Dane Kornely drives toward the hoop for a layup during Burlington’s WIAA Division 2 regional semifinal against visiting Fort Atkinson. The Demons won and advanced to a March 7 regional final (Mike Ramczyk/Standard Press).

Long winning streak halted

By Mike Ramczyk
Correspondent

Coming into a March 7 WIAA Division 2 regional final, Burlington head coach Steve Berezowitz and his players were well aware of the dangerous Waukesha West Wolverines.

Despite West earning a lower seed than Burlington, which meant the game was played on Ron Kahl Court at Burlington High School, everyone knew West has one of the best players in the state – 6-foot-5 guard Cam Palesse.

The junior combo guard was a first team all-Classic 8 selection as a sophomore, has received at least 10 Division 1 collegiate offers and averages an eye-popping 24.4 points per game.

Palesse scored 23 points, and the Demons were shut down in the second half as the Wolverines pulled away for a 46-36 upset victory.

After winning 11 straight games dating back to Jan. 17, Burlington’s season came to an end with a 15-9 record.

It was Burlington’s second-lowest point total of the season.

Waukesha West improved to 13-11 and will travel to Elkhorn for a WIAA Division 2 sectional semifinal Thursday night.

Berezowitz acknowledged the team’s game plan was to limit Palesse, but there was only so much the Demons could do.

“Palesse is a tough match-up because he is a strong, physical, 6-5 perimeter player who has the ball in his hands a lot,” Berezowitz said. “We did a great job with him but you can only do so much. We played a pretty good team Saturday who also has a really good player. I thought we did a great job following our game plan, but we just struggled to get consistent offensive looks.”

“I think we were all disappointed with the loss. I know we felt we had a chance we just could not overcome our dry spell offensively in the second half.”

Burlington was down, 21-18, at the half, then cut it to 27-25 in the second half.

But the Wolverines were able to put together a 19-11 run to finish the game, and it was too late for the Demons.

Berezowitz said defense kept the team in the game.

“We played tremendous team defense the entire night,” Berezowitz said. “We lost one of their big kids in a few pick-and-roll situations, and he burned us knocking down a few threes but other than that we were really solid.”

Runkel led the Demons with 16 points and nine rebounds.

Joey Berezowitz added 11 points and nine rebounds.

Kale Dietz hustled for eight rebounds.

Only four Demons scored.

“Oh, I wish we could have practiced this week,” Steve Berezowitz said. “I loved this team. I think we all wish we could have kept this group together.”

A strong finish
Despite opening the season 4-8, Burlington went on a hot streak that lasted nearly two months.

After a disappointing loss at home Jan. 17 to Waterford, the Demons won their next 11 straight games, including victories over Southern Lakes leaders Elkhorn and Westosha Central, along with a playoff win.

So what stood out to the head coach?

“I think on the surface it could be what we did after our 4-8 start,” Steve Berezowitz said. “However, what I will remember is how a group of 15 guys came together and became a family of one. That is hard to do, but they accomplished that this season. That is easily the most special thing to me.”

Burlington overcame season-ending injuries to three of its top seven rotation players, and the team often was short-handed at practices and games due to illness.

Four seniors, Dylan Runkel, Logan Swantz, Jake Klug and Ryan Koeppen, left an indelibly meaningful impact on the program.

“We will miss our four seniors,” Steve Berezowitz said. “Logan, Dylan, Klug, and Koeppen have been vitally important to the success of numerous programs throughout their careers. However, more importantly, these four young men have embraced what it takes to be a multi-sport student-athlete during their time at BHS. I am just really proud of them.”