Wilson, Stone, a whole lot more: Dominican stands atop D4 hoops world
Knights repeat in Madison
Going back to last fall and the first game loss to Little Chute, maybe the Dominican boys basketball team was just the Duane Wilson and Diamond Stone show.
"The Little Chute game was the first game we were all together (since the start of practice)," coach Derek Berger said. "We were just getting used to each other at that point."
But it's clear to everyone now, especially to the 6-2 silky-smooth guard Wilson who will head to Marquette next fall, that the Knights now know each other like the back of their hands.
In short, the team has become so much more than just Wilson and the 6-9 sophomore tower of power Stone.
In Wilson's mind, that point remains clear, even after he scored 26 points and Stone 22 to lead the Knights to their second straight WIAA State Division 4 championship with a 57-44 win over a game Auburndale squad last Saturday afternoon at the Kohl Center in Madison.
"Back then, everybody else on the team were looking for me and Diamond to do everything," Wilson said. "Now they have more confidence. They're looking to do more things on their own. It's not just Diamond and Duane anymore."
"It's the Dominican Knights."
Wilson was being a bit modest, for included in his efforts was the fact that he almost single-handedly held off the Apaches in the fourth quarter, scoring all 14 of the Knights' points.
Therefore, in the mind of first-year coach Derek Berger, it was the Dominican Knights team led by two great players performing at their peak.
"That's a tough question," Berger said when asked if this was the best game the talented pair have had together this year, "but in the context of the game (for a state championship), it probably was their best combined game on the same night."
"Both played well and both brought their 'A' game."
And allowed the Knights to earn their fourth overall WIAA championship (the others being in 2004 and 2005) and finish up their fine season at 24-4. They became the first D4 team to repeat in D4 since Randolph in 2010 and 2011.
Auburndale finished the year at 26-2.
In leading the way to this particular title, Wilson and Stone weren't just all about points. Wilson added seven assists, one block and one steal to his line, while Stone had 16 rebounds and three blocks. Stone almost certainly influenced many other Auburndale shots through his long 6-9 reach.
A team effort
The pair did get help though. Players like 6-6 forward Jack Jelacic (six points and five rebounds) and guards Chris Topp and Jaylin Daniels didn't show up in the stat box a great deal, but they complimented Stone and Wilson with stout defense and hands-on intensity.
Their efforts all season and in this game helped Dominican overcome the fact that they lost two great starting guards in Jamall Taylor and Breon Jordan from last year's championship squad as well two key forwards.
That team-first attitude allowed the Knights to work past a tall series of obstacles this year, including losses to Little Chute, Milwaukee Vincent, division 3 state champ La Crosse Aquinas, and unbeaten division I state champ Germantown (their last defeat of this season).
And it was good enough to overcome a stellar effort by Apaches senior forward Austin Hawkins, who scored a game-high 31 points and grabbed 13 rebounds.
"I've seen him before," Wilson said of Hawkins. "He really didn't miss much today. What did he do (at one point), hit six-seven shots in a row? We had to get after him because he was a great player."
Hawkins scored all of Auburndale's 10 points in the first quarter as Dominican took a 15-10 lead. But Stone, who towered over the Apaches' tallest starter (6-4), hit two shots in a row, including a beautiful lob from Wilson on the second effort to make it 8-4 with 4:23 left in the period.
The Knights would never trail again as Wilson and Stone would be become a recurring theme.
Especially in the second quarter, as Hawkins, who would finish the half with 16 shots, hit a fade-away jumper over Stone to tie the score at 17-all with 4:03 left in the half.
That's when Wilson and Stone, working within the team context, took over.
They paced the Knights to an electrifying 12-0 run to make it 29-17 with 1:54 left in the half. Stone started it out with a monster slam and Wilson followed with a 3-pointer, and then a spectacular drive and dunk of his own.
After a Topp basket, Wilson fed Stone for another dunk and Stone finished off the outburst with a deft tip-in.
