Esselmann is clutch, Davis is prolific for Port boys

Arnold does the dishin’, Burmesch the dirty work and Fritsch the defense in playoff win over Plymouth

PORT WASHINGTON SENIOR Ryan Burmesch (21) went up for a shot, and Kenyon Davis (5) drove the lane in a 76-73 playoff win over Plymouth last Friday in Port. Photos by Mitch Maersch


Ozaukee Press staff

Seniors on the Port Washington High School boys’ basketball team haven’t had a home playoff game in their careers, and they weren’t going to let their season end in their own backyard last Friday.

Kenyon Davis scored 29 points on 12-for-27 shooting, Ryan Burmesch snagged 13 rebounds and Matt Esselmann scored 20 points, including making all six of his free throws in the last 51 seconds, and grabbed 11 rebounds.

That led the No. 4-seeded Pirates to a thrilling, 76-73, win over No. 5 Plymouth in a Division 2 regional semifinal in a loud gym.

“It feels great in front of the home crowd and everybody cheering for you. A great atmosphere tonight,” Davis said.

“It definitely feels good. First (playoff) win in my four years,” Burmesch said.

It was no more than a two-possession game in the second half until Port pulled away to a 72-65 lead with two Esselmann free throws with 43.3 seconds left. He had already drained two eight seconds before, and made two more with seven ticks left, pushing Port’s lead to 76-70.

Esselmann said he wasn’t nervous despite the Panthers’ student section trying to distract him, at one point chanting “Who’s your barber?” referring the little ball of hair he has on the top of his head. He claims headbands don’t work.

“That’s what I do in practice. I’ve got everybody yelling at me when I’m taking free throws. I’m always the last guy to shoot. I was ready,” he said.

Coach Brian Hebein knew it.

“That kid’s never nervous. I wanted that student section to get as loud as possible because Matt just thrives on that stuff. That doesn’t bother him. He was laughing at the free throw line,” he said. “We’ve had student sections do their hair like him. He’s got ice in the veins.”

With Port holding a 65-63 lead late, the Pirates went 9-for-10 on free throws in the last 106 seconds of the game. On their only miss, Burmesch nabbed the rebound, and Esselmann was later fouled and hit two foul shots.

Port survived despite junior point guard Josh Arnold picking up his fourth foul with just more than 14 minutes to play and Esselmann whistled for his fourth nine seconds later.

“That made us go a little deeper in the bench, which is fine,” Hebein said. “Jayden Harris gave us four quality minutes, with Kyle (Uselding) coming in and being solid and Cal (Loose) as a freshman not being scared.”

Both teams love to run, and they traveled at a breakneck pace in the first half, at one point combining for 17 points in a one-minute stretch, causing fans’ heads to turn faster than if they were watching tennis. Davis and Uselding had three-pointers for Port in the run, and Arnold had a jumper.

Arnold had eight assists in running Port’s offense and scored 18 points, many on jumpers inside the top of the key.

“It’s great. I love the environment,” he said. “I just got my teammates the ball. It’s fun seeing the student section, too.”

For Plymouth, guards Tom Blad and Kayden Schultz each scored 15 points, and guard Dylan Sass had 11, as did 6-foot,-7-inch forward Jack Jacquat.

Burmesch (6-4) guarded Jacquat, who likes to shoot outside. But Hebein told him to stay inside.

“He shoots 16% on the season from three. I told Ryan to stay with the game plan. If you go running out on him, he’s going to blow by you and he’s going to dunk on us,” Hebein said.

He was proud that his senior stuck with his advice. Jacquat made his first three-pointer early and missed his next seven.

“He’s such a seasoned veteran. He leads by example,” Hebein said of Burmesch. “I jokingly called him Captain America because he does all the dirty work.”

Pirate guard Ben Fritsch, who had been hurt for much of the season, also stood out on defense, getting in the way of Panthers and drawing two charges.

“He is asked every game to have to go out and guard their most explosive offensive player,” Hebein said.

Port’s season came to a close at No. 1 West De Pere last Saturday in a 98-60 loss.

The Phantoms’ zone defense stymied the Pirates, and their shooting sunk them. They went 12-for-26 (46%) on three-pointers and 39-for-76 (51%) from the field.

Ethan Heck led the Phantoms with 34 points and 11 rebounds, going 7-for-11 on three-pointers.

Port finished 11-15 overall.



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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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