The Westosha Central student section erupts in cheers towards the end of the game Saturday (Jason Arndt/The Report).

By Jason Arndt

Westosha Central coach James Hyllberg and senior Jaeden Zackery agreed with how their team’s first half production turned out in Saturday’s WIAA Division 2 regional final with county rival Wilmot.

“That is probably the best first half we have played all season,” said Hyllberg. “We got the ball to our shooters, we rebounded well and ran a fast transition.”

Considering the Falcons entered play riding a 16-game winning streak, along with a tie for most victories in school history, their first half performance should indicate how well they produced.

Propelled by runs of 9-0 (twice), 7-0 and 6-0, the top-seeded Falcons carried a 44-15 edge after the first half and coasted the rest of the contest to come away with a 71-39 defeat of No. 4 Wilmot.

Zackery, who scored 17 of his game-high 30 points in the opening frame, also collected nine rebounds and pitched in two assists.

“In the first half, we came out really well, that is what really set the tone,” Zackery said. “It is the best we have ever played in the first half and that is what really helped us the rest of the game.”

Westosha Central, ranked fifth in the Coaches Poll, improved to 23-1 and surpassed the school win record.

The Panthers, meanwhile, did what they could against the Falcons fast paced playing style.

Wilmot coach Jake Erbentraut, whose team won seven of its last eight contests before Saturday’s loss, said the Falcons transition game thwarted any attempts to set up on defense.

“Westosha is in a league of their own around here. You saw it tonight,” he said.

“They exploited us, they knew exactly what to do in terms of getting the ball to the right guy inside.”

Early surge

Senior Jaeden Zackery finds an opening to the hoop while Panthers Mason Moravectz tries to keep up with the Westosha Central guard in the second half of Saturday’s WIAA Division 2 regional final.

At the start, the two teams had a 2-2 deadlock after Zackery and Wilmot’s Kevin Brenner traded buckets, but the Falcons responded with their first of two 9-0 runs to jump ahead 11-2.

Wilmot trimmed its deficit to 13-6, courtesy of baskets from sophomores London Glass and Kevin Sandman before the Falcons rattled off a 7-0 run, sparked by a Zackery jumper and free throw.

Westosha Central then capped the off the stretch with layups by seniors Adam Simmons and Joey Michelau to extend the Falcons lead to 20-6.

While Simmons finished with nine points along with eight rebounds, Michelau added six points and five rebounds.

Following a senior Zach Lamberson 3-pointer for Wilmot, the Falcons bolstered their advantage with their second string of nine consecutive points, started by freshmen Jack Rose and ended with seven from Zackery.

Rose scored 10 of his 12 points in the first half.

Coleman steps up
The Panthers struggled with distributing the ball in the paint, where they could not find open looks, but senior Noah Coleman took advantage of any opportunity he had.

Coleman, a 6-foot-3 post player, scored four points to lead the Panthers at halftime and finished with 8.

“It was just my teammates being able to create space for me,” he said. “They found me in the right spots and I was able to make layups.”

Erbentraut credited Coleman’s resiliency on Saturday and believes the senior exceeded his expectations.

“We got more than what we could ever ask for from him,” said Erbentraut.

Along with Coleman, Wilmot received a team-leading 10 points from junior Zack Watson, who made two of his team’s three 3-pointers.

Brenner pitched in another eight, including six in the second half.

Despite the loss, Wilmot ended its season 18-6, which is the most wins the program has had since 2012-13 when the Panthers finished 19-6.

Additionally, Erbentraut notched his 100th career victory on Friday.

“It is really humbling and I give a lot of the credit to the players, the coaches and administration,” Erbentraut said.

More milestones
The Falcons, who won their third Southern Lakes Conference title in four seasons, added a third straight regional championship Saturday and eclipsed last year’s school record of 22 wins.

Hyllberg said the accomplishments are a testament to the players, notably the 11 seniors who want to keep rolling.

“I am happy for the boys, they set a goal at the beginning