Though defeated in state semifinals, Cardinals proud of season

By Joe Peine
Posted 3/20/24

The Prescott Cardinals were defeated by St. Thomas More in the state semifinal game at Kohl’s Center in Madison on Thursday by a score of 68-45.

In the world of high school basketball, the …

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Though defeated in state semifinals, Cardinals proud of season


The Prescott Cardinals were defeated by St. Thomas More in the state semifinal game at Kohl’s Center in Madison on Thursday by a score of 68-45.

In the world of high school basketball, the journey to the state tournament is a culmination of months of hard work, dedication, and relentless determination. For the Prescott Cardinals, their quest for glory reached a pivotal juncture as they entered the semifinals as the four-seed and faced off against St. Thomas More who drew the one-seed in a highly anticipated showdown. However, despite a valiant effort and flashes of brilliance, Prescott found themselves on the wrong side of the scoreboard when the final buzzer sounded.

Prescott, led by their seasoned coach and a roster of talented players, took to the court with a steely resolve, fully aware of the challenge that lay ahead. St. Thomas More, who had gone 27-1 this season, boasted a formidable lineup of their own, and they came out of the gates firing on all cylinders, quickly establishing an early 8-0 lead.

Kobe Russell put up a three-pointer and then Cardinal star shooter Dallas Wallin added a field goal and free throw to bring the score to 12-6 at midperiod.

The first half was a grueling battle, with both teams trading baskets in a display of skill and athleticism. St. Thomas More's offense executed with precision and capitalized on opportunities to stretch their lead, but despite their best efforts, Prescott kept battling back.

A couple more free throws by Wallin and a timely deep shot from Kyle Cogan and it was a near tie ball game at 12-11. That’s when the Chancellors’ offense clicked into high gear, and they went on an 11-4 run to make it 23-15.

That’s when Prescott went on a run of their own, outscoring St. Thomas More 8-3 down the stretch as Monteith and Temmers each hit three’s. The final basket came with time about to expire as Wallin drove the lane and took it to the basket himself for an impressive two-point layup to make it a one-score game going into halftime with the Chancellors up 26-23.

The second period saw Prescott dig deep, summoning every ounce of energy and determination in their quest to turn the tide of the game. However, St. Thomas More continued to dictate the tempo, and their suffocating defense began to stifle Prescott's offense and limit their scoring opportunities.

Early in the half, Prescott found themselves trailing by five when they turned the ball over and the Chancellors took a fast break to the hoop to make it 34-27. The Cardinals gained some ground over the next minute, but the size and physicality of St. Thomas More is an advantage that they put on display with a steal that culminated in an ally-oop dunk to push the red birds’ deficit to nine.

Despite the uphill battle they faced, Prescott refused to concede defeat and continued to hang around. After 5:30 minutes of play, they pulled back within four after another Monteith deep shot made it 38-34.

As midperiod approached, the Cardinals were down by eight when Kobe Russell did a phenomenal job of working inside, spinning and hitting a jump shot to shrink the deficit to 44-38.

With about 8:00 remaining in regulation, the Cardinals were still in striking distance at 46-41 but missed shots gave the Chancellors opportunities that you just can’t give a team like that. When you’re facing opponents that range all the way up to 6’9”, it is difficult to contain them for 36:00, and STM showed that with two big, back-to-back dunks that ran the score out to 50-41, forcing a Prescott timeout.

As the clock ticked down, the Cardinals found themselves struggling to make up ground against a relentless opponent, and as the final minutes of the game approached, it became increasingly evident that Prescott’s valiant effort would fall short. The Chancellors’ lead ultimately proved insurmountable, and when the final buzzer sounded, the scoreboard told the tale: St. Thomas More 68, Prescott 45.

For Head Coach Nick Johnson and his players, reaching the state semifinals was an achievement to be celebrated—a testament to their hard work, dedication, and unwavering commitment to excellence. Though the outcome may not have been what they had hoped for, the journey itself was filled with moments of triumph, camaraderie, and personal growth.

“We battled and went toe to toe with them for 26-27 minutes. We had a couple in and outs, but we had good looks. They built the lead to seven or eight in the second half, but we cut it back down to four. Then we had that layup. It was in and out, and I was thinking man that’s a big basket because they came right back down and just hit us in waves,” Johnson said. “We had a lot of open threes, we just didn’t knock them down, and that's the game. It's all about putting that that basketball in the hole, especially against a team that can hurt you in the full court and the half court. So yeah, it's too bad some of those didn't go down, but we've got nothing to hang our head about.”

In the aftermath of the defeat, there were undoubtedly feelings of disappointment and heartache among the players, coaches, and fans of Prescott. Dreams of a state championship had been dashed, and the sting of defeat lingered in the air. However, amidst this, there was also a sense of pride in what had been accomplished.

For Wallin, it was a tough game and a tougher loss, but it was also the realization of a dream 10 years in the making.

“It's crazy, I usually got the taller guy on me, but 6’9”, that height there is just unteachable. You just try to pump fake, get him in the air, get some shots up, but it's tough to score when they’ve got that size and that ability and that skill,” Wallin said. “It means everything. It's what I've been working for since I was in second grade playing three on three basketball, starting on varsity since my freshman year and all the way up to now. It's the ultimate goal for every team, and I couldn't be more proud of our guys and our coaches. It’s just a real honor to be here.”

As they reflect on the season that brought them to this point, the Cardinal team knows they left everything on the court, competing all the way to a top 4 finish in the state of Wisconsin. And although it’s tough to lose when you’re so close to a championship, Russell and the returning members of the team will look to use it as fuel for the fire, driving them to return stronger, more determined, and more resilient than ever before.

“I've always been like a football first type of guy, but this year it switched. I worked as hard as I possibly could to get as good as I can at basketball, and I'm going to do the same going forward and try to get back here again with our team,” Russell said.

Prescott will lose nine seniors in the offseason including Wallin, Mason Schommer, Ian Leask and Kyle Cogan, four of their top six shooters. Coach Johnson says it will not be easy trying to replace what they did this year and throughout their careers.

“Dallas has cemented himself as one of the greatest players in our history, and I'd argue the state, but we do bring back three players that played huge roles for us,” Johnson said. “Kobe, Barrett and Max will be expected to take on even larger roles next season, and we also feel very strongly that our other players can make huge impacts next season. Teddy Bernick and Eyan Miller will be two players expected to take on larger roles next season. After that we have a handful of sophomores, juniors, and seniors who will be competing for other large varsity roles and minutes.” 

The first step down the path of Prescott’s new look next season will be when the team plays in a summer league in Stillwater on Tuesday nights in June and July, about 12-14 games according to Johnson. They will also play in a one-day tournament at UWRF towards the end of June, which is usually three games.

“We had an amazing season, and we have so much to be proud of. Anytime you do something that previously has only been done three times in the history of your school tells you how special of a season it was,” Johnson said. “What makes it even more memorable is I think a lot of people doubted this team at the beginning of the year and throughout, but the players and coaches never lost focus on what our expectations were since the first day of practice. I cannot be more proud of this team, our coaches and our incredible fan support throughout the season.”



Prescott Cardinals, St. Thomas More Chancellors, boys basketball, high school state tournament, Kohl Center, Madison