From left: John Marcquenski, Dylan Anderson, Jaeden Zackery and Joey Michelau walks off the court after the Falcons loss to top-ranked Kaukauna in Friday’s WIAA Division 2 state semifinal (Mike Ramczyk/The Report).

Westosha hangs tough with state’s top team, player, proves it belongs

By Jason Arndt
Editor

For an unknown team from Paddock Lake, the Westosha Central High School boys basketball team looked like it belonged on the Kohl Center court Friday in Madison, where the Falcons played heavily-favored Kaukauna in Friday’s Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association Division 2 state semifinal.

The Falcons, who spent their morning shooting warm-ups at a local high school before the clash, entered with energy and confidence against a Kaukauna team boasting Division 1 West Virginia University recruit and Wisconsin’s Mr. Basketball, Jordan McCabe.

Through the first 16 minutes of Friday’s contest, the unfazed Falcons challenged Kaukauna, but the Galloping Ghosts posted an 8-0 run to enter halftime with a 40-32 lead.

Westosha Central, however, just could not maintain its energy in the second half, where Kaukauna outscored the Falcons 35-31 to win 75-63.

Despite the season-ending loss, which dropped Westosha Central to 20-5, junior Jaeden Zackery said the experience helped his dream become a reality.

“When we first got here, we were in the locker room and I just walked out on the court and thought… ‘This is crazy, it’s like a dream come true’ because ever since I was younger I always talked about playing here.” he said.

Zackery, the lone player who played every minute of Friday’s contest, scored a game-high 21 points and picked up a double-double with 11 rebounds.

McCabe nearly countered Zackery, posting 20 points and added a double-double of his own, dishing out 11 assists. The 5-foot-10 superstar managed those numbers despite being held to 5-for-17 shooting.

Regardless of whether McCabe was shooting or passing, Zackery said the Kaukauna guard posed a challenge for the Falcons.

“If they would just spot up and get open, McCabe would find them, because if he wasn’t scoring, he was finding someone else out there,” Zackery said. “He is just a great player.”

Jordan McCabe works around a screen, while Zackery fights to stay in front of him. Despite 5-for-17 shooting, McCabe, the 2018 Mr. Basketball, still scored 20 points and dished 11 assists. (Mike Ramczyk/The Report)

Energetic first half
Kaukauna coach Mike Schalow said the Falcons showed aggressiveness and played with purpose on Friday.

“I thought they were physical and they had some toughness about them and some grit,” said Schalow, whose team improved to 24-3. “They had a chip on their shoulder, they were coming in and were willing to compete and play very hard on both ends.”

“They came out energized.”

Down 17-11 with 12:11 left in regulation, the Falcons posted a 5-0 run to cut the Kaukauna lead to 17-16, courtesy of a Cooper Brinkman 3-point play followed by an Adam Simmons layup.

Dylan Anderson fights for a shot Friday. (Mike Ramczyk/The Report)

After McCabe drew a Simmons foul, the Ghosts guard converted both free throws to pull ahead 19-16 at 10:58.

The Falcons responded with buckets by Zackery and Simmons to give them their last lead of the contest at 20-19, but later deadlocked at 22-22 and 32-32.

Kaukauna, however, then produced an 8-0 run to close out the first half ahead 40-32.

The pivotal run proved detrimental to Central’s comeback chances.

Of the Ghosts’ 40 points, 24 came from the perimeter, including nine from senior Eric Carl.

Kaukauna’s offense, according to Falcons coach James Hyllberg, was difficult to stop.

“It’s hard to stop, that’s for sure, they are a team with a lot of weapons and they have been here for a reason,” he said.

With the Ghosts’ potent offense, Westosha Central was forced to switch from a zone defense to man-to-man defense.

Kaukauna drains Falcons
In the first minute of the second half, Kaukauna extended its lead to 43-32, but the Falcons continued to forge ahead by cutting it to 49-46 with a Zackery jumper at 13:51.

After Kaukauna pushed the lead back to 59-50, Zackery took charge, hitting a jumper and slithering in for a layup to close to within six at 61-55.

But that’s where the Falcons, who play a six-man rotation, simply ran out of gas.

Carl, Donovan Ivory and McCabe took over in a back-breaking 10-0 run, as Central missed 11 consecutive shots, including four 3-pointers.

Brinkman, who played 35 of 36 minutes Friday, posted 17 points, collected seven rebounds and had a team-leading five steals.

Hyllberg admits fatigue started setting in, noting some shots came up short, but lauded his team’s efforts in the state semifinal.

“I thought the guys came out, played confident and did everything that we worked hard in practice all week on,” Hyllberg added.

Additionally, looking back at the season, where the Falcons were relatively unknown by state standards, Hyllberg said Friday’s contest showed his team’s resilience.

“I am just proud of these guys, no one knew much about us, that was for sure,” Hyllberg said.

Large step
As the Falcons conclude their season, Hyllberg expressed optimism, noting his team made their first state appearance in school history.

Additionally, on the state stage, the Falcons were unfazed by Kaukauna.

“It was the first time our guys got this far and I think my main concern was they would come out and play scared,” he said. “Naturally, there is going to be some nerves.”

Considering where the Falcons came from last year, when they lost the sectional final, the team went one step further.

“This is a big stage for them and these guys will never forget this moment, but I thought they handled the pressure very well,” he said.

Meanwhile, according to Zackery, the team’s appearance was not only a statement for the school, but also the community.

“I knew people were doubting since they were like the top-ranked team and nobody really knows about us, we are just from Paddock Lake, and we just came out and we just played like we knew how to and just tried our hardest,” he said. “It was a good game, they just played better.”

 
 

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