By Dan Truttschel – Sports Correspondent

A long bus ride to Oregon for last week’s WIAA Division 2 regional final contest was just the first challenge for the Westosha Central boys basketball team.

Once the Falcons arrived, they had to deal with the overflow, raucous crowd – and that, combined with the talent of Oregon just proved to be too much to overcome.

The Panthers raced out to a 10-0 lead, and then pulled away in a big third quarter en route to a 72-38 victory. The loss ended Central’s season at 11-14 overall, while Oregon saw its playoff run in the sectional semifinal later in the week.

“(The gym) was loud, their student section was pretty engaging, and I know in the first half that’s what got to us,” Central coach Dave Sjong said. “We had the jitters. We came out and played tight and it cost us.”

Sjong said his team battled in the first half and eventually pulled to within two points at 19-17 before Oregon responded with nine of the final 12 points before the intermission.

“To their credit, we made a run and they counter punched,” he said.

Oregon outscored the Falcons 44-18 in the final two quarters to put the game out of reach.

Sjong said the Panthers changed their defensive strategy from what he had seen on film – and that caught his team a bit by surprise.

“We had watched two or three films of them, and they seemed to be a ‘pack’ defensive team,” Sjong said. “When they played us, they were playing pressure defense. It took us way out of our offense.”

Dalton Sjong led the Falcons with 22 points, followed by Mike Michelau with 10.

The loss ended the Central playing careers of Dalton and Dustin Sjong, Michelau, Tyler Schoenke, Jason Castona and Sam Cavener.

Each of the seniors will be missed, Dave Sjong said – but his sons will be missed the most on a personal level.

Having the chance to coach both in their last high school season definitely was a highlight, the elder Sjong said.

“When you reflect back, it’s fun and maddening at the same time,” he said. “Most of the kids on the team will tell you the person who was criticized most were my own kids because I know what they can and can’t do.

“It was a lot of fun and special to be able to coach them for their last year of high school basketball. It’s something I will always remember.”

Despite the loss of the six seniors, Sjong is confident next year’s squad can continue moving the program forward.

“We still bring back three guys who have a good amount of varsity experience,” he said. “If we can continue to play hard, I think we’ll be OK. … If we put enough work in the summer and do some things, I think we’ll be fine.”

Results of All-Southern Lakes Conference voting and a statistical wrap up will run in a future edition.



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