OSSEO — At any given moment, Osseo-Fairchild coach Tim Popple and his staff might decide to switch to a different plan of attack.
If Plan A isn’t working, it’s on to Plan B. If Plan B isn’t quite what they’re looking for, maybe Plan C will do the trick.
Luckily for the coaching staff, if there’s any team versatile enough to handle changes without a hitch, it’s the Thunder.
“I’ve had some teams where you cannot have very many weapons in the toolbox, because they can’t think fast enough on the court to do more than a couple offenses, a couple defenses,” Popple said. “Not this group. They’ve been around long enough, they’ve seen me run offenses with other groups that I could literally draw it up in a huddle and they could go out and do it.”
And Osseo-Fairchild might need every bit of that versatility on Thursday night.
The third-seeded Thunder (24-2) will square off with second-seeded Lourdes Academy (25-1) from Oshkosh in the Division 4 state semifinals at 8:15 p.m. at the Kohl Center in Madison. The Knights love to push the pace and thrive off high-volume scoring, and the Thunder are prepared to implement any game plan necessary to keep them off balance.
Maybe the Thunder will employ a zone defense. Maybe they’ll go man-to-man. Maybe they’ll go all-out with a full-court press.
Every option is on the table and being considered, and Osseo-Fairchild could very well cycle through most of them over the course of the game until they find one that works.
“We’ve practiced all of the defenses that we might run in a game. So right at the call we can switch it up, get into a new defense and run it how we want to,” senior guard Caden Boettcher said.
Osseo-Fairchild will be going up against a similarly-sized Lourdes team that is lethal from 3-point territory. The Knights shoot 46 percent from deep.
Lourdes is led by guards Henry Noone and Preston Ruedinger. They average 21.7 and 20.2 points per game, respectively. Both shoot over 48 percent from long range. Noone made 123 3-pointers this season, more than anybody else in the state.
“We’re going to have to chase them off the 3-point line,” Popple said.
While Osseo-Fairchild isn’t as proficient from deep — the Thunder shoot 30 percent from beyond the arc — inside play has been an area of strength. That could be used to their advantage on Thursday.
Lourdes is projected to start four guards, meaning the Thunder’s taller players may have plenty of opportunities in the lane.
It’s the kind of thing a dribble-drive specialist like Logan Mulhern could use to his advantage.
“Just got to keep attacking,” said Mulhern, Osseo-Fairchild’s leading scorer at 26.6 points per game. “I met my limit versus Clear Lake (in the sectional final), and I’ve exceeded that. So I’ve just got to keep attacking the basket and being aggressive.”
Both teams have a knack for getting up and down the court in a hurry, although that might not be the case on Thursday. The Thunder won’t want to leave themselves exposed defensively by pushing the pace too much.
“Normally we’d run a team into the ground, but I don’t know if this is a team you want to run with,” Popple said of Lourdes. “I’ve had people ask me if it’s going to be a track meet, and you’d think it would be. But I don’t know if I’m going to (have the team push the pace).”
The Thunder have used a well-rounded offense to get to this point. All five starters scored in double figures against Clear Lake in the sectional finals, led by Mulhern’s 29 points.
Cory Myhers is averaging 13.9 points per game entering Thursday, while the rest of the starters — Ryan Myhers (9.9 ppg), Boettcher (9.8 ppg) and Alex Watenphul 7.7 (ppg) — have all chipped in as scorers when needed too.
“We’ve had all five guys in double digits or helping out,” Watenphul said. “We all rely on one another, and if we didn’t have one another, we wouldn’t be where we are. We’ve been together since third grade, and I think that’s what has helped.”
The winner of this matchup will take on either top-seeded defending champion Manitowoc Roncalli or fourth-seeded New Glarus on Saturday for the championship.
Notes: This is the first appearance at state for the players on both teams. Osseo-Fairchild’s last trip to Madison was in 1992, while Lourdes’ came in 2012. ... The Thunder aren’t too worried about getting adjusted to the larger Kohl Center court. “We’ve had the opportunity to play on a college court at Stout, so we’ve got experience with that. But it’s still a different feel,” Boettcher said. ... The Thunder will be used to playing in front of a big crowd. Their sectional final against Clear Lake drew a completely packed house at Hudson. “With about 2,400 people in a high school gym for a sectional final, (the atmosphere) can’t get much more (intense),” Mulhern said.