The Panthers celebrate near mid-court moments after Saturday night’s win. (Rick Benavides/The Report).

No. 10 Wilmot wins regional title

By Mike Ramczyk
Sports Editor

Saturday night’s WIAA Division 2 boys basketball regional championship between 10th-seeded Wilmot and No. 3 Burlington featured everything people love about March Madness – a live band, raucous, unhinged student sections and a dramatic finish.

And in the end, the Panthers’ upset train chugged on.

Junior guard Latrell Glass sank two free throws with 5 ticks on the clock to propel the Panthers to a third upset victory in five days, 70-69 over the host Demons.

Wilmot improved to 8-16 and will travel to Clinton High School Thursday night for a showdown with top-seeded Westosha Central, which pummeled No. 5 Union Grove Saturday, 73-39.

It was the first regional title for Wilmot since 2015, and the Panthers gained a measure of revenge on the Demons, who beat Wilmot for the regional title last season and knocked them off twice in the regular season.

Burlington senior Dale Damon hit two free throws to give the Demons a 69-68 lead with 21 seconds left, but then Glass, who scored a game-high 26 points, wouldn’t be denied.

Glass drove to the hole on the ensuing possession and was fouled before the shot, as the Demons had two fouls to give before the penalty. Then, a defensive breakdown left Glass wide open underneath the hoop, and Burlington’s Luke Geiger blocked the shot but got enough body to be called for the foul.

Glass, who drained three 3-pointers and consistently broke down defenders to hit difficult jump shots, calmly hit the game-winning foul shots with 5 seconds left.

Finally, Burlington point guard Nick Klug drove the length of the court and rose up over two defenders, but his 3-pointer hit off the front rim.

The elated Panthers jumped around near mid-court, and later the student section rushed the floor and joined the players in a scene of pandemonium.

“I was just thinking, don’t miss these, it’s the big game,” Glass said of his final free throws. “I got up there, took a deep breath and tried to block out all the sound. I’ve been playing since I was little, so I just did what I do best and shot the ball.”

“We’re playing with no fear. We’re the 10th seed, with nothing to lose. We played agressively on offense and defense. It’s hard to beat a team three times, so we just came out there and played basketball.”

Wilmot head coach Jake Erbentraut said the Panthers are playing with supreme confidence right now.

“We’re kind of wondering what just happened,” he joked after the game. “We continue to get better. We want to always be peaking at the end of the season. We’ve had nine games where we lost by seven or less. Our theme is that we’re battle-tested. Burlington made their run. We called timeout and said, ‘We’ve been there before.’”

“We’ve had three games this week where it’s been a different guy stepping up at a different time during the game, offensively and from a defensive standpoint.”

Panthers on fire in first half

Wilmot hit eight of its 11 3-pointers in the first half.

Burlington jumped out to an 18-13 lead, but Jeremy Bruton’s triple gave Wilmot its first lead at 21-20.

Brock Halbach’s 10 first-half points kept the Demons close, but triples from Kevin Brenner, Glass and Darren Rita capped a 24-6 Wilmot run with 1:37 left in the first half.

The Panthers were on fire from the field and took a 39-30 lead into halftime.

Burlington head coach Steve Berezowitz said Wilmot is far better than its No. 10 seed.

“You have to give Wilmot credit,” he said. “We knew they had it in them. I don’t care what seed they are, we knew at any point they could hit shots. We weathered the storm in the first half, but it took us awhile to come back. We didn’t play our best, and I think the guys know that. This time of year, if you don’t play your best and somebody else plays really well, you have a chance to get knocked off. Wilmot has enough offensive firepower where that can happen.”

It seemed like every time Burlington was ready to take command in the second half, the Panthers offered a counter.

Klug and Liam Safar canned triples, and Wilmot couldn’t stay hot from three as Burlington cut the lead to 41-38. But a Bruton tear-drop runner and a Glass three opened it back up to 46-38.

Damon and Klug fueled a 7-2 Burlington run, but Glass caught fire. He broke his defender for a smooth 15-foot jumper and followed it with a deep 3-pointer despite tight defense to make it 53-45 with 10 minutes left.

Demons come all the way back

Halbach answered with a short jumper, and Geiger and Klug each added a free throws to bring Burlington all the way back to a 55-55 tie.

Tied at 57, Kyle Gendron canned a triple, and Brenner broke up a pass and dribbled the length of the floor for a three-point play to give Wilmot a 63-57 lead with three minutes left.

Then Geiger, who led the Demons with 20 points, hit his third 3-pointer off nice ball movement to give Wilmot a 67-65 lead with 1:55 left.

But the Panthers simply wouldn’t go away, as Glass picked Klug’s pocket and darted the length of the floor for a layup to make it 68-67.

Geiger added seven rebounds, and Klug finished with 16 points, though he had trouble finding his outside shot all game. Halbach finished with 14 points and seven boards, and Damon added 11 points.

Wilmot got three triples from Glass and Bruton, and Brenner and Darren Rita each added two.

Brenner added 13 points, Bruton scored 11 and Rita chipped in 10 including a key jumper in the final minutes.

Geiger, Liam Safar, Jack Miller, Daniel Rummler and Damon played their last games as Demons.

“We were focused on a three-stop-in-a-row mentality at the end, and we got some stops,” Geiger said. “We run last-second plays in practice, but Nick was double-teamed at the end and it was hard. It was an unforgettable career, and I will miss shooting together with Nick in the spring and the fall. We’d always work out together.”

“We left it all on the court, but unfortunately we came up short.”

Berezowitz said his senior class will do great things in the future.

“It’s hard to explain that to them now, because it’s the final moment of disappointment,” he said. “And it’s really hard. But they’re academically fantastic, they’re good kids and they gave us everything they had. You’d like to have them walk away with a positive feeling, but this is a punch to the gut. When you put a lot of time and energy into something, you just don’t want to feel this way.”

For Erbentraut, the joy will be short-lived. It’s back to work game-planning for rival Westosha Central (19-5), a team that beat Wilmot in two games by an average of 25.5 points this season.

“We’ll have to figure something out because they’re a really good team,” Erbentraut said. “We have to get back to work Monday, and that’s the bottom line.”

 
 

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