With the game tied heading into the fourth quarter Thursday night, the talk in the Racine St. Catherine’s huddle was defense.
The No. 3 seeded Angels kept that mindset from the start, and after top-seeded Whitefish Bay Dominican scored the first bucket of the final frame, St. Cat's rattled off 10 straight points to take control and earn a 50-44 WIAA Division 3 boys basketball sectional semifinal victory at Marquette University High School.
“(Junior guard Jamall) Taylor and (sophomore Duane) Wilson are phenomenal players; we had to find a way to stop them,” said St. Catherine’s senior guard Alex Grycowski, who scored 11 of his 13 points in the second half. “We needed our defense to become our offense, and that’s how we started it out. Once we got a little rhythm going, they weren’t stopping us.”
The victory moved the Angels (22-3) just one win from state, advancing them to the sectional final 1 p.m. Saturday against Sheboygan Falls at the Al McGuire Center.
Dominican (21-4) got great production from Taylor and Wilson all game, but in the fourth quarter, the Angels (22-3) ratcheted up the defense on the two standouts.
“We wanted to get them frustrated,” Grycowski said. “Once we got them mad, we knew they were going to take some bad shots.”
Wilson scored six of his 16 points in the fourth quarter but couldn’t get anywhere near the rhythm he had in the second quarter when he hit four of six shots and had 10 of the Knights’ 20 points at halftime.
Taylor, meanwhile, had a game-high 20 points but did not attempt a field goal in the fourth quarter, scoring only on a pair of free throws with 4 minutes, 22 seconds left in the game after scoring 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting in the third quarter.
“We were rushing our shots too much,” Dominican coach Paul Wollersheim said. “I can’t explain why we seemed to be playing faster than what we liked. Maybe it was the surroundings of a sectional semifinal with a packed gym."
Outside of Midwest Classic-South Player of the Year Jordan Fouse, St. Catherine’s was walking the same path that led to two losses to Dominican during the season, with shooting percentages under 30 percent both games. The Angels shot 8 of 20 in the first half, and no one other than Fouse had more than two points.
“If there’s one thing those losses gave us, it was confidence,” Grycowski said. “You can’t shoot worse than 0-for-13 from beyond the 3-point line. We went from there and knew we could only do better.”
Grycowski scored eight points in the third quarter, and junior forward Justin
Erickson scored seven of his 11 points in the fourth quarter to fuel the run to start the quarter.
“Erickson is the hardest working guy out there for us,” Grycowski said. “He’ll break his leg before he lets someone take the ball from him.”
The Angels built a lead as large as 8 points at 44-36 with 4:29 remaining. The Knights got as close as 47-44 with 1:03 left before the Angels hit three of four free throws in the final minute to put the game out of reach.
“We had them on tape where Fouse had played more on the perimeter lately,” Wollersheim said. “It was just his scoring. He was able to find guys open looks they didn’t get the first two times we played them.
“The adjustment they were making was going to (the 6-foot-5) Fouse as a guard.”
This is the third straight year St. Catherine’s has ended Dominican’s season and fourth time in the last five seasons.