BARABOO — With 0.7 seconds left in the game, Pardeeville senior forward Jonathan Kamrath stepped to the free throw line for two shots in a tie game.
“The first one clanked off the back and I’m like, ‘I gotta make this next one,’ ” Kamrath said. “I honestly wasn’t really that nervous. I just had to really focus because I knew that was the game right there.”
Kamrath calmly drained the second attempt. After senior guard Chance Wendhausen's full-court heave sailed wide left, the Bulldogs dog-piled in celebration near center court after coming back to beat Mineral Point 62-61 in a WIAA Division 4 boys basketball sectional final Saturday afternoon and earning a state berth at the Kohl Center.
“Just pure joy and relief. I was so happy. I’ve never been this happy in my life,” Kamrath said. “We’ve been dreaming about this since we were little kids.”
With 10 seconds to play senior guard Nicholas Henke, who led Pardeeville with 22 points, took the ball downcourt with plans to take the final shot, but found himself in a double-team at the top of key. He passed to Kamrath on the low block, where he was fouled by several Pointers before he could get a shot off.
“I turned around and saw Kamrath wide open down there and put my trust in his hands,” Henke said. “I had faith in the kid. I knew he was gonna make one.”
Said Pardeeville coach Chris Lindert: “Kamrath is one of our best 15-foot shooters. I knew he was gonna make one of them.”
Kamrath’s winning free throw capped a huge comeback by the Bulldogs (23-3).
Mineral Point (21-5) had expanded its three-point halftime lead to 13 when Wendhausen drove for a tough basket. Pardeeville was not deterred.
“I looked up at the clock with 4:31 to go and I saw we were down by 13. Nicholas Cerro was passing the ball in on the inbounds and the people behind the hoop were saying Mineral Point has won already,” Henke said. “And I looked at him and said, ‘Let’s just calm down. We have four and a half minutes to come back.’ We made a couple baskets and we were in it.”
With less than two minutes to play, junior Jackson Pargman hit a 3-pointer to bring the Bulldogs within three. Cerro sandwiched two free throws and a layup around an offensive foul by Mineral Point to give Pardeeville a one-point lead. Mineral Point sophomore forward Wes Berget made one of two free throws with 30 seconds left to tie the game.
With 17 seconds to play, Henke drew a foul while attempting to steal a pass. With the Bulldogs in the double bonus, Henke — the team’s best free throw shooter — sank both shots.
“Today, we had a shootaround at 10 and I made sure I shot 150 free throws in the morning,” Henke said. “I knew it was going to come down to free throws.”
Wendhausen finished a contested layup to tie the game at 61 with 10 seconds left.
“That’s what I expect from him. He just gave us a chance to win,” Mineral Point coach Dan Burreson said. “I’m really proud of (my team). Our kids played hard till the end. Give Pardeeville credit, they made shots and made plays down the stretch.”
None bigger than Kamrath’s free throw.
For the senior-laden Bulldogs — 10 of their 12 players are seniors — Kamrath’s sectional final-winning free throw felt like a culmination of nine years of hard work.
“My son is a senior on the team, so I’ve seen this group from 4th grade on. They’re like sons to me,” Lindert said. “And they just kept fighting and kept fighting and they didn’t want the season to end.”
“I’m just so proud of these guys.”
Pardeeville 29 33 — 62
Mineral Point 32 29 — 61
PARDEEVILLE — Kamrath 4 5-6 13, Pargman 2 0-0 5, Henke 7 4-4 22, Cerro 4 2-3 10, Fleiner 1 0-2 2, Zuhlke 3 4-4 10. Totals 21 15-19 62.
MINERAL POINT — Lindsey 9 0-0 23, Heisner 0, Berget 0 2-5 2, Dailey 9 3-4 23, Wendhausen 0 2-2 2, Wendhausen 5 1-4 11. Totals 23 8-17 61.
3-point goals — P 5 (Pargman 1, Henke 4), MP 7 (Lindsey 5, Dailey 2). Total fouls — P 13, MP 21.