Koenig Leaves in the Winner Circle

Making it his mission to leave high school as a state championship, La Crosse Aquinas point guard and Wisconsin commit Bronson Koenig made good on his promise, leading the Blugolds to a 53-48 win Saturday.

MADISON – Seeing a 19-point lead get whittled down to three in the final minutes because of his team's hesitancy, senior guard Bronson Koenig, as he's been for La Crosse Aquinas over the past four years, was the voice of comfort.

"I was just telling my teammates to calm down," said Koenig. "We were fine, we still had the lead, don't panic and just keep playing."

If the impact he had on Aquinas carries over to his next gig, the University of Wisconsin will be very, very happy.

Although failing to make a field goal over the final 3:54, Aquinas went 6-for-6 from the free throw line, including the final two from Koenig, in the last 1:17 to seal a 53-48 victory over Lodi in the WIAA Division 3 state championship Saturday afternoon at the Kohl Center.

A Wisconsin commit, Koenig – team-high 16 points - was one of three players in double figures for the Blugolds (24-4), who won its second state championship in three seasons, and fulfilled a promise he made to himself of winning a state title as a senior.

Koenig was the missing piece on last year's team – missing most of last season with a thumb injury and seeing Aquinas stumble to an 11-13 overall record - and had his fire lit when he watched other teams win state championships last season.

"I just really wanted to get back here," said Koenig. "I worked really hard in the offseason to get back here."

Koenig has been that way even before he committed to Wisconsin in September 2011. A true point guard in every sense of the word, Koenig's statistics doesn't accurately reflect the number of "wow" plays he delivers on a nightly basis. Having the innate ability to drive to the bucket and finish at the rim or pass to the open teammate for a better look, Koenig ability as a dribbler and passer is unmatched in the state.

"He came in here four years ago, (we) handled the ball off to him and said, ‘Here we go,'" said Aquinas coach Rick Schneider. "I've been fortunate enough to be in the gym with him for four years. Everyone else just gets to watch him play the game and I get to see him practice, work out on his own in the offseason. I've watched him evolve as a player and as a person."

His defense and his play away from the ball have arguably been the things that have improved the most over the past season. Koenig helped the Aquinas frustrate a Lodi team averaging only 6.6 turnovers turn the ball over 18 times, as his aggressive defense allowed teammate to swoop him to make the play.

"He can hurt you in so many ways," said Schneider. "Bronson raised his level of play to just an incredible level (late in the season)."

That's perfect for Wisconsin, as head coach Bo Ryan has been missing that dynamic playmaker this season in his lineup. With the ability young guard have to develop their vision, ball handling, size and athleticism in their first season, it's scary to think how much better Wisconsin's four-star recruit could get when he steps on to the court next season.

"I think Wisconsin is so lucky to get him because he's going to be a great leader for them," said Schneider. "He's ready for that. I've seen him grow into that role, into that person. I am super proud of him for where he's headed. He's got a bright future. The sky is the limit for him. His skill set is really special."

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