Bring on Whitefish Bay Dominican.
After Martin Luther turned in a mostly comfortable 61-54 victory over Kettle Moraine Lutheran Saturday night to claim the WIAA regional title, all thoughts turned to the team’s rematch against the Spartans’ Metro Classic rival, with whom the two teams split the season series. Dominican defeated Martin Luther in the regular-season finale, compelling the Spartans to share the Metro Classic title with Racine Prairie.
“We’re excited to get another chance to beat Dominican since they beat us in the last regular-season game,” said Martin Luther coach Paul Wollersheim, who coached Dominican to three WIAA state titles in addition to three WISAA titles. “This is going to be a really huge game for us.”
But first, the Spartans had to get through a tough Kettle Moraine Lutheran (12-13) squad. Martin Luther sophomore guard Ace Evans made an emphatic statement by stealing the ball on the opening possession and streaking down the court for an easy layup as the Spartans (21-3) went on to take a 10-point lead with 7 minutes, 30 seconds left in the half. He scored six of his 15 points in that stretch.
Sophomore Traquan Carrington took over from that point, scoring the Spartans’ next 6 points and pouring in 11 of his game-high 18 points in the first half. On defense, Carrington also forced numerous errors by the Chargers, leading the way on a press with which Kettle Moraine Lutheran struggled most of the game.
“He’s a big key guy defensively, bothering their point guard and making it difficult for him to get into the paint,” Wollersheim said. “Offensively, his ability to get into the basket and draw the defense and kick is invaluable. He’s just so good with the ball in his hands.”
The Spartans ended the half with a 30-17 lead after junior Brenden Lewison nailed a 3-pointer while fouled, but he missed the bonus try – a recurring theme in this contest for Martin Luther that almost led to its undoing.
Kettle Moraine Lutheran switched to a box-and-one zone to better contain Carrington in the second half, and the Chargers managed to cut the Spartans lead to 6 with just 47 seconds left to play. Although Kettle Moraine Lutheran wouldn’t come any closer, Martin Luther’s 16-for-35 performance from the free-throw line made the game seem much closer than it needed to be.
“I thought we ran out of gas a little bit the last 10 minutes of the game, and we lost so many free throws to kind of let them back into the game,” Wollersheim said.
If fatigue was a factor, at least Martin Luther has the next couple nights to rest up before beginning to prepare for the rematch with Dominican on Thursday night at West Allis Central High School. Dominican has won the last five state championships, though Martin Luther has the better seed. The game will be held Wednesday so the school can commit to watching the girls basketball team in the Division 3 state semifinal Thursday in Green Bay.
“I’m feeling good about it,” Carrington said of the team’s third meeting with the No. 3 Knights. “We lost the last game, and now it’s the tiebreaker.”