MADISON — Synclair Byus had the ball and was out ahead on a fast break.
As the defender closed in, Byus beat him to the basket and tossed the ball off the glass.
Onalaska Luther High School teammate Gabe Huelskamp was already in flight and gliding toward the rim.
“I took the pass from Isaiah (Schwichtenberg), looked back and saw Gabe behind me,” Byus said. “I knew I was going off the backboard with it.”
Huelskamp reached up with both hands, grabbed the basketball and slammed it hard through the hoop as fans who traveled to watch the Knights play in their second WIAA tournament in three years came unglued.
Byus stuck a hand in the air, and every player and coach on the Luther bench soaked in the applause. Whitehall called timeout because the Knights had scored 15 straight points in their Division 4 semifinal game at the Kohl Center.
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Like Huelskamp on that play, there was no stopping second-seeded Luther on Thursday as it routed the third-seeded Norse 79-51 to qualify for a Saturday championship game against fourth-seeded Kenosha St. Joseph (19-10).
Huelskamp’s dunk brought the house down, but it was also simply one play of the many once the Knights (27-2) turned into the Knights.
“I just feel like a beast,” Huelskamp said with the same smile that lingered long after the slam on the court. “I had fun doing it, and it feels great knowing my teammates are looking for me like that.”
The final score might seem a little outrageous, but that’s how good Luther has been this season. Nothing that happened against the Norse was surprising after an early 12-point run wiped out a 7-2 deficit.
The Knights pushed the pace, they moved the ball, and their best players made the same plays they’ve been making all season. Whitehall, which had a dynamite 22-7 season and memorable postseason run, couldn’t respond.
Schwichtenberg had 19 points and made 8 of 10 shots. Miller had 16 points, seven assists and six rebounds. Logan Bahr had 16 points on 2-for-4 3-point shooting and had seven rebounds.
Those performances also just happened to be on the biggest stage available for the show.
The scope of that stage changes Saturday with the championship on the line, but Luther first had to prove itself worthy of participating. It then went out and won a WIAA state tournament game for the first time in program history.
The Knights have a chance to win their first state championship in coach Brad Schaper’s final game after 16 seasons of leading the program. Schaper takes a 220-147 record into the game against the Lancers.
They gave themselves the opportunity by tackling the moment and pulling away from the Norse in one big swoop.
Luke Beighley may have given Whitehall a 7-2 lead with two straight baskets that sandwiched around Kodi Miller’s second foul just 3:11 after the opening tip, but Luther scored the 12 straight, 16 of the next 19 and 26 of the next 31.
Bahr knocked down two free throws after being fouled on a 3-point attempt to give the Knights a 28-12 lead with 7:58 left in the half.
The game certainly wasn’t over, but it felt over.
Huelskamp’s dunk in the second half was just the icing on the cake of a very good game for the Knights, who made 31 of their 62 shots, hit 12 of 13 free throws and had 18 assists against six turnovers.
“That’s just demoralizing to the other team,” said Miller, who finished with 16 points, seven assists and six rebounds. “He really put that one down, and it got the crowd even more into it.
“There’s no coming back from that.”
Todd Sommerfeldt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @SommerfeldtLAX