Joey Michelau drives towards the basket as an Elkhorn defender pursues the Falcons senior during a Saturday matinee (Photo courtesy of Nancy Switalla)

By Jason Arndt

For the Westosha Central boys basketball team, there was plenty on the line entering a Saturday afternoon contest with Elkhorn, according to senior Joey Michelau.

The Falcons, hours after defeating host Waterford to stay unbeaten in Southern Lakes Conference play, returned to their home court for an opportunity to clinch at least a share of the conference title.

Like a Friday night game, the Falcons’ student section responded and packed the Westosha Central gymnasium, which gave the regular season showdown the aura of a playoff contest.

“It pretty much felt the same, our student section was great, we really feed off of our fans,” said Michelau. “It felt like a playoff game tonight.”

With playoff-type implications, Michelau knew how imperative the contest was, especially after last year when the Falcons came up short of claiming a third consecutive conference title.

“We have been working towards winning conference, we all wanted to make up for not getting it last year, so it gave us more motivation to get the title back this year,” he said.

The Falcons, who entered halftime clinging to an 18-17 advantage, found the motivation in the second half by outscoring Elkhorn 48-35 to come away with a 66-52 victory and claim the SLC championship for the third time in four seasons.

Michelau, meanwhile, played a critical role for the Falcons by scoring 14 of his 17 points in the second half.

After Elkhorn’s Will Lauderdale drained a 3-pointer to cut its deficit to 26-25, Michelau added one of his own, which sparked a 9-0 run to give Westosha Central a 35-25 lead.

The Elks then added five points, but the Falcons bounced back, adding another 9-0 run, including five from Michelau and extended the Falcons edge to 44-30.

Michelau, who added five rebounds and three blocks, went 3-for-4 from the perimeter and converted all six of his free throws.

Michelau admits he developed confidence during warm-ups before the game.

“I felt good, in warm-ups I was making all of my shots, so it just made me more confident for when I started shooting in the game,” he said.

“Every game brings different match ups, different strengths and Joey stepped up tonight, made some three big 3’s for us tonight,” said Westosha Central coach James Hyllberg.

Creating an opening
Elkhorn coach Josh Skatrud believes Michelau capitalized on the the Elks’ defensive schemes, which was to double-team Falcons senior Jaeden Zackery in the post.

“We know he is capable of it, to his credit, he stepped up and knocked a couple down,” Skatrud said. “We tried to stop Jaeden and he took advantage of it.”

As for Zackery, he scored a game-high 25 points, including 20 in the second half.

Zackery, who went 9-for-11 from the free throw line, also collected 11 rebounds and chipped in four assists.

Collectively, the Falcons, who drew a bonus with 6 minutes, 30 seconds left of regulation, made 27 of 32 free throws.

“That was huge, we shot 27 of 32, so we needed those free throws,” said Hyllberg. “In these big games, it comes down to turnovers, rebounds and free throws.”

The turnovers, according to Skatrud, were one of the turning points for the Elks.

“I think we had a couple of sloppy possessions early in the second half,” he said. “To their credit, they had some guys who put some shots down, and shook us up a bit.”

On the defensive
In the first half, where the there was a gap in scoring for about six minutes, the Elks man-to-man defense prevented the Falcons from finding open looks.

“They are a good defensive team, we were expecting that,” Hyllberg said. “It was about making every possession count, just be patient with ball movement, set some screens.”

After an early 3-2 deficit, the Falcons jumped ahead after Michelau buried his first of three 3-pointers followed by a Zackery layup to give Westosha Central a 7-3 edge.

The Elks then responded with a free throw from Nicholas Brown, who finished with a team-leading 13 points, but the Falcons responded with a 7-2 run and gave them their largest first half lead at 14-6.

Elkhorn chipped away at its deficit towards the end of the first half by producing a 5-0 run capped off by a Brown basket.

According to Michelau, a halftime pep talk, along with the finding Falcons finding their rhythm propelled his team’s second half.

“We just stayed positive, we really wanted to win this game,” he said. “This is what we work for. The coach gave us a pep talk at halftime and it just started clicking in the second half.”

Westosha Central, ranked fifth in the Coaches Poll, captured its 12th straight win following Saturday’s decision.

With the win, Westosha Central jumped to 18-1 overall and 12-0 in the SLC.

For Elkhorn, which saw its nine-game win streak snapped, the Elks dropped to 16-3 and 10-2.


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