In hallways and rooms beyond the Kohl Center basketball court, players from both teams were talking about motivation after Saturday's Division 2 boys' basketball state title game. "No matter how much we progressed in the playoffs, we weren't going to be happy until we won that gold ball," said Keith Franklin, a senior guard of the newly-crowned Wisconsin Lutheran Vikings. "It was a 180-degree flip from losing last year," said Franklin, referring to his team's 48-40 loss to Pulaski in last year's championship game. Franklin was a junior on that runner-up team. Across the hall Saturday after Wisconsin Lutheran's title game redemption in a 61-46 win over Rice Lake, another guard was also talking motivation. Rice Lake's Ben Widdes, a junior in the same position that Franklin was a year ago, was already looking ahead at the opportunity. "This will be a huge motivator. That's the good thing about this," said Widdes, who returns next season with his junior teammate, 6-foot-10 national college recruit Henry Ellenson. Ellenson was on the same page as Widdes after the championship game loss. "This will put a drive in me to come back next year and win a state championship," said Ellenson. What kept the Warriors from winning a state championship this year was an experienced, determined and fast Wisconsin Lutheran team that never gave up on forcing the tempo. "What we wanted to do we were able to do-influence the game," Wisconsin Lutheran coach Ryan Walz told reporters. "We weren't able to force Pulaski (last year) into tempo and wear them down. This year, we were able to do that in both games." It was an up-tempo game that Rice Lake used successfully itself this season in winning the Big Rivers Conference championship and finishing the season at 23-3 while reaching Madison for the first time since 2002. But Rice Lake Warriors coach Kevin Orr said the speed of his team's title game opponent went beyond a couple of good guards and what his team was used to. "They were so quick, players one through eight. We don't see that night in and night out," said Orr. "We went as far as we could. We're disappointed, but we played a good schedule and were 23 and 3," Orr continued. What the Vikings (26-2) from Milwaukee also had going for them was a defensive plan that worked. "I think they were out of their comfort zone," said Walz of the Warriors on offense. "We got them further away from the arc so it would be difficult to start their motion offense and get the ball into Ellenson." Orr allowed that his team took some quick shots against Lutheran's speed and defense. That contributed to Rice Lake's 35% shooting in the first half, though several shots rimmed out as the Warriors fell behind 12-8 after one quarter and 28-18 at halftime. Lutheran shot only slightly better at 38% in the first half, but added four of seven from the line while Rice Lake missed its only three free throws. Lutheran put the game away over the first 2 minutes of the second half, going on an 8-0 run that included two offensive rebounds and two Rice Lake turnovers. When Widdes drove the lane for a lay-up and Rice Lake's first second half points with 5:30 remaining in the third quarter, the Warriors were down 36-20. Rice Lake never got closer than 14 points the rest of the way. Lutheran shot 56% from the field in the second half and 69% from the line, while keeping the full-court pressure on. Seven of Rice Lake's 13 turnovers came in the second half. "I don't think 13 turnovers is too bad against this team. Ben (Widdes) did a nice job against the press," said Orr. "Some drives we just didn't finish. We didn't shoot the ball well, and some of that you have to credit Wisconsin Lutheran's defense." Widdes said it took awhile to get used to Lutheran's speed and pressure, but the tough 6-foot guard added, "We got some fast-break points too." The Vikings put 6-foot-5 senior Milton Cummings on Ellenson and also often had a player in front of Rice Lake's big man. Ellenson still managed his second straight double-double at state with 21 points and 12 rebounds, but seven of his 17 shot attempts came from behind the three-point arc. Widdes added seven points, four assists and five rebounds, while senior Shawn Magee, who scored 18 points in Rice Lake's 70-58 semifinal win Friday, added six points. Magee scored all of his points in the third quarter after sitting out some of the first half with two fouls. "I think we rushed our shots more than we wanted to. They were all pretty quick," said Magee. Magee noted that Lutheran got good shots by making extra passes. The Vikings finished with 14 assists, including five by senior point guard Dez Cockroft. Forward Anthony Carver, a 6-foot-3 junior, led Lutheran with 18 points, coming on 8 of 13 two-point field goals and two free throws. Carver said his team was determined on state redemption. "Of our five keys to get to state, the top one was to be determined in every game. Be determined," said Carver. The Vikings took only 10 three-point shots-making four-as they were bent on slashing to the bucket and dishing off to the open shooter. Wisconsin Lutheran ends its title run on a 19-game winning streak. In the midst of that streak, the Vikings posted an impressive 62-52 win over Germanton, which won the Division 1 state title Saturday night. Magee was one of three seniors starting his last game on the big stage Saturday night, and one of eight seniors on Rice Lake's roster. "There's no better place to end a career than at state. We wanted to win (the title) but it was pretty satisfying. I couldn't be with a better bunch of kids," said Magee. Magee said he had watched the excitement of championship night from the stands at the Kohl Center in past years. Saturday, when the spotlights came on for player introductions, it was a different story. "It's a lot different when you're actually playing in the game. I'll never forget it," said Magee.
Posted: Thursday, March 20, 2014
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COULDN'T BE MORE PROUD OF THE RL WARRIORS BOYS HOOOPSTERS! IT WAS AN HONOR AND A PLEASURE TO HAVE BEEN ABLE TO BROADCAST THEIR GAMES THIS SEASON! THANKS FOR A GREAT SEASON LADS! LOOKIN FORWARD TO NEXT YEAR ALREADY!