The WIAA Division 3 #13th ranked Wrightstown Tigers had a tall order in front of them as they attempted to win the Wrightstown Holiday Classic basketball Tournament that they host.
Standing in their way was 6’10 senior center Joachim Oernbo of Winnebago Lutheran Academy (WLA), who had just dropped 25 points on Weyauwega-Fremont the night before in the Vikings’ semi-final victory. With a feisty defense that started at the opening tip, however, the Tigers made him a non-factor, and jetted past WLA for 72-44 victory and the championship of the tourney.
“We played their game. They are very good in transition and they like to press and get up and down the floor,” said WLA head coach Jeremiah Hoffman. “Tonight that wasn’t going to be our strength, and we played right into their hands.”
Wrightstown (8-1 overall) jumped out to a quick start on both ends of the floor. Usually notoriously slow starters, the Tigers were aggressive and active on defense, forcing WLA to try and run with them which far out of the comfort zone for the Vikings. Granted, the first quarter score (22-16), wasn’t an indication of how much pressure the Tigers constantly put on WLA, but it was an indication of things to come. A big quarter from Aaron Calkins (nine points) was the only thing keeping WLA close.
“It was nice that our effort and energy came out very strong. Everyone that played played hard. I am pretty excited; we did a nice job defensively,” Tiger head coach Cory Haese said. “Our rotations were good, our fill was nice, and our arms were pretty active.”
That is, until the second quarter. Wrightstown actually turned up the defense another notch in the stanza, forcing the Vikings into seven turnovers and holding them without a field goal for nearly six minutes. The 11-2 run by Wrightstown to start the quarter put WLA in a double-digit deficit that they were not able to recover from. The closest the Vikings got was 10 the rest of the game.
“We were able to have the tempo a little bit in our favor. We were up and down the floor, getting our athletes to make some plays in the open court,” Haese said. “That really helped us in limiting their post touches, which was big for, and that was one of the keys coming into the game.”
Once again, the Wrightstown bench stepped huge for Haese. The Tiger bench scored 36 points, include a game high 13 from Cole Van Schyndel, who had the added pressure of defending Oernbo.
“He had the height on me, but I didn’t worry about that too much,” the 6’5 junior said. “I kept my composure and tried to be strong and keep my base.”
Oernbo was held scoreless in the first half, and finished with seven points. Calkins led WLA with 11.
The starters made sure to do their fair share of the work, however. One particular sequence at the end of the third quarter showed the strength of Wrightstown. Oernbo went up for a shot from the corner, and got blocked by 5’10 senior guard Jon Braeger. JB started the break, passing off the Craig Nennig, and the Ohio State baseball recruit broke off a great move to finish the sequence. On the ensuing inbound for WLA, Jordan Johnson made a steal and hit a layup as time expired on the quarter. Braeger finished the game with 13, while Nennig added 10.
The Tigers have one more non-conference game, a January 3rd date with the Freedom Irish, before continuing their conference schedule with a trip to Hilbert on January 5th.