Westosha Central High School earned its first boys basketball state berth in school history Saturday at Oregon High School (Mike Ramczyk/The Report).

No. 2 Westosha Central 76, No. 1 Monona Grove 55

By Jason Arndt
Editor

Faced with the memories of last year’s WIAA Division 2 sectional final loss to Waunakee, the Westosha Central High School boys basketball team refused to let another chance of a state berth slip from its fingers Saturday, when the unwavering Falcons played top-seeded Monona Grove at Oregon High School.

The second-seeded Falcons, who entered play boasting a 21-4 record for most single-season wins in school history, were up against a taller and bulkier Monona Grove squad featuring 6-foot-7 senior Jake Schroeckenthaler.

Westosha Central, however, did not allow the Silver Eagles’ size to intimidate them, playing with purpose, and presented an aggressive and unflinching defense.

With their tenacious approach, the Falcons made an immediate statement, jumping to a 34-22 lead entering halftime to help seal their first sectional championship in school history with a 76-55 drubbing of Monona Grove.

The immediate statement, according to Westosha Central coach James Hyllberg, hinged on two words.

“We talked about two words before the game, will and emotion, so we wanted to have the willpower to fight through it and play with a lot of emotion,” he said. “I thought last year, we didn’t do it as well.”

Hyllberg, meanwhile, has yet to absorb the team’s state berth.

“Right now, it is kind of surreal,,” he said. “Now it comes down to two games.”

Zackery, who scored 16 of his team-leading 20 points in the first half, including 14 in the Falcons 19-5 run to start the contest, said Saturday’s win was a matter of finishing what the team couldn’t last year.

“We got to the same place last year, and I just thought about that feeling that we had, being runners-up,” Zackery said. “It just hurt, so I thought we got to finish this.”

Junior Dylan Anderson, who scored the other five points in the early rally, knew Zackery was on a mission as the team loaded the bus on Saturday.

“He was determined right as he got on the bus,” Anderson said.

Defensive pressure
Using its 2-3 zone defense, Westosha Central effectively drove Schroekenthaler out of the paint, and forced multiple turnovers.

Schroekenthaler, who entered the contest with 19.3 points per game, was limited to 12 points against the Falcons.

“We decided to put pressure on him at all times, we wanted to push him out of the lane and just make it difficult for him,” Hyllberg said.

Monona Grove (24-2) coach Dan Zweifel, whose team lost just one game entering the sectional final, said Westosha Central’s defensive scheme coupled with its fast-paced offensive transitions were too much to handle.

“The difference in the game was that I thought their defense really got after us hard, I give them a lot of credit, they forced us into some turnovers, which led to easy run out baskets that we were not able to overcome,” he said.

Forceful second half
Holding a 34-22 lead entering the second half, the Falcons showed no indication of letting up, holding the Silver Eagles to just two field goals through the first eight minutes in the final frame.

Through the first eight minutes, four Falcons picked up where Zackery left off, widening the team edge to 53-29 after Westosha Central produced a 15-0 run.

Cooper Brinkman, who finished with 17 points, tallied six of the Falcons 15 points.

Junior Adam Simmons, meanwhile, added eight points and senior Nic Frederick pitched in two.

Anderson, who converted one of two free throws, and a Zackery basket capped off the second half rally.

While Zackery led the Westosha Central charge, Hyllberg came away impressed with the other starters, who collectively scored 75 of the team’s 77 points.

“(Jaeden) played one of the best games all year, I thought every single guy that played today, played their butts off,” he said.

Simmons produced 15 points and Frederick knocked in another 12.

‘Greatest feeling ever’
With the Falcons decisive win, they advance to Friday’s WIAA Division 2 state semifinal, which serves as redemption for Anderson.

“After losing last year and coming back here and just winning is the best feeling I ever felt,” he said.

For Simmons, who thought his team had a chance entering the season, winning the sectional title turns his dream into reality.

“It feels great, it feels like a dream, we have been working hard for this all year,” Simmons said. “I believe we had a chance because of how far we got last season.”

Although the opponent has not been determined, Hyllberg told his team after the game to simply go for it at the state tournament, noting the team needs just to wins to secure a championship.

“I talked to the guys after the game, and said ‘Why not?’” Hyllberg said.

“We came this far, and no one thought we could do it, so why not?”

 
 

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