Player of the day: Whitefish Bay Dominican senior Duane Wilson. The Marquette recruit, who had just two points on 1-for-4 shooting in the first half, helped the Knights rally from a three-point halftime deficit, finishing with 19 points on 8-for-15 shooting in a 55-47 victory over Cuba City in a WIAA Division 4 state semifinal game.
Game of the day: The Division 5 semifinal between Drummond and Green Bay NEW Lutheran got the tournament off to an exciting start. The two teams battled through seven lead changes and five ties — the last when Drummond’s Ben Best hit the first of two free throws with 29 seconds to play — before junior Nathan Toenjes’ 3-point play gave with 3.5 seconds left gave the Blazers the 62-59 victory.
Stat of the day: Austin Hawkins’ shooting percentage. The Auburndale senior was 10-for-11 from the floor and his team shot 64.3 percent — both Division 4 tournament records — in a 49-29 semifinal victory over Amherst.
“We play an unselfish style of basketball,” said Hawkins, a 6-foor-4 senior who is hoping to play at Concordia-Moorhead. “If one person gets hot, we keep going to them. Tonight, I was fortunate to be the benefactor of that.”
Hawkins bested the Division 4 record previously held by Burlington Catholic Central’s Matt Smith, who was 8-for-10 in 2006. Auburndale broke the Division 4 record previously held by Eleva-Strum (63.3 percent) in 2006.
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Randolph sophomore Duke Vander Galien, who had a bit of a tough time adjusting to the Kohl Center rims, but still managed to score 13 points in a 46-37 victory over Elmwood.
“We were talking in the locker room,” Randolph coach Bob Haffele said of his 5-7 sophomore. “He said that it was difficult to shoot out there. He thought the basket was closer than it was.”
It was much farther 10 years ago.
That’s when Duke and his older brother, Thomas, were adopted by Wendell and Kelly Vander Galien from a Kenyan orphanage. It was a lengthy process that involved an unorganized Kenyan legal system wary of Americans, an armored escort to a plane in Uganda and long flights to London and Chicago.
And that’s not to mention the culture shock of living in small town Wisconsin. Randolph’s population is 1,811.
“I think back on it,” Duke Vander Galien said after Thursday’s game. “I’m impressed that I’m here.”
Haffele said: “It’s a remarkable story.”
Vander Galien, a lightning quick point guard who’s starting to develop shooting skills, had three assists and helped ignite Randolph after it trailed the Raiders 11-2 early. He played all 32 minutes and had just two turnovers despite having the ball in his hands most of the game.
“Duke got us going,” Haffele said. “For a sophomore, he played with a lot of confidence and played very well.”
And Saturday he’ll be playing in a state championship game, just like one of his boyhood heroes, Tyler Tillema, who was on the Rockets’ 2007 state championship team.
“A lot of good players have won it,” Vander Galien said. “I just want to win it, too.”
Emotional night for Dominican’s Wilson: It was an emotional Division 4 semifinal game for Whitefish Bay Dominican senior point guard Duane Wilson, a Marquette recruit.
Wilson said his mom, Lashonda Lever, recently was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent surgery on Wednesday, the day before the Knights faced Cuba City.
“Everything went good,” Wilson said of the surgery. “That was a key for me, to make me feel better about playing.”
Wilson sent out a message on his Twitter account, saying he was playing this tournament for his mom, who couldn’t attend the game.
“It was kind of hard playing without her,” said Wilson, who broke down in tears while talking about her. “Because usually she’s here for every game. But I talked to my grandma ... my mom, she called (Thursday) morning and said she’d be watching me on TV, just remember that she’s always in my heart.”
After scoring two points in a sluggish first half, Wilson finished with 19 points, nine rebounds and three assists in Dominican’s 55-47 victory.
“I knew she was watching,” he said. “I just really want to win a state championship for her. Last year, it was for the team. This year I want to win it for my mom and our assistant coach, Markel Thompson, because he got sick, too. I really just want to bring the state championship home for (them).”
His sense of humor stays intact: Cubans coach Jerry Petitgoue showed up for his post-game press conference wearing a bandage on his forehead.
“I wanted to explain, my wife did not hit me,” Petitgoue joked. “I had a skin cancer they took off (Wednesday). Then I went to the hotel (Thursday) and my luggage was stolen. I said, ‘Wow, this is a good omen, we’re liable to win tonight.’ “
Unfortunately for the Cubans, the bad luck continued in thir game, as they played well but lost to Dominican, 55-47 in the semifinals.
Petitgoue, who once talked about this year being his last before deciding to continue coaching next year, was asked again about his future.
“I am retired,” he said of his teaching career. “This is my hobby. What I do (coaching) is my hobby now.
“People have to be envious. I’m a basketball coach in a really nice town and a great school with great kids.”
After saying after last season, that he would coach one more year, Petitgoue heard about a couple schools who planned celebrations in his honor at games this season. That did not sit well with him.
“I thought, I don’t want that, no rocking chair,” he said. “When it happens, I’ll just walk away. Right now, with the exception of this (loss) and my luggage, I feel pretty good.”
They will meet again: The showdown between Randolph and Green Bay NEW Lutheran in the Division 5 state title game Saturday will be the third meeting between the two at the Kohl Center in the last four years. The Rockets won the 2010 Division 4 state title 58-40 over the Blazers before ending their season 56-49 in a Division 5 semifinal the next season.
Heart-to-heart halftime chat: Wilson and Stone spent the halftime break trying to snap each other out of a first-half funk that saw them six points on 3-for-10 shooting.
“I wouldn’t say yelling,” Wilson said. “I was getting on Diamond. He was getting on me. We were pointing out what we could have done right.”
The starters stayed in the locker room until there were less than 2 minutes left on the halftime clock.
“I felt like that brought out the energy,” Wilson said. “Sometimes when you get on your teammates, they might fall down, they might feel bad. But we were picking each other up.”
Randolph coach Bob Haffele laughed when he was remined that he’ll be trying to win his 10th state title Saturday when his Rockets play Green Bay NEW Lutheran in the Division 5 title game.
“That’s just a lot of great players over the years,” Haffele said. “And a lot of good assistant (coaches). I jokingly said when I got one (in 1996) ‘Well, after 10 I’m done’ So, we’ll see.”
Sensing that his audience of reporters was taking his story way too seriously, Haffele made sure to clarify that Saturday’s game will not be his last.
“I was joking, by the way,” he said.