KIMBERLY — Thursday night the West De Pere boys basketball team had a chance to make up for not successfully defending its Bay Conference title this season by ending the season of the team which replaced the Phantoms atop the conference.
West De Pere and Seymour met in a Division 2 sectional semifinal with more than just a conference title at stake – the loser’s season would end.
From the start it appeared West De Pere was focused on erasing the season sweep Seymour handed it. The Phantoms were energetic from the tip and paced by 19 points each from Chandler Diekvoss and Cody Schwartz, respectively, the Phantoms ended the Thunder’s season, 60-50.
“It means a lot,” Diekvoss said. “One game closer to the ultimate goal; making it a rival makes it a little bit sweeter.”
“We try and learn from every game and sometimes it’s easier to learn from a loss,” West De Pere coach Andy Werner said. “We turned a corner and realized we have to play a differently. We started doing that. There’s just a fire right now that I like to see.”
The Phantoms (22-3) haven’t reached the state tournament since 1933 and Saturday will play Port Washington (15-10) at Manitowoc for a trip to the Kohl Center.
Diekvoss, a Richmond recruit, played like he wants to end that drought. In two previous games against Seymour (23-2), Diekvoss scored a combined 23 points, but Thursday he was aggressive. He was hunting his shot and when he didn’t shoot, he was getting teammates open for shots.
“Last game against them wasn’t my best,” Diekvoss said. “Last game, I wasn’t aggressive enough and that’s what my teammates look for me to be. I tried to do what I had to do to win.”
Diekvoss, 6-6, played a lot of point guard as starter Jesse Owens is out for the season with a knee injury.
“The injury to Jesse is a tough one and we transitioned into a different basketball team,” Werner said. “He’s done that for us all year, handling the ball under pressure. He’s a senior leader, he’s been there for us all year.”
While West De Pere played great basketball, Seymour was hampered by an ankle injury to Dakota Oskey. The ultra-talented guard sprained his ankle two weeks ago against West De Pere and didn’t start Thursday.
He was limited to five points and clearly didn’t have his usual explosiveness. Because of that, Marquette recruit Sandy Cohen had the burden of making things happen, and he did his best with 26 points.
West De Pere put four different defenders on him during the game in an attempt to slow him down.
“We threw everybody we could at him,” Werner said. “I don’t know how many points he had. Seymour’s just a great team.”
West De Pere’s road to a sectional final arguably has been the most difficult in the state as it has defeated three conference champions (Xavier, Ashwaubenon and Seymour). Its side of the bracket was loaded and the Phantoms have survived.
“Whoever got through here was going to be battle-tested,” Diekvoss said. “We had three great games. We had three conference champions we beat and that makes us better for the long run.
“We have to feel good about that. We have all the confidence in the world.”
“It gives you more confidence that you’re beating conference champions,” Werner said. “It’s a crazy regional we had. When your six seed’s a conference champion (Xavier), it pretty much says everything about what’s going on. The nice thing is, you didn’t have to beat every good team.”
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