Kimberly visited De Pere in a boys basketball Division 1 regional final and Boots let everyone know he had no plans of going home.
Boots scored 16-first-quarter points in setting the tone as the No. 3-seeded Papermakers won for the second time at No. 2 De Pere this season, topping the Redbirds, 64-54.
“We came out and we didn’t want them to think it was a fluke last time we beat them, so we wanted to come out hard and get a lead early and show them we’re a good team ,” Kimberly senior Tucker Paschen said.
“Ben was huge in the beginning,” said Kimberly coach Lucky Wurtz, whose team led 24-9 nearly in the second quarter. “It’s amazing the shots he made with the defense they put on.”
In the teams’ first meeting, Kimberly edged De Pere, 47-45, but this time the Papermakers’ offense was better. They attacked all game and every time De Pere would make a run, Kimberly (16-8) answered.
Boots finished with 19 points, but Paschen kicked it into gear after the first quarter and scored a game-high 25 points. Like Boots, Paschen scored on drives and 3-pointers.
“We played as a team, we had a lot of assists,” Paschen said. “Everyone was involved and I think we wanted it more.
Wurtz didn’t say this was his team’s best game of the season, but he certainly liked the effort. A lot of times you hear a team wants it more and Saturday, Kimberly was that team.
“To come here twice and beat a De Pere team on the road, I’m so proud of the kids,” Wurtz said. “They had so much energy tonight. This was the best energy we’ve had.”
“We knew they would want to get revenge on us,” Paschen said. “We just prepared harder in practice this week and we knew we had to play harder than ever.”
De Pere (17-7) was chasing all game and trailed by as many as 15 points, but the Papermakers were never comfortable because Brevin Pritzl (22 points) and Mitch Winter (15) kept coming. Nonetheless, Kimberly never wilted.
“We knew Pritzl and Winter would be the two guys,” Paschen said. “We did our best to defend them. They hit some tough shots. We kept grinding and scoring on the other end to even it out. We wanted to win bad.
“We’ve had some games this year when we’ve gotten out early and didn’t close out the deal. We knew if we wanted to win we had to stay aggressive on the offensive end.”
Wurtz said it was about his players stepping up.
“We made plays and these kids are winners,” Wurtz said. “Our season has been a little up and down, but that was just winning plays. We played fast at times, but we had to keep attacking.”
Kimberly will bring its attack to Manitowoc on Thursday in a sectional semifinal against another Fox River Classic Conference team, Bay Port, the No. 1 seed. The Papermakers feel good about their chances.
“We feel great,” Paschen said. “We know they’re a great team like De Pere. We’re going to have to prepare hard this week and hopefully we get another one Thursday.”
Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay