Thomas' 30 leads Onalaska to WIAA Div 2 title
MADISON Matt Thomas put on a show Saturday night.
The Onalaska junior scored 21 of his game-high 30 points in the first half to lead the Hilltoppers to a 55-38 victory over Kaukauna in the WIAA Division 2 state boys' basketball championship game in Madison.
Thomas finished 9 for 18 from the field, including 4 of 7 on 3-pointers. He also made eight of nine free throws and pulled down a game-high 11 rebounds as Onalaska (27-1) claimed its third state title. The Hilltoppers won the Class A crown in 1988 and the Division 2 trophy in 1992.
"I knew Thomas was a very good player, but tonight he was absolutely outstanding," Galloping Ghosts coach Mike Schalow said. "He took his game to another level ... We really didn't have an answer."
Onalaska coach Craig Kowal wasn't surprised by Thomas' impressive performance.
"I just had this feeling that tonight he was going to absolutely show the state how talented and how good of a basketball player he really is," Kowal said. "He just dominated that first half."
The 6-foot-4 guard scored all 10 of Onalaska's points in the first quarter, and his 3-pointer with 2 seconds left in the second quarter gave the Hilltoppers a 13-point halftime lead.
"It's kind of indescribable, the feeling you have," said Thomas, who singlehandedly outscored Kaukauna 21-16 in the opening 16 minutes. "Just a really good feeling. You think every shot you put up is going in. And my teammates did a great job of getting me open, just high ball screens, got me shots. I can't thank them enough."
Schalow switched defenders on Thomas several times, trying Riley VanderWyst, Jordan Kaufman, Jason Miller and Jon VandeWettering on him. Nothing worked.
"Every time he had the ball, we had a hand in his face and he's just knocking down shots, so we've got to give him a lot of credit," Miller said.
Senior Kyle Schuh and Jordan Kaufman had nine points apiece for the Ghosts (25-3), who were held to a season low for points as their 14-game winning streak ended.
Onalaska sealed the victory by scoring 13 of the first 15 points of the second half. Thomas had eight in the surge, while senior forward Nick Arenz added five of his nine.
"That was obviously the difference in the game," said Kowal, whose team's lone loss was a 66-64 setback Jan. 7 against Minnesota's Apple Valley. "We told the guys at halftime that those first 3 minutes (of the second half) are going to dictate the game: Are we going to let them back in it or are we going to finish the deal?"