Scott, Berezowitz confident programs will rebound

Burlington senior Brock Halbach, who stands 6-foot-7, lines up a jumper against Waukesha West. Halbach stepped up down low in the absence of star guard Nick Klug this season. (Rick Benavides/SLN)

 

By Mike Ramczyk

sports@southernlakesnewspapers.com

The young, inexperienced Catholic Central boys basketball team played an inspired 18 minutes to begin a Feb. 28 WIAA Division 5 regional semifinal in Williams Bay.

But as a road underdog in the playoffs, a complete game effort is required, and host Faith Christian, the No. 7 seed, eventually righted the ship and knocked off the Toppers, 59-41.

The one-and-done fate caps a trying season for Catholic Central, a 4-19 campaign where injuries and a brutally competitive Metro Classic Conference took their toll.

For head coach Kyle Scott, the 42-22 advantage for Faith in the second half was about the Eagles getting hot.

Caleb Thomas led all scorers with 23 points, and the Eagles shot 52 percent for the game.

The Toppers pressed to catch up and started missing shots, finishing at 30 percent overall from the field.

“Faith played well and they earned the win,” Scott said. “We had a tough time knocking down shots in their zone. When we got down by a few, we pressed, and they were able to convert on the other end.”

Senior Frank Koehnke was held to 15 points, a few below his season average, on 6-of-15 shooting.

He hit two triples and pulled down a Topper-leading nine rebounds.

Sophomore Brandon Pum added 11 points, while sophomore Bennett Wright dished four assists.

Scott said he’s proud his kids never made excuses this season and kept working hard.

However, he says it will take a serious offseason commitment to get back to winning.

“For me, there never is satisfaction in a season being over. I love to compete,” Scott said. “Injuries and youth did make the season challenging at times, but I am proud that our boys never made excuses.”

“I learned that we have a mentally tough group of young men that are a joy to coach and have a bright future ahead, if they put in the work in the offseason. Basketball players are made from March to November, not November to March.”

Catholic Central says goodbye to seniors Koehnke, Chad Zirbel, Luke Heiligenthal, Tyler Rieck, John Pum and Charles Robinson.

Scott, now in his fourth season, watched the group go from wide-eyed freshmen to seniors, his first four-year bunch.

“The seniors were a great group of guys a group that I will never forget as they were freshman when I got the head job at CC,” Scott said. “Every one of them brought something unique to the table, and I loved my four years with them.”

Koehnke led the Toppers with 17 points and 8 rebounds per contest.

Wright added 7 points and a team-leading 2.6 assists.

Brandon Pum was the second-leading scorer at 7.6 points per game.

 

Waukesha West 84, Burlington 57

On Friday night in a WIAA Division 2 regional semifinal at Waukesha West High School, the Burlington Demons simply didn’t have enough firepower to keep up with the host Wolverines.

West, the No. 3 seed, scored more than 40 points in each half en route to a comfortable victory. The host team shot 50 percent from the 3-point line and 86 percent from the line.

“They turned us over a few too many times but overall we handled their pressure pretty well,” said Burlington head coach Steve Berezowitz. “We have not seen them shoot the ball as well as they did against us. When a team shoots that well, you have to play near perfect basketball to beat them.”

The Demons finished their season 11-13, but lost nine of their final 12 games.

It certainly didn’t help when all-time leading scorer Nick Klug went down with a major injury back in December.

Forced to play more of a slower where they had to rely on their imposing front line of 6-foot-7 Brock Halbach and 6-foot-6 bigs Dylan Runkel and Trent Turzenski, Burlington had trouble putting up points.

Guard-dominated squads presented matchup problems, and the Demons never really found consistent scoring. It wasn’t easy to replace Klug’s 19 points per game and on-court leadership.

The 6-foot point guard ran the offense.

After spending weeks in a boot and moving around with a scooter, Klug is back walking and even jogging.

 

Coach proud of team’s mettle

Berezowitz admitted it’s not easy to lose a special player like Klug and keep fighting for wins, but the Demons did just that.

“I am really proud of this group,” Berezowitz said. “We lost the leading scorer in BHS history and a player these boys have grown up with. We hit a tough patch in late January but this team found a way to get through that challenging stretch.”

“I can’t lie, when you are used to fighting for a championship each year it can be difficult if you lose your purpose but this team did not do that.”

He earned a scholarship to play college basketball at Division 2 Winona State University in Minnesota, where he will get back to playing this fall.

As for the Waukesha West game, the Wolverines pulled away with a 43-30 second half.

Six West players scored in double figures.

For the Demons, senior Grant Tully led the charge with 17 points, and fellow senior Sean Safar added 13.

Runkel contributed 10 points.

Tully ended up leading the Demons with 9.2 points per game.

Safar scored 9 per contest, and Halbach added 8.9.

Junior Nick Webley averaged 8.4 points per game.

Burlington says farewell to seniors Klug, Halbach, Tully, Safar, Reid Lang, Ben McDermit, Shandon Walton and Drew Pesick.

Berezowitz admires the way his student-athletes have made the most of their opportunities, both on and off the court.

He’s excited for the future of the basketball program, and he says one sub-par year won’t change the overall goal of winning conference and eventually getting to state.

“These kids are taking rigorous course loads, they play multiple sports, and we ask them to be leaders in everything they do,” Berezowitz said. “I will miss this group of kids.”

“I am lucky to get to work with great kids. As a program we keep grinding. Our focus will not change. We are striving to be the best team in the SLC while competing for a chance to play in the WIAA State Tournament in Madison each and every year. However, while we pursue these goals, we know we are there to help kids grow and mature as they get themselves ready for the next phases of their lives.”

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