The run was keyed by Wilson's acute awareness of how much attention Auburndale was paying to him and that resulted in some very easy looks for the big man Stone.
"We knew that they were big and physical," Wilson said, "but coming down the court, I could see that Diamond was open almost every time (I drove). … And I just took what they gave me. It allowed me to get more assists and opened up things for everyone else. We just dominated in the paint."
That Dominican did, to the tune of a 38-6 point advantage in the lane.
Auburndale would battle back, however, closing the deficit to 29-23 at the half.
Apaches fight back in second half
The Apaches would push hard once more in the third, as a three-pointer from Blake Anderson and a baseline jumper from Hawkins closed the gap to 31-30 at the 4:26 mark.
It was 33-32 Dominican when Jelacic hit a tough shot in traffic in the lane and then Wilson followed with a pretty drive to make it 37-32 with 3:03 left in the third.
The margin would never drop below three after that.
And in the fourth quarter, Wilson decided to emphasize the point that he was the best player on the court. He would hit six of seven free throws and turn in a dazzling split of two defenders for a beautiful layup among his one-man 14-point run.
He scored the last points of his marvelous career on a pair of free throws with 40 seconds left, stretching the margin to the final score.
Then he came out to hugs and a fine round of applause.
Berger was almost hoarse in his praise for Wilson, Stone and the rest of the team.
"I'm just really thrilled and proud for all of my guys," he said. "From Nov. 5, the first day of practice until now, it's just been a full commitment and sense of effort. … We didn't talk about the state championship until Thursday night (after the semifinal win over Cuba City). That's the first time we discussed what this game (the title tilt) means."
His ace guard, who like Berger said, brought his "A" game to the proceedings today, knew that it meant a great deal.
"This feels great," Wilson said of going out as a back-to-back champion. "Not many players get to do this even once, and once we got here, it became a great chance to show what we all can do."
"It was also a great team experience. A family trip. We had a lot of guys who were not here last year and for them to get this experience is great. Because not many people get to go out as a champion."
Knights claim another title
Team-first attitude helps
NOTES ON A CHAMPIONSHIP WEEKEND
To no one's surprise, both Wilson and Stone were unanimous WBCA Division 4 All-State selections. The only other unanimous selection to the 10-man team was Laconia's Tyler Semenas. Both were also easy selections to the all-division state tournament team put together by a panel of sportswriters this past weekend.
Wilson was happy to report after the title game that his mother, who had undergone a procedure to treat her early-stage breast cancer March 13, was recovering well and was out of the hospital. "They caught it early," he said with a sigh of relief. "She may not even have to do chemo (therapy)."
Berger said it wasn't much of an adjustment going from the assistant's chair at state where he was last year to the man standing up in the 14-foot coaches' box and being responsible for everything. "I actually enjoyed it," he said. "It (the Kohl Center) wasn't new to me. All those big games we had played before large and loud crowds, that wasn't new to any of us."
Wilson was also happy that his future school, Marquette, was doing well. On the same day Dominican won its title, the Golden Eagles clinched a share of the Big East Conference regular season title with a thrilling win over St. John's. "I'm really, really excited to be able to play there," he said. "…to go play for Buzz (coach Williams). He really gets after it and it'll be so much fun to play in front of my home city (Milwaukee)."
Your link to the biggest stories in the suburbs delivered Thursday mornings.
Enter your e-mail address above and click "Sign Up Now!" to begin receiving your e-mail newsletter Get the Newsletter!
- Sports Shorts: May 21
- Homestead has just enough depth to pull away for fifth North Shore tennis title
- Cooperation helped Whitefish Bay softball tourney work despite weather
- Veteran Shorewood netters claim Woodland dual meet crown
- Sports wraps: May 15
- Shorewood thinclads combine for eight firsts in Woodland Outdoor track
- NSC tennis race too close to call as tourney looms this weekend
- Fourth-ranked Bay kickers still looking for that perfect game
- Germantown softball team edges Bay, 1-0, to improve to 11-0 in NSC
- OUR TAKE