The semis kicked off with a battle of Kingsland and Spring Grove. The last time the teams hooked up was in a 2015 semifinal. In that game, the underdog Knights (13-14) trailed 62-44 with less than ten minutes left, before going berserk (10 of 11 field goals, five made threes over six possessions). They upset the favored Lions (24-3) in a ridiculously memorable comeback, 80-77. The 2017 semifinal was deja-vu to a lesser degree, almost. Kingsland (5-seed, 15-12) came in a little less of an underdog versus a strong 7th-ranked Lion (1-seed, 23-3) team. They didn’t come back from so far down, or so extraordinarily. The game ended more memorably. An offensive first half saw John Fenske’s guys trail by as many as 14. They ended the stanza 12-6 to be down 41-33 at intermission. Like 2015, the Lions appeared to take control in the second half, despite all-time leading scorer Chase Grinde picking up foul #3 early. A Grinde three-point play stoked the lead to 54-39 five-plus minutes in. The Knights answered with a smidgeon of berserker. They scored on five straight possessions for a 13-0 run. With eight-plus minutes left, they trailed 54-52. Lion fans were probably thinking, “oh no, not again.” SG replied to build a 61-54 lead. But Knight junior guard Zach Bubany kept hitting area-code step-back threes, and 6’8” junior center Ian Meisner exerted himself down low. A rebound put-back by the later made it a 65-64 Lion lead (2:20). As the clock ticked under a minute, the Lions got an Alex Folz free throw, an offensive rebound, aided by a Grinde “physical” tip-back, and then another Folz free throw (67-64 > 0:24.6). In the final five seconds, Knight senior Zach Buchholtz, the team’s leading scorer, hit a majorly contested corner three to dramatically tie the game at 67! Kingsland was hoping for overtime and another shot at upset city. Folz had other ideas. He got the ensuing in-bound pass as a second option, went 1/3 of the court, and launched a 25-footer. It was true as time expired! The Lions escaped 70-67. Grinde (22 pts, 10-15 FTs, 8 rebs, 4 stls), Brock Schuttemeier (21 pts, 3-6 threes, 5 rebs), and Folz (14 pts, 6 assists) led SG. Buchholtz (21 pts, 7 rebs), Bubany (20 pts, 5-16 threes, 5 rebs, 3 assists, 3 stls), and Meisner (16 pts, 8-11 FGs, 9 rebs) led the Knights. Out-playing SG in the second half, team double-K’s season ends at 15-13. They’ll have to wait until next year. Buchholtz, who had a tremendous year, going from around 3 PPG as a junior to 16.7 PPG, is the only senior full-timer that will depart. Every-game guys Bubany, Meisner, Jackson Rindels, Wyatt Pruter, Ethan Fenske, and Matthew Woods will return, as will Jordan Beck, an athletic 6’3” starting forward who missed the final ten games with a shoulder injury. Next year looks very bright.
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