In the end, the deck was just stacked against underdog Whitefish Bay in the Blue Dukes WIAA Division 2 sectional final against second-ranked in state Catholic Memorial on Saturday afternoon.
The 25-2 Crusaders have all-state talent in guards T.J. Bray and Derek Schell and a tenacious set of role players who treat every opposing field-goal attempt as an affront to their dignity.
But when the Blue Dukes hit only one basket in a 13:51 span of the first half, including none in the second quarter, and when both guard John Johnston (ankle) and center Jamie Schneck (elbow to mouth) went down with injuries early in the second half, it just about became an impossible task for them.
So it was no surprise the Crusaders pulled away for a 52-35 victory that ended Bay's tournament run and sent CMH to the WIAA state tournament.
"All credit goes to Catholic Memorial," Blue Duke coach Kevin Lazovik said. "They made all our shots contested and we had a serious problem finishing."
The Blue Dukes finished at 19-8.
Bay had a promising start as baskets from Paul Davis and Alex Jamerson gave them a 4-0 lead at the 5:51 mark of the first quarter. Aside from a Ron Patten put back with 18 seconds to go in the first quarter, those were the last field goals of the half for Bay.
The Dukes missed 16 shots in a row as the Crusaders went on a 15-2 run to take a 15-6 lead at the quarter. Bay got three free throws to start the second but then Memorial went on a 12-1 run to close the half and make it 27-10. The Blue Dukes were just three of 26 from the field in the first half.
Things got even more complicated when Johnston, the Blue Dukes leading scorer all season, aggravated an ankle injury at the 6:58 mark of the third quarter. He came back only sparingly after that.
"But he was the one cheering the loudest all second half," said Lazovik, "and that's what we would have expected out of him."
Further, a few minutes later, Schneck took an elbow to the mouth, which required stitches and cost him valuable minutes.
But behind senior guards Alex Jamerson and Jevontae Merriwether, the Dukes fought back. When Schneck hit a shot in the post, it was 41-29 with 5:29 left. Bay had two chances inside to get the margin to 10, but both rolled out.
Memorial, which was 15 of 22 from the foul line in the second half, then scored the next seven points to end any drama.
As expected, Bray was all over the court for Memorial with 16 points, 15 rebounds, five assists and two steals. Schell led all scorers with 22. Bay got eight apiece from Jamerson and Schneck while Davis added seven.
Lazovik said the team was aware of its heavy underdog status and was pleased with the response, if not the outcome.
"Our thought was to come out here and compete as best we could," he said. "We really had nothing to lose. We just thought of how far we've come this season and just went from there. It just didn't work out for us."
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