MADISON, Wisconsin — Thorp coach Rich Sonnentag said his team's come-from-behind victory over top-ranked Green Bay N.E.W. Lutheran was a microcosm of the entire season.
Isaac LaGasse scored 15 of his 20 points in the second half Saturday to help the unranked and overlooked Cardinals rally for a 49-42 victory over the Blazers in the Division 5 championship game of the WIAA boys' state basketball tournament.
"Exactly, without a doubt, "Sonnentag said. "A very lackluster start, a kick in the pants somewhere along the midsection and a very good second half. That's this game."
Thorp (19-9) trailed 20-13 after a dismal first half, making just 4 of 18 field-goal attempts. The Cardinals were 1 of 7 from beyond the arc and missed 7 of 11 free throw attempts in the first half.
Thorp, which lost four of its first six games and was 8-9 before winning its final 11 games, outscored the Blazers 16-7 in the third quarter, closing the period with a 10-1 run behind a pair of three-pointers by Albi Maksuti for a 29-27 lead.
"We didn't play very well in the first half," said Thorp coach Rich Sonnentag. "Offensively, we didn't move. We were standing around way too much. We didn't play with any rhythm at all."
N.E.W. Lutheran (27-2), which also lost in the title game last season, pulled within 43-40 on a layin by Noah Gosse with 45 seconds remaining, but Matt McCarter answered with a pair of layups to push the lead to 47-40.
"We were just moving better," said Thorp forward Dakota Lindgren, who had a team-high nine rebounds against the taller Blazers. "We weren't taking all jumpers and contested shots. We were moving, getting layups. That was big for us."
Dakota Zinser had 14 points and Nathan Toenjes 13 for the Blazers, who had won 25 straight after a 55-53 loss to Pulaski, a Division 2 team that won 17 games. Maksuti added 10 points for Thorp, which was outrebounded 34-24.
The Blazers, appearing at state for the fourth time in five years without winning a title, averaged 67.9 points entering the state tournament and shot 54.9 percent in a 77-63 semifinal victory over Sheboygan Lutheran on Thursday.
Against Thorp, however, they shot just 35.4 percent, making 17 of 48 shots and missed all 12 three-point attempts.
"We were 0-for-12 from three and really didn't shoot the ball," said Blazers coach Mark Meerstein. "We missed layup after layup. That's not our game. We've got to make those shots and get into what we want to do defensively. You've got to give them credit. Albi hit two threes that were huge that were at the right time."
Zinser averaged 19.1 points entering the state tournament and poured in 33 points in the semifinals, making 10 of 12 shots, including 4 of 6 from beyond the arc. In the title game, he was 5 of 14 and missed all four three-point attempts. Zinser also made 9 of 10 free-throw attempts in the semifinals, but was just 4 of 9 from the line on Saturday.
"The shots, they didn't go down today like the other night, I don't think for any of us," Zinser said. "We missed a lot of bunnies under the hoop. They rebounded and got second-chance opportunities and kind of took us out of it, not points-wise, but it kind of felt that way. The shots just did not want to go down today."