March 16, 2023
By David Nordby
The Brillion News
MADISON – The Lions are one more win away from bringing a gold ball back to Brillion.
Brillion (28-1) held on 57-55 against Lakeside Lutheran (25-4) on Thursday afternoon in the WIAA state tournament semifinal at the Kohl Center in Madison.
There were 10 lead changes in the game. The final one came with 5:53 left when Jeremy Lorenz made a free throw to put the Lions up 48-47. Brillion never trailed again, despite Lakeside Lutheran coming close on multiple occasions.
The Warriors had a chance to tie or take the lead in the closing seconds. Levi Birkholz stole the ball off a long inbounds pass with seven seconds remaining. Birkholz lost control and Bennett Olson picked the ball up for Brillion as time expired. The Warriors never got a shot off.
“It wasn’t exactly necessarily the play we had drawn up. We went to that option the first time and Parker (Braun) threw it. Kind of in our format, the ball was a little chaotic and we needed to make a stop and run some time and our guys were composed enough to make another play in a big moment,” Brillion coach Chad Shimek said.
The final seconds were a microcosm of how close the game was. Brillion’s largest lead was five. Lakeside Lutheran’s largest lead was three.
“I thought it was a typical high school basketball game. Early on both teams got into a defensive battle. Then as the game got on and the adrenaline set in and the emotions settled a little bit, we started hitting shots and probably played more of the game both teams wanted,” Shimek said.
Lorenz finished with 25 points. Seventeen of them came in the second half. Lorenz played well on both sides of the court. He finished with 11 rebounds and six blocks.
“He’s important on both sides of the basketball. We talked about it. He’s the guy that we lean on to get rebounds, to block shots, to change what they do offensively, and then he’s the guy on offense that when we need a basket that we turn to,” Shimek said.
Grady Geiger scored 16 points. Olson and Parker Braun each scored six.
Birkholz, who will play Division 1 basketball at The Citadel, had averaged 20.6 points per game for the Warriors going into the semifinal. He scored 18 against Brillion. Trey Lauber scored 16 points.
Much of the Warriors’ defensive plan was using their length to slow down Lorenz and wait until he committed to scoring before they brought a double team, coach Todd Jahns said after the game. They attacked the paint on offense, but Lorenz was ready and finished with the six blocks.
“Jeremy, he’s got so much length, so it’s always a factor. We were trying to get to his body early, but I mean, the refs were letting him play and it was a physical game, so he really made a big difference in the paint,” Birkholz said.
The rest of the team played well on defense too. Parker Braun finished with 3 steals, Olson had two, and Geiger, Lorenz and Owen Krepline each had one.
Thursday was the Lions’ 28th win of the season, and maybe their most impressive yet.
“I’m real proud of our guys. We got enough stops, played good enough defense, hit enough shots, and we’re playing on Saturday,” Shimek said.
Thursday’s victory sets up a showdown with top-seeded West Salem on Saturday afternoon for the state championship. West Salem (28-1) beat Milwaukee Academy of Science (18-7) 93-65 prior to Brillion’s semifinal game. West Salem’s lone loss this season was to Park Center, a team from suburban Minneapolis.
It is the second season in a row that Brillion will meet West Salem in Madison. The two met last year in the semifinal. West Salem won 71-61 then finished as the state runner-up to Lake Country Lutheran.
“It’s going to be a good matchup and we just gotta make sure to play our best game,” Geiger said.
Brillion is seeking its second state championship in boys basketball history and the first since 2012. They also had state tournament appearances in 2010, 2014 and 2022.
“I think it means a lot. We have a lot of support from our community and stuff so we know they live and breathe our basketball just as much as we do. That’s what I think really means a lot to us is how much support we have and so we want to go out there and play hard and play a good game and hopefully come away with a win, but we know we have our community’s support no matter what so that’s really what makes it exciting to play in a championship game,” Lorenz said. “We just get to play one more and hopefully we can come home with that gold ball.”
Brillion 24 33 – 57
L. Lutheran 20 35 – 55
Brillion: Jeremy Lorenz 25, Grady Geiger 13, Parker Braun 6, Bennett Olson 6, Caeden Holly 3, Owen Krepline 2, Lucas Mathes 2. FG: 23-44. 3P 4-11. FT 7-11. 3-point: Olson 2, Lorenz, Holly. Fouls: 6. Fouled out: none.
Lakeside Lutheran: Levi Birkholz 18, Trey Lauber 16, Ethan Schuetz 6, Kooper Mlsna 5, Anders Liermann 4, Alex Reinke 4, William Miller 2. FG 23-55. 3P 3-17. FT 6-7. 3-point: Lauber 2, Mlsna. Fouls: 16. Fouled out: Schuetz.