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Dominican team makes history with third straight D4 state title

Dominican's Diamond Stone and Blair-Taylor's Brett Ladsten collide under the basket March 15.

Dominican's Diamond Stone and Blair-Taylor's Brett Ladsten collide under the basket March 15. Photo By Peter Zuzga

March 15, 2014

The story of the Whitefish Bay Dominican boys basketball team is a long one filled with many championships, many great players, going all the way back to the legendary days of Don Gosz and Greg Dandridge and the 60-plus game winning streak of the late 1970s.

Many other titles, private school and public have been won since then.

So to say there's a little pressure to succeed is a bit of an understatement.

"It's going to be there forever," said current coach Derek Berger. "The history and the tradition is there. Lots of titles, lots of back-to-back titles at the school, but what we did today, I think separates us a little."

Because today the Knights became that rarest of state hoops' commodities, a three-time state champion. Only a handful of squads have done it and Dominican became the seventh member of the very small fraternity with an impressive 74-50 victory in the WIAA State D4 final against a game Blair-Taylor squad this afternoon.

Berger admits living under such a pressure to succeed can be something of a happy burden.

"You're expected to win, everyone knows that," he said, "but you also know that you can't win a state title every year. But we do expect to make a strong push for a title every time out."

The Knights, who finished with a final record of 25-3 and a 20-game winning streak, never trailed in the final against the Wildcats (23-4) who were making their first trip to the state finals.

An 11-0 run, fueled by 3-pointers from Austin Mautry, Jack Jelacic and Tywon Bressler, Jr., broke open the game at 13-2. The barrage of long-range bombs spoiled the defensive strategy of Blair Taylor coach coach Randy Storlie, which was all predicated on stopping Dominican 6-10 junior center Diamond Stone.

"We wanted to stay in a 2-1-2 match-up (zone)," he said, "and have a couple of people glued to the center wherever he went.

"Then they hit those shots and that pretty much took care of our strategy."

It wasn't a bad strategy, as Stone was his usual dominant self with 28 points, 11 rebounds and eight blocked shots.

Blair-Taylor, however, righted itself and closed the gap to 20-14 at the quarter behind a fast-paced offense that looked to put up a lot of shots.

The Wildcats cut the edge to 22-19 on a 3-pointer by Simeon Pooler at the 5:08 mark, and got it down to two at 30-28 on another Pooler 3 at the 2:10 mark.

But then the Knights wnt on a 6-0 run to cloose the quarter to make it 36-28 at the half.

"We knew that they had good shooters and it would be only a matter of time before they'd hit five or six in a row to get back into the game," said Berger.

But the Wildcats could not sustain that pressure for long. The Knights opened the second half with a 13-2 run started by a Chris Topp 3 and ended by a Jelacic trey.

By the time that it was done, the Knights were up 49-30 and were well on their way to that storied third title in a row.

"We could play with them early, but then we ran out of gas," said Storlie.

Topp's return from food poisoning Thursday night allowed Berger to talk about his team's character.

"We showed a lot of heart all season," he said, "a lot of will to win games. ...Chris could not get out of bed until this morning and he showed great will to play, hitting shots and defending full out."

The lead never dropped below 17 after point and reached 27 before thesubs took over.

Jelacic, the 6-6 senior,  helped Stone out immensely with 14 points and 14 rebounds while Bressler also had 14.

Jelacic and Stone have been together on the floor three years and it will be tough to separate the pair after this season.

"It has been so great," said Jelacic. "We have a different connection on the court. Playing together like we have for three years, we have very good communication. We knew that if we showed the other guys how to do it that we would be back up here (with another state title)."

His partner was equally as grateful.

"He meant everything to me," said Stone of Jelacic. "He talks to me and I talk to him. I throw him a pass and I know he' ll catch it most of the time (laughs). He was a great teammate."

His connection to his teammates is very important to Stone.

He said that as he assumed a larger leadership role this winter, he needed more and more help to make sure the team could live up to its potential.

"My teammates helped me out so much on this," said Stone. "They showed up and worked and helped me. Guys like Tywon (Bressler), helped me in so many ways. They just made it easier."

The two would not elaborate on what it would be like to win a fourth straight crown. That's a question for next year, they said.

"This feels great," said Berger. "I thought that this was one of our most consistent efforts of the season. ...Getting those 3s early were huge and I can't say enough about the efforts of Jack and Diamond on the boards. That allowed us to get out and run and get into our game.

"We talked about maintaining full-court pressure defense. Not relaxing and not letting anyone make a big run. Just a matter of maintaining focus."

And living up to a rather hefty reputation in the bargain.

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