West De Pere’s Cody Schwartz at the end of the Division 2 semifinal basketball game against Mount Horeb in the 100th annual WIAA State Boys Basketball Tournament at the Kohl Center on Friday, March 20, 2015, in Madison, Wis.
MADISON – The West De Pere boys basketball team overcame a lot of obstacles this season.
But the one the Phantoms ran into Friday at the Kohl Center proved to be too large of a hurdle.
A bigger Mount Horeb team slowly took its toll on the Phantoms during a 65-53 loss in a WIAA Division 2 state semifinal game.
After leading at the end of the first three quarters, West De Pere was done in by a 17-2 Vikings’ run early in the fourth quarter.
Mount Horeb (22-5) advances to face Rice Lake (22-5) in Saturday’s D2 championship game.
The Vikings had four of their starters – all with heights between 6-foot-2 and 6-foot-6 – score in double figures. Mount Horeb also held a commanding 34-19 rebounding edge over the Phantoms, who fell in the state semifinals for a second straight year.
“Looking on film, I didn’t think they were as big as they were,” West De Pere senior Cody Schwartz said. “Then we got on the court and they had five solid big guys. We knew one guy was going to be in a mismatch no matter who we shifted. That was just tough to play against that size.”
Schwartz scored a game-high 24 points, including 18 in the first half, when he went 4-for-7 from 3-point range.
But the 6-foot-8 San Jose State recruit was held without a field goal in the second half until there was 5 minutes, 18 seconds remaining in the game. Schwartz also posted nine rebounds before fouling out of the game.
The Bay Conference player of the year said the Vikings’ constant chasing and pressure on him eventually took its toll.
“I thought Cody made some really tough shots in the first half over a hand,” Mount Horeb coach Todd Nesheim said. “I felt if we just stuck with it, maybe the second half he wouldn’t make as many. That’s kind of what we banked on at halftime, just stay patient with what we do.”
West De Pere came into the game shooting 39.7 percent from 3-point range. Perimeter shooting helped carry the Phantoms to victories over three state ranked teams in the playoffs.
They started Friday’s contest going 6-for-13 from that distance in the first half to take a 29-26 lead.
But the Phantoms shot just 1-for-12 on 3-pointers in the second half, including a crushing stretch of four straight possessions in the fourth quarter with missed treys during the Vikings’ run.
“We kind of lost ourselves,” said West De Pere senior Zack Sanders, who scored 13 points. “We lost our focus. We didn’t play with that same teamwork that we did the rest of the playoffs. That’s what killed us.”
Senior Connor Konshak also finished with 13 points. Konshak had to move to point guard at times when senior Gehret Evans got into foul trouble.
But the Phantoms ultimately couldn’t shoot themselves out of trouble in the fourth quarter.
“I think we kind of panicked a little bit on offense and took some questionable shots,” Schwartz said.
There’s no questioning what Schwartz has meant to the program. He finishes his prep career as West De Pere’s all-time leading scorer with 1,639 career points.
But more importantly, Schwartz helped lead a program to back-to-back state appearances after it hadn’t advanced that far since 1933.
“It’s been for me a great four years in general,” Schwartz said. “To get West De Pere on the map as a basketball team is a good feeling.”
Schwartz was one of eight seniors on the team. The group had high goals coming into high school after winning a youth state title in eighth grade.
West De Pere coach Andy Werner said the “elite eight” lived up to those expectations.
“These guys, this senior group in particular, has inspired the youth of West De Pere,” Werner said. “These are the cornerstones of the program. … These guys do a great job of making basketball something special in West De Pere.”
— apekarek@pressgazette media.com and follow him on Twitter @andrewpekarek
Mount Horeb … 17 9 16 23 – 65
West De Pere … 18 11 14 10 – 53
MH: Recknor 11, Meylor 18, Nesheim 12, Lesar 9, Fredrickson 11. 3-pt: Meylor 1, Fredrickson 1, Arneson 1. FT: 20-26. F: 14.
WDP: Schwartz 24, Sanders 13, Bostedt 3, Konshak 13. 3-pt: Schwartz 4, Sanders 2, Bostedt 1. FT: 6-9. F: 18. Fouled out: Schwartz.