Jaeden Zackery attempts a jumper amid Union Grove defenders Jack Pettit, left, and Matt Hansel during Thursday’s Southern Lakes Conference game (Earlene Frederick/The Report).

By Jason Arndt

Unlike the last two seasons, when the Westosha Central High School boys basketball team had an upper hand in its games against Southern Lakes Conference opponent Union Grove, the Broncos solved the puzzle in 2017-18.

The Broncos, who lost six straight games to the Falcons entering the season, already won their first meeting of the year at Westosha Central entering Thursday’s regular season finale.

The regular season finale, meanwhile, carried SLC title implications with Union Grove holding a one game lead over the reigning conference champions.

Union Grove, however, refused to lose its outright title as the Broncos defeated the visiting Falcons 76-70 to deny them of a third straight championship.

With the Broncos’ victory, they won their first conference championship since 2014.

The Falcons loss comes in spite of a game-high 26 points from junior Jaeden Zackery, who delivered crucial baskets, including one with 16:48 left of regulation to give Westosha Central its last lead at 27-26.

According to Falcons coach James Hyllberg, Zackery and the rest of the squad showed resilience, even when they were down.

“I thought we played really well, I am proud of the way we came back tonight and didn’t give up,” Hyllberg said.

Union Grove (18-4, 13-1 SLC) coach David Pettit said Thursday’s win came at an impeccable time, considering he captured the conference championship in his son Jack’s last season as a Bronco.

“It feels awesome, I have coached a lot of these kids since the sixth grade, to see that development and the progress they have made, and with my son on the team, it is a little more special,” said Pettit, whose son knocked in a team-leading 17 points and added five rebounds.

While Pettit said Thursday’s win had a special meaning, it came against a challenging Westosha Central squad, which possesses a well-balanced offensive attack.

“We got to stop their guards, and then we got to deal with their big guys,” he said. “You need to have good defense to stop them. They are tough to defend.”

In the first six minutes of the contest, for every shot Union Grove made, Westosha Central answered.

“They made some big shots, every time we had a run going, they answered back,” Hyllberg said.

Overall, the Broncos were 52 percent from field goal range compared to Westosha Central’s 38 percent.

Behind the perimeter, Union Grove was 6 for 11 and the Falcons went 7 for 22.

See-saw first half
The Falcons, ahead 7-6 with 11:36 left in the first half, saw its largest lead when Jaeden Zackery, who scored a game-high 26 points, converted a mid-range jumper to give them a 9-6 lead.

On the next possession, Union Grove’s Riley Hale deadlocked the contest 9-9 after he made his second of four 3-pointers in the game.

Hale, who finished with a team-leading eight assists, had 13 points.

From there, Union Grove rattled off a 9-0 run to build an 18-9 lead with 6:25 left in the first half.

Westosha Central then pulled the contest within three points on 3-pointers by Zackery and Nic Frederick to trim the Broncos lead to 18-15 with 5:46 remaining in the first half.

Zackery, who drew a Luke Nelson foul with 6.4 seconds left in the opening frame, made one of two free throws to take a 26-25 deficit into halftime.

Pettit sparks Bronco charge
To open the second half, Zackery knocked in a bucket to give Westosha Central its last lead of the contest.

Like the first half, Union Grove responded with a Luke Hansel bucket to reclaim a 1-point lead.

Westosha Central then made it 28-28 after senior Cooper Brinkman drew a personal foul, which sent him to free throw line, where he made one of his free throws.

Jack Pettit, however, had enough of the back and forth battle, starting a 11-0 run on back-to-back baskets, which eventually gave the Broncos a 39-28 lead.

Jack Pettit said his team, which played man-to-man defense most of game, was able to extend its lead due to communication and proper ball handling.

“We just had to stay in front of them,” he said. “When we play our defense, that is what wins us games.”

Although Union Grove maintained its lead the rest of game, the Falcons were able to trim its deficit to 74-70 with less than one minute left of regulation.

“Our kids did a great job tonight and I am proud of them,” said David Pettit. “I think both teams battled hard.”

Along with Jack Pettit and Hale, sophomore Sam Rampulla garnered 15 points for the Broncos.

For Westosha Central (18-4, 13-1), in addition to Zackery, Brinkman had 15 points. Frederick added 11 more to go with his three assists.


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