Luther’s press defense, ‘Tall Trees’ giving opponents fits

Luther boys basketball finds itself it in a familiar spot to this time last year: back at sectionals. Last year COVID shut them down before the sectional final. Now, they say it’s time to take care of unfinished business.

The 17-1 Knights have been on a roll, and it starts on the defensive end. Luther uses an effective press defense to generate a ton of turnovers and lead to fast-break offense.

It’s a system coach Schaper says they can hang their hat on, and the players take a lot of pride in being able to execute it so well.

“We want to get the ball to the corner,” junior Gavin Proudfoot said. “We want to make them feel uncomfortable, get our hands up, get up in their face.”

“That’s our number one go-to,” said sophomore guard Isaiah Schwichtenberg. “That’s how we want to score: get up, get press and a steal, and get a bucket on that end.”

When they’re not using turnovers and up-tempo to dictate the game, the Knights can do it in the half-court with their two six-foot-seven forwards, senior Isaiah Loersch and junior Proudfoot. The guards call them the Tall Trees, with Proudfoot leading the scoring and rebounding and Loersch right on his heels.

When both guys are making each other work better each day in practice, it makes this group even more of a well-oiled machine.

“[Gavin] just loves this game,” head coach Brad Schaper said. “He’s a tall guy who’s strong and muscular, but he loves his teammates more than anybody we have.

“Just look at Isaiah Loersch. This guy’s been on our varsity since freshman year, and all he does is care for his teammates. And each night he’s 10 points and 10 rebounds; you can put it in the book for that.”

“Isaiah can expand his game. He can step out a little bit more, with a three-point shot and mid-range, so he steps out and lets Gavin isolate his man in the post,” senior guard and top defender Lyndon Byus said. “It gives us a better high-low look.”

“Oh, it’s just pure competition,” Proudfoot said about practicing with Loersch on the block. “We’re always trying to one-up each other.”

“They’re physical,” Schwichtenberg said with a grin. “They go at it. It’s fun to watch.”

Luther hosts Necedah in Thursday’s Division 4 sectional semifinal.