(WFRV) – The De Pere boy’s basketball team had a target on their back for the majority of the season, but when the bright lights turned on in the Kohl Center at the WIAA State Basketball Tournament – the best shined throughout.
Coming into the state tournament, the Red Birds posted a perfect 28-0 season. De Pere’s semifinal game against Kettle Moraine was no walk in the park. The Lasers hung with De Pere for most of the game, but in clutch moments the Red Birds were able to prevail. De Pere punched their ticket to the State Championship Game with an 11-point victory to face off against Arrowhead on Championship Saturday.
Although a double-digit win may look great in the box score – the Red Birds knew they had to play better if they wanted to end the drought and bring home the gold ball. It was just the third time all season long that an opponent was within 11-point or less of De Pere when the final buzzer went off.
“It was just a grind-out game and if you’re going to advance in the tournament – sometimes you’re gonna have to win grind-out games and we did tonight so I feel good about that”, said De Pere coach Brian Winchester after Friday’s semifinal win.
No doubt there was pressure coming into Championship Saturday for the De Pere boys. Not only were they riding a 29-game win streak and were unbeaten on the season, but they were also just one win away from doing what no team in school history has done in the last 89 years – hoist the gold ball.
Arrowhead wasn’t going to back down from De Pere’s style of play either. All season long the Red Birds played fast, aggressive, and relentless. But what may have stuck out the most about this De Pere team was the way they played defense. There wasn’t a night on their schedule where they backed down on the defensive end. It was a point of emphasis and as the old saying goes – if you’re going to win a championship, defense needs to be a big part of it.
The Warhawks were 27-2 coming into the D1 State Championship Game, but the Red Birds were trying not to let Arrowhead’s momentum from the day before carry into this one.
After a back-and-forth battle with Arrowhead in the first half, De Pere led by two points at halftime. In the second half is where things changed in the game. Timely shots, again and again, came from the hands of the Kinziger brothers, John (senior) and Zach (sophomore).
In the end, De Pere capped off their perfect season with a 69-49 win to win the D1 State Championship. It was the program’s first state title since 1934 and the first boy’s team in Wisconsin history to post a 30-0 record.
“Dealing with that pressure – it’s challenging. You feel it whether you want to admit to it or not”, said Winchester after winning the D1 State Championship.
“It had to have been around 7th or 8th grade coming here and watching the teams. We used to sit five rows up and I’m talking to my dad and my two brothers like ‘man, I can’t wait until high school when we have the opportunity to do this. Ever since then, the dream has been to get in this position and I’m so happy to be here”, Wisconsin’s Mr. Basketball John Kinziger expressed after the championship.
“Our dad came up short back when he was here so it’s fun to have everyone in on this. Not just the players but the coaches and the community. It’s fun”, explained Zach Kinziger.
There’s no doubt this year’s De Pere boy’s team may have been the greatest Green Bay Metro team ever, but you can certainly make a case that it’s the best boy’s basketball team in Wisconsin to ever run on the hardwood.