretty good at not falling into that trap, taking care of the ball all season. In that regard I like our matchup.”
One of the best ways to beat a press is to spread the floor and shoot effectively from 3-point range, something Roncalli does well and is on the mind of Brown Deer coach Kelly Appleby.
“Roncalli’s ability to shoot from distance is something we’ve taken into consideration,” Appleby said on Sunday in a statewide conference call. “They can shoot 3’s in transition so that might force us to go to a man pressure.”
Rux feels the Jets can also counteract the Falcons’ size by doing what they’ve done all season — play defense.
“We just have to play defense like we always do,” Rux said smiling. “Great help defense is usually what most people want to stress and its something our team has been very good at. We’ve not been hurt bad with teams with post players this year. That’s something we’ll have to do again if we want to have success.”
The Jets have a deep roster to help Rux play whatever matchup he feels gives Roncalli the best chance.
“It’s nice, we’ve been able to mix and match in terms of who’s on the floor at what times against things other teams are doing,” Rux said the benefit of a deep squad. “It’s given us the ability to be very diverse whether we’re seeing a zone or man-to-man we can mix and match our parts to offset it.”
That flexibility translates to the offensive end, which senior guard Nick Stelzer appreciates.
“It’s really nice,” Stelzer said of the Jets ability to spread the load offensively. “Anybody can step up at any one time, we don’t need to rely on one guy so anyone can make plays.”
Stelzer is one of the Jets leading scorers, averaging 13 ppg, second behind teammate Josh Erickson’s 17.2. While no other player averages double figures for Roncalli, the Jets have several players capable of carrying the offense on any given night.
Over the course of the season five different players have either led or tied for the team high in a game. Erickson did so 15 times followed by Stelzer (six), Logan Theisen and Shane Johnson three times each and once by Sam Dudek.
Another offensive threat for the Jets is 3-point specialist and backup point guard Andrew Ahola, who has given Roncalli a spark with his shooting from deep on several occasions.
Erickson said this has been the case all season.
“We’ve had multiple guys hit big shots game in and game out,” Erickson said.
Senior point guard Tyler Heyduk says Roncalli can be effective offensively by staying true to form.
“We can’t rush shots when we get it across,” Heyduk said. “We have to be patient and be smart with the ball. We don’t want to give them a quick shot or a quick breakaway, make smart decisions.”