MADISON, Wis.—Greg Stiemsma has every reason to be proud of his defensive abilities.
"Defense has always been my specialty," the 6-foot-11 center said, following Randolph's 54-37 win over Maranatha Academy in a Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association Division 4 semifinal Friday. "If I can't block the shot, maybe (I can) alter it a little bit."
Stiemsma altered plenty of shots Friday. Maranatha coach Gregg Burke said afterward that his team typically tries to pound the ball inside. Not against Randolph and Stiemsma, though. The smaller Warriors, who boast just one player over 6-3, scored just 10 points in the paint, shot a paltry 29 percent, and fought for every contested, altered shot they received.
"When they do get around the corner, we have Greg there, which is pretty intimidating," Randolph coach Bob Haffele said.
With less than two minutes left in the first quarter, Stiemsma batted away Maranatha senior guard Jesse Taylor's layup attempt. Warrior senior guard Andrew Haworth grabbed the loose ball and put up a high arching shot from what appeared to be a safe distance from Stiemsma. The Randolph big man, though, leapt into the air and extended about a foot above the rim to swat the ball away. The second block in the matter of six seconds very easily could have been called goaltending, but was impressive nonetheless.
Stiemsma's most remarkable play, though, came with just over five minutes left in the game. As Maranatha junior guard Brett Johnson tried a running left-handed scoop shot near the rim, Stiemsma slid over to help and, rather than block the shot, reached up and plucked it out of the air with one arm, curling the ball between his palm and forearm in one fluid snap. He then fired it down court to teammate sophomore guard Mike Biel, who drew a foul and hit two free throws to put the Rockets up 40-22.
"A block or steal, I'm not sure which," Haffele said, regarding the play. "Both I guess. (Defense) is going to be his forte."
Stiemsma finished with five blocks, 10 rebounds and 11 points, one of four Randolph players in double figures.
It was not all clear sailing for Randolph or Stiemsma, though. The game was tied 11-11 after the first quarter and the Rockets, who have won have now won 46 straight games, only led 24-19 at halftime.
Stiemsma dunked on the game's opening possession but was largely held in check offensively as the Warriors frequently double teamed him whenever he set up in the post and brought a third man over when Randolph attempted an entry pass. Stiemsma was visibly frustrated and lost his composure at times in the first half, most noticeably when he missed a dunk and proceeded to race down the court and draw an obvious goaltending violation.
Randolph (25-0) settled down and dominated the second half and will play for a third consecutive Division 4 title Saturday at 12:05 p.m. against Hilbert (22-4), which beat Blair-Taylor 63-57 Friday.
"We came out and competed and I thought it caught them off-guard a little bit," Burke said. "But it's hard to hold a good team down for four quarters. They got it done in the second half. They just wore us down."