MADISON — It was a day Lakeside players and coaches alike will never forget.
Unfortunately for the Warriors and their faithful, the program’s second-ever state tournament appearance ends after one game.
Wofford-bound senior big man Jeremy Lorenz notched 25 points and grabbed 11 rebounds as second-seeded Brillion beat third-seeded Lakeside Lutheran 57-55 in a WIAA Division 3 State Boys Basketball Tournament semifinal on Thursday afternoon at the Kohl Center.
Lorenz, who stands 6-foot-8 and always plays under control, wreaked havoc on both ends, adding six blocks and three assists from his point forward position.
“Lorenz’s ability to block shots and impact shots in the paint made a difference and affected our guys, especially early on,” Lakeside Lutheran boys basketball coach Todd Jahns said. “He altered a lot of shots.”
Lakeside senior guard Levi Birkholz, who scored a team-high 18 points on 7 of 14 shooting, was fouled shooting a 3-pointer with 12 seconds left. He missed the first attempt before nailing the final two to make it 57-55.
Brillion elected to go deep on its ensuing inbounds, where Birkholz intercepted the pass. After junior guard Kooper Mlsna kept the ball alive, Birkholz dribbled into the frontcourt and was quickly hounded by three Lions defenders and lost the ball with two seconds left. The horn sounded before either side could regain possession.
“I didn’t see much,” Birkholz said of the final 12 seconds. “It was such a blur. I went up to grab the ball. I knew I was going to fall, so I shuffled it to Kooper, who made a great play diving on the ball. When I was coming down the floor, all I saw was a ton of red jerseys. I tried to make a play happen but unfortunately it didn’t work out.
“We had the ball in our best players’ hands at the end there,” Jahns said. “He just got pinned along the sideline with three guys, which is tough. They defended it better than we were able to offensively attack it.”
The Warriors, who had a 10-game win streak snap, concluded the season 25-4.
“It’s difficult when you lose a close game where you fought hard,” Jahns said. “The game was every bit what we expected. We wanted to keep the game in the 60s. And our defense did that and was strong all game long. We knew scoring would be difficult since they are so good defensively.
“Watching them, they are a mirror of us and we have very similar teams. To find ways to score to keep ourselves close was not going to be easy. At the end of the game, they created separation. But our guys dug down and found a way. And to have that opportunity at the end of the game is all you can ask for.
“Our team poured their heart and soul into it. At the end of the day, you live with that. I’m extremely proud of the young men we’ve got and how they represented our school.”
It was a nervy start on both sides. Lakeside grabbed its first lead, 12-11, with 6 minutes, 15 seconds left in the first half when Birkholz converted a Brillion turnover into a transition dunk. With 4:48 left, Birkholz was whistled for his second foul after what appeared to be a clean chase down block of a dunk attempt by Lorenz.
With Birkholz on the bench, the Lions (28-1) mounted a small charge to pull ahead 24-18 with 44 seconds left after capitalizing on a Lakeside turnover for a transition bucket.
Lakeside senior forward Trey Lauber, who chipped in 16 points, five boards, made a pair at the free throw line with 30 seconds left for the halftime margin of 24-20.
After the break, both sides scored on their first two possessions.
Birkholz assisted on a Lauber 3 at the 14-minute mark as Lakeside cut its deficit to 33-31.
Brillion quickly countered when Lorrenz attracted a double team and kicked to senior forward Grady Geiger for an easy layin. Geiger finished with 13 points.
Birkholz flung a long outlet pass to junior guard Alex Reinke for a layup. Birkholz then nailed a pullup jumper on top to make it 37-all. Lauber scored a second-chance basket at the rack to give Lakeside the lead — its first since the game was 12-11-- with 10:18 to go.
Lorenz muscled Birkholz into the paint and scored with 9:19 left. The Warriors counter-punched on a corner 3 by Mlsna. Reinke was credited with the assist.
Lorenz knotted it at 42 with 8:31 left on a pullup triple with Birkholz tightly guarding.
“We felt other teams had given Lorenz so much attention defensively,” Jahns said. “Brillion spaces the floor so well with so many shooters. We thought we could matchup and guard Lorenz with the length we have. He’s such a good passer and smart player that teams would go get him early, he’d pass out of it and they’d hit 3s or score off the weakside.
