This was his place, his floor, his time to shine.
Will Leaf turned Winona State University's McCown Gymnasium into his personal playground, draining six consecutive 3-pointers at one point and seven total to lead the Winona High School boys basketball team to a 73-66 victory over La Crosse Logan Wednesday night.
It took a career-high 29-point effort by Leaf to hold off Logan, which closed to within 66-64 with just under two minutes remaining in what was perhaps the most entertaining game of the Lewiston Auto/Warrior Club Holiday Tournament.
Leaf finished one 3-pointer shy of tying a school record for individual 3-pointers made in a game, but he and his teammates did tie the school mark of 11 3-pointers made by a team in a single game.
"I love shooting on those hoops. I feel comfortable on that court, it is so long it is easy to run our offense with the spacing and get a lot of good looks from it. When I hit that one, it all just kind of took off from there," said Leaf, who finished 7 of 16 from beyond the arc.
"I remember last year when we prepared for the section championship game, we came here and practiced. I didn't play too much - I was kind of a scout guy, their shooter - so I would go around and shoot. I just fell in love with these hoops."
Leaf, a 5-foot-9 junior guard, missed his first four 3-point attempts, then caught fire. He sank his first long-range bomb with 5 minutes, 50 seconds left in the first half. It was the start of a 14-2 Winhawks' run that turned a one-point Winona (4-1) lead into a comfortable 36-20 lead with 3:23 left in the first half.'
"We had just pulled him out before that to give him a quick blow and my assistant said to him on his way to the bench, 'Hey Willie, those are good shots, just keep shooting them. They will start going,'" Winona High coach Rocky Peterson said.
"His comment was: 'I am going to make every one of them.' When he got in the game, the first one he fired up went in and he did pump in six in a row there. He just had that determination and that just shows what focus can really do to a kid."
While Leaf was putting on a shooting clinic, Logan could have stood around and admired, then decided it wasn't its night. Instead, coach Joe Stekel's team fought back, taking it possession by possession in the second half.
Thanks to an impressive 22-point performance from Vince Kube, who led four Rangers in double figures, Logan did fight back. Logan, thanks to a 7-0 run, including a 3-point play by Jonah Waite, pulled within 66-64 before the 3-ball doomed the Rangers once again.
This time it wasn't Leaf, but Hunter Gamoke. Gamoke drilled a 3-pointer from the top of the key to push the Winhawks lead back to 69-64 with 1:41 left. Logan would close to within 69-66 on a basket by LaVaughn Thomas with 1:23 left, but Winona would close the game on a 4-0 run to ice it.
"It just a matter of coming out and doing it the way we have to dictate the game and play," said Stekel, whose team fell to 3-4. "I just think it comes down to our guys grasping what we are trying to get across to them. That is what it boils down to."
UP NEXT: Logan faces Faribault, Minn., at 5:30 p.m. today; Winona faces White Bear Lake at 6:30 p.m. Friday