MADISON (NBC 26) — It took a historic effort to end Saint Mary Catholic's tournament run.
The Zephyrs led by seven points at halftime of their state semifinal against Kenosha St. Joseph, but Lancers junior guard Eric Kenesie exploded for 29 of his WIAA state tournament-record 51 points in the second half, propelling St. Joe's to an 83-72 win.
"We just couldn't stop (him)," SMC head coach Paul Bradshaw said. "He had a phenomenal game. And we've got to give credit to him and them, they played great.
"Most of the season we felt like we had control of a lot of the ballgames we were in," Bradshaw added. "We didn't have control today."
Senior guard Danny Griffith scored 24 points to lead Saint Mary Catholic, which suffered just its third loss of the season and first since January 12.
"Obviously it was a little frustrating because he's just making every shot he took," Griffith said of Kenesie's performance. "Also in another way it's pretty impressive what he'd doing. Scoring the most points ever scored in a (state tournament) game.
"You've just gotta give all credit to him," Griffith continued. "Heck of a game."
It was just the latest in a long line of great performances for Kenesie. He scored a then-career high 42 points in the Lancers sectional final win last Saturday.
"It means a lot to me having that record, but what really hits me is us going on to play another game here at the Kohl Center," Kenesie said. "Playing for a chance to win the state championship. If we lost that game, the (51) points doesn't matter."
The Lancers advance to play No. 2 seed Luther, which beat Whitehall in the other Division 4 semifinal.
Meanwhile, SMC sees a great season come to a close. The Zephyrs finish 26-3 and now say goodbye to an outstanding senior class, which Bradshaw credits with helping to change the culture when he took over the program three years ago.
"They really have built the foundation for I think where we're going to take the program," Bradshaw said, teary-eyed. "We're really going to miss them. It's a class that you don't often have the opportunity to have."
Four of the Zephyrs five starters were seniors, including Griffith and 6'6" forward Cole Uhlenbrauck, who will play college basketball at St. Norbert College.