“Our strategy was to make it tough for him to get it and defend him with someone who had some length, which we had three guys who could do that. We wanted to wait until he committed to scoring before we went and doubled. That frustrated him a little.”
Lorenz, who scored 17 of his 25 after half, drilled a tough midrange jumper, which was answered by a Lauber 3 as the Warriors pulled ahead 45-44 with 7:14 left.
Lakeside made just one basket in the next three minutes and trailed 50-47 after a short shot by Geiger.
Birkholz hit a short shot off the window with 4:05 left to cut the deficit to one. After a meticulous possession, Lorrenz fed Bennett Olson for a 3-pointer, giving Brillion a 53-49 edge with 2:54 to go.
Birkholz turned it over on an errant pass on the other end. After a media timeout, Lorenz missed a pair of bonus free throws with 1:53 to go to leave the door open.
Lakeside senior forward Ethan Schuetz attacked off the bounce, finishing at the hole to make it 53-51. Twenty seconds later, Lorrenz leaped to grab a lofted sideline inbounds pass. He collected, shed a defender and scored uncontested down low to up the lead to four with 1:17 remaining.
“Jeremy has so much length, so it’s always a factor,” Birkholz said. “We were trying to get to his body early. The refs were letting us play and it was a physical game. Lorenz made a difference in the paint. At times, we were able to get up and finish over him.”
Mlsna swiped a steal on Lorrenz, finishing a layup with a minute left and Lakeside within 55-53. Lakeside — unable to force a turnover — was relegated to fouling with 37 seconds left and Lorrenz hit both to make it 57-53.
After a deep 3 by Lauber went begging, Parker Braun was fouled and split a pair. Birkholz then hit the aforementioned two free throws after being fouled on a 3-point attempt.
Birkholz, who will play next season at The Citadel, had 10 rebounds, six steals and four assists.
“Levi’s a dynamic player,” Brillion boys basketball coach Chad Shimek said. “Levi’s athleticism, toughness, grit and how he’s a true leader of their team stands out. He comes off a lot of ball screens and is a guy they run a lot of stuff for.
“We knew defending him was a team effort. Parker Braun was on him, but our whole team was behind him. Some of Lakeside’s supporting cast hit some big shots.”
Birkholz, the school’s all-time leading scorer by a wide margin, will take forth many fond memories of playing for Lakeside Lutheran.
“This team was really special,” Birkholz said. “A lot of us have played together since fifth or sixth grade. The younger guys like Alex and Kooper came in and made such an impact on this team. I’m so proud of everyone. I just feel bad for those seniors who will never be able to wear a basketball jersey again. I just love these guys.
“I’ll take with me relationships with past teammates and these teammates and memories of team meals. All the wins, celebrations and dumping water on (coach Jahns). Unfortunately, we couldn’t do that tonight. It’s just been a blast representing this school.
“Watching the student section growing each year as we started winning games and getting more support is something I will remember for sure.”
Brillion beat top-seeded West Salem 61-55 in Saturday's state title game.
BRILLION 57, LAKESIDE LUTHERAN 55
Brillion 24 33 — 57
Lakeside 20 35 — 55
Brillion (fg fta-ftm pts) — Geiger 6 1-1 13, Lorenz 9 6-8 25, Braun 3 0-2 6, Holly 1 0-0 3, Olson 2 0-0 6, Krepline 1 0-0 2, Mathes 1 0-0 2. Totals 23 7-11 57.
Lakeside Lutheran — Schuetz 3 0-0 6, Birkholz 7 4-5 18, Liermann 2 0-0 4, Lauber 6 2-2 16, Reinke 2 0-0 4, Miller 1 0-0 2, Mlsna 2 0-0 5. Totals 23 6-7 55.
3-point goals — LL (Lauber 2, Mlsna 1) 3; B (Olson 2, Holly 1, Lorenz 1) 4; Total fouls — LL 16, B 6; Biggest lead — B 6, LL 3; Best scoring run: B 5, LL 6; Lead changes: 10, Times tied: 9, Time with lead: B 22:41, LL 4:50; Points off turnovers: B 8, LL 14; Paint points: B 34, LL 34; Second-chance points: B 9, LL 13; Fastbreak points: B 9, LL 14; Bench points: B 4, LL 7.