MADISON — The Brillion boys basketball team made its third state basketball appearance since 2010 on Thursday night but the 2012 Division 3 state champions likely faced their biggest test ever at the Kohl Center.
The Lions faced Dominican in a Division 4 state semifinal and Dominican boasts one of the nation's best junior players in Diamond Stone. It's not often teams face a player like the 6-10 Stone and for the Lions to reach the state title game they would have to figure a way to slow him down.
Brillion gave its best shot, but Stone and the Knights were too good, toppling the Lions, 78-47, at the Kohl Center. Stone finished with 30 points, 12 rebounds, 7 blocks and 7 assists.
"We had gone through 20 different plans on what's the best way to stop him," Brillion coach Pete Kittel said. "I'm not sure there is one. I thought he just kept his poise. He plays very well and competed very well."
While Stone, who's being recruited nationally, dominated, Brillion opened the game the way it hoped. Dominican (24-3) led just 9-7 in the first quarter, but then the Knights authored a 16-0 run and were never challenged.
"I thought we played pretty steady to start the game and then I thought we got a little rattled," Kittel said. "I thought their perimeter guys did some stuff to us in the second quarter. It was a big difference in the game."
While Stone helped Dominican have a 38-20 edge in points in the paint, it wasn't just his play around the basket. He impressed Kittel in another way which led to points.
"The thing I was really impressed with was how hard he ran the floor," Kittel said. "They got some easy baskets because he outhustled us.
Brillion (18-9) trailed 37-16 at the half and managed to trim the lead to 17 points in the third but that's the closest the Lions would get. The offense was limited with Stone patrolling the middle, which led to Brillion shooting 31.6 percent (18 for 57).
"(He) changes the game in a lot of ways," Kittel said. "Obviously it changes the way you attack the basket."
Nevertheless, Brillion junior Tyler Lemke did score 17 points and had four blocks. The 6-5 forward mixed up his offense between drives and jumpers.
"Tyler's been our offensive leader and kind of been our inspirational leader for us all year long," Kittel said. "I thought he answered the bell and competed on both ends of the floor."
Brillion didn't look like a team headed to the state tournament at the end of the regular season when it lost three straight games. But the Lions turned around their year and ended it in a place everybody wants to be — the state tournament.
Maybe the Lions lost, but if you end your season with a loss at the Kohl Center is the place you want it to happen.
"The kids battled really hard; I was proud of how they competed," Kittel said. "We just didn't have someone to match (Stone). You never want to lose this game, but I thought we competed well."
"Coming down here just adds fuel to the fire," Lemke said. "We hit a wall towards the end of the season. We started working harder in practice and playing defense in games and understand we have to play hard all the time."
Notes: Dominican outrebounded Brillion, 41-29. ... Dominican outscored Brillion, 41-31, in the second half. ... The 78 points allowed were the most by Brillion this season.
Click for boxscore: http://www.wiaawi.org/Portals/0/PDF/Results/Basketball_Boys/2014/d4game1.htm
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