OSHKOSH — The DeForest boys basketball team ran with the giants for an hour or so on Saturday.
The giants and one very, very talented point guard.
Top-seeded and top-ranked Kimberly rode the hot hand and all-around play of 6-foot-2 junior point guard Jackson Paveletzke to a 63-42 victory in a WIAA Division 1 state semifinal at Menominee Nation Arena.
The victory propelled Kimberly into Saturday night’s state championship game against Wauwatosa East. It’s the Papermakers’ first state trip since 2007 and 12th overall.
Working almost exclusively on the inside — despite the fact that Kimberly has 6-11 and 6-7 forwards in its lineup — Paveletzke drove and spun his way to 28 points on 13-for-19 shooting, 10 rebounds and seven assists against DeForest (16-6). He shot 13-for-19 from the field.
“He hit some tough shots today,” DeForest’s Max Weisbrod said of Paveletzke. “You couldn’t really gap him (with multiple defenders) because they have so many shooters on the team, so you kind of have to play him 1-on-1.He made good passes and finished tough shots.“
“What he does at point guard takes a lot of stuff off my shoulders. I trust him to make the right decision ... 98 percent of the time,” Kimberly coach Lucky Wurtz said.
Weisbrod, DeForest’s own super junior, countered as best he could, finishing with 20 points, three rebounds and four assists.
But he was held to seven first-half points as Kimberly took a 27-17 lead. And when Paveletzke started the second half with three more baskets to make it 33-17, he boosted his individual total to 20 points — three more than the entire DeForest team.
The Norskies, no strangers to frustration during this COVID-19 season that forced them to start late and play every game on the road, dealt with a different sort of frustration trying to build an offensive attack against Kimberly’s tall timber.
“In December we didn’t know if we were going to have a season, (then) we played 17 all-away games in 40 days, on a cold bus,” DeForest coach Craig Weisbrod said. “What our boys accomplished was pretty extraordinary. They are a tough group of dudes. They really compete.”
Outside shooting was no refuge for DeForest, which shot just 5-for-23 (21.7%) from 3-point range on its way to 17-for-57 (29.8%) overall shooting. Kimberly scored 42 inside points to DeForest’s 22; Kimberly also had 15 fast-break points while DeForest had none.
“Defensively, we played great the entire game,” Wurtz said. “We don’t tolerate mistakes. They’re in the gaps, they’re in their stance, they’re working.”
“Their length was tough. I liked a lot of our shots. ... (But) we needed to convert on (more) of them,” Craig Weisbrod said. “We just didn’t knock down some shots.”
“It starts with ball pressure,” Paveletzke said of Kimberly’s defense. “If we happen to get beat, we’ve got bodies at the second level.”
DeForest didn’t come anywhere close to giving up against the Papermakers. After Kimberly opened a 51-29 lead on a driving layup by 6-11 senior Grant Asman with 7:41 to play, the Norskies had their best run, a 13-4 spurt to make it 55-42 with 3:55 left.
But DeForest didn’t score again as Kimberly finished the game on an 8-0 run.
“Our hope going in was to play a little pace — halfcourt — and make sure we didn’t get hurt too bad in transition, and maybe (Kimberly would) not shoot it quite as well from 3, and for us to shoot it a little bit better,” Craig Weisbrod said. “They were able to load up on (stopping) Max’s drive and make it tough on him.”
“We talked about gaps a lot, and we did a good job (on Max Weisbrod),” Wurtz said. “He’s a lot stronger than I thought he was. He’s a Division I player.”
After Weisbrod, DeForest’s next-highest scorer was junior guard Deven Magli with six points.DeForest’s Nolan Hawk provided 10 rebounds.
Kimberly supported Paveletzke with 15 points, seven rebounds and four blocks from Asman and 10 points from 6-3 junior guard Owen Pawlikowski.
Wauwatosa East 62, Kimberly 44
A second-half surge turned the Papermakers’ 31-30 halftime lead into showtime for the Red Raiders in the championship game. Tosa East (23-3) went on a 32-7 run to open the second half, using superior quickness, pressure defense and fast-break scoring to blow the game open against Kimberly (25-3).
Alex Singleton, a 6-5 senior forward, totaled 20 points and eight rebounds to lead Tosa East. Senior guard Jay Hinson Jr. added 11 points and high flying Leon Bond, a 6-6 junior forward, added 10 points and eight rebounds.
Tosa East finished the season with a nine-game winning streak, dating back to a Jan. 30 loss to Waunakee.
Kimberly shot 6-for-20 from the field and 1-for-8 from 3-point range in the second half, committed five turnovers and was outrebounded 16-9 as its 19-game winning streak came to an end. Paveletzke totaled 14 points but shot 5-for-13 from the field and committed six turnovers along with his six assists. Pawlikowski added 13 points.
Wauwatosa East 56, River Falls 46
In a semifinal, the second-seeded Red Raiders got a fight from the third-seeded Wildcats (21-3), who took a 45-44 lead with 4:29 to play. But senior guard Brian Parzych answered with a 3-pointer and followed it with three steals and a breakaway layup to put away the victory.
Parzych finished with 19 points and six steals, Hinson Jr. added 13 points and senior forward Marcus Mbow, a Purdue University football recruit, added 11 rebounds and six points. River Falls got 25 points and seven rebounds from senior forward J.T. Dougherty and 13 points from senior forward Zac Johnson.
Photos: Kimberly 63, DeForest 42 in WIAA boys Division 1 state basketball semifinal