MADISON - With less than four minutes to play in Saturday's Division 5 state championship game N.E.W. Lutheran was on the verge of becoming the first high school in Green Bay to win a WIAA boys basketball state title.
Travis Voigt just hit two straight threes to give the Blazers a 42-41 lead as momentum swung N.E.W.'s way.
Unfortunately for the Blazers, that would be the last points for their season.
After making shot after shot this season, N.E.W. went dry at the worst time and Randolph took advantage, scoring the game's last seven points as the Rockets claimed their record 10th state title with a 48-42 win at the Kohl Center.
"We missed some shots that we usually don't miss," N.E.W. Lutheran coach Mark Meerstein said. "I thought it was anybody's to win at the end. Give them credit, they did a great job."
The Blazers (28-1) were shooting for a perfect season but midway through the fourth quarter it was in jeopardy. Randolph opened a 41-36 lead and it was now or never for the Blazers.
That's when Voigt stepped up and nailed back-to-back threes to give N.E.W. the lead.
Randolph responded with points of its own but N.E.W. still had chances. Notwithstanding, multiple shots from 3-point range didn't fall.
The Blazers appeared to shoot quick in trying to catch up or take the lead back from Randolph, but that's not the case. Meerstein let's his team play and had no issue with the shots.
"I was talking to one of my assistants after the game and he said, ‘That's how we played all year,'" Meerstein said. "You don't change what you do and how you got here. We took a shot that was open and the guys just didn't make them."
From 3-point range, Voigt was the only Blazer connecting. He was 4 for 8 from "downtown" and the rest of the team was 1 for 15.
"We just weren't hitting our open shots," said Voigt, who had a game-high 14 points.
Afterwards, N.E.W. was understandably disappointed with the result. The Blazers knew they let one slip by and the feeling won't leave anytime soon.
"No matter what, when you conclude a season, it's hard," Meerstein said. "We started in November and played March 9. You've gone through things … there's a lot of emotion that goes into it. Every team experiences it. Everything you worked for is now over.
"The five seniors we're losing are a big loss. I got emotional in the locker room and I usually don't get emotional."
Although the season was only over for a few minutes, Meerstein talked about next season. The Blazers have reached state three of the last four seasons with two second-place finishes.
N.E.W. has displayed the ability to reload, not rebuild and Meerstein is shooting for another trip to the Kohl Center.
"When you go into a season, any coach that's coaching doesn't think they can't get to the state championship game shouldn't be coaching," Meerstein said.
- 3-pointers: Dakota Zinser added 12 points for the Blazers, while Nathan Claflin had eight rebounds. … Randolph was 11 for 20 from the field in the second half, while N.E.W. was 7 for 21. … Randolph outrebounded the Blazers, 34-24.
- Game ball: Voigt, who led N.E.W. with 14 points.
- Numbers game: 2 Silver balls N.E.W. has claimed in last four seasons.
For a complete boxscore, click this link: http://www.wiaawi.org/Portals/0/PDF/Results/Basketball_Boys/2013/d5game3.html
Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay
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