By Paul Lecker
PULASKI – The size of Gibraltar caused Marshfield Columbus Catholic problems from the start, but the Dons were able to fight for a full 36 minutes.
In the end, however, the effort by the Dons was just not enough as Gibraltar grinded out a 55-49 win in a WIAA Division 5 boys basketball sectional final Saturday night at Pulaski High School.
Gilbraltar (19-10), winners of 13 of its last 14 games, moves on to its first state tournament, while Columbus Catholic finishes another great season with a 24-5 record.
Gibraltar will play Randolph in a Division 5 semifinal Friday at 9 a.m. at the 2022 WIAA State Boys Basketball Tournament, which will be held Thursday-Saturday at the Kohl Center in Madison.
Columbus Catholic was held to 35 percent shooting (16-for-46) and made just four of 20 3-point attempts as the Vikings’ defense, led by 6-foot-7 Will Friedenfels and 7-footer Trevor Ash underneath, was too much to overcome.
“I just think that we didn’t have enough ball pressure at the end, their passes were too easy, and 7-foot is 7-foot,” Columbus Catholic coach Joe Konieczny said. “I thought our guys played valiantly, we just didn’t shoot it quite well enough, and in some key situations, we just didn’t take care of the basketball.
“I hope that in due time they can reflect on it and know they had a great season.”
The teams exchanged blows early, with a 3-pointer from Charlie Moore and a three-point play giving the Dons an 18-12 lead.
Jakobi made a 3-pointer and Lucas Kreklau added a free throw to push the lead to 22-15 with 6:13 left in the half, before the Dons went cold.
Gibraltar scored the next 10 points, the final two on a dunk by Friedenfels, to pull ahead by three.
Columbus went 4 ½ minutes without scoring before two free throws by Cole Noreen and a basket by Grant Olson tied the game at 26-26.
The Vikings scored the final five points of the half, which included a 3-pointer by Jake Schar at the buzzer, to take a 31-26 lead into intermission.
Gibraltar never trailed again, but it was tight the rest of the way.
Sam Wilczek had a basket and a 3-pointer in the opening 1:10 of the second half for the Dons to tie the game at 31-31, but they went through another scoreless streak of 3½ minutes and the Vikings pulled ahead for good.
Baskets by Ash and Friedenfels, and a 3-pointer by Sammuel Lindenberg put the Vikings up 40-34.
Columbus crawled back to within three at 52-49 with 1:06 left as Gibraltar struggled at the free throw line, missing four in a row.
However, the Dons were unable to score again as Lindenberg and Friedenfels had blocked shots, and the Vikings made three of their final five free throws to finish off the win.
Schar finished with 14 points, and Friedenfels and Ash combined to go 11-for-11 from the field as each scored 13 points for Gibraltar.
Wilczek had a team-high 11 points in his final game for Columbus. Emmitt Konieczny added 10.
“Part of it (the shooting struggles) was that their length bothered us, and part of it was that they were being really physical with our guards and we didn’t handle it well,” Joe Konieczny said. “We never really adjusted the way we needed to, but it was hard to adjust tonight. Again, I’m just proud of our season, and we’ll have to try to learn from this.”
Vikings 55, Dons 49
Gibraltar 31 24 - 55
Columbus Catholic 26 23 - 49
GIBRALTAR (55): Braden Sitte 0-2 0-3 0, Carl Burgess 0-1 1-2 1, Sammuel Lindenberg 2-4 4-8 9, Angel Jauregui 1-3 0-0 3, Victor Jauregui 1-1 0-0 2, Jake Schar 6-10 1-1 14, Trevor Ash 6-6 1-2 13, Will Friedenfels 5-5 3-4 13. FG: 21-32. FT: 10-20. 3-pointers: 3-7 (Lindenberg 1-2, Schar 1-2, Jauregui 1-2, Sitte 0-1). Rebounds: 32 (Friedenfels 9). Turnovers: 19. Fouls: 17. Fouled out: none. Record: 19-10.
COLUMBUS CATHOLIC (49): Emmitt Konieczny 5-13 0-0 10, Cole Noreen 1-4 2-2 4, Charlie Moore 1-3 1-3 4, Sam Wilczek 3-11 3-4 11, Blake Jakobi 2-7 2-3 7, Grant Olson 2-5 2-2 6, Lucas Kreklau 2-3 3-4 7. FG: 16-46. FT: 13-18. 3-pointers: 4-20 (Wilczek 2-5, Moore 1-2, Jakobi 1-5, Olson 0-1, Noreen 0-2, Konieczny 0-5). Rebounds: 19 (Wilczek 4). Turnovers: 9. Fouls: 18. Fouled out: none. Record: 24-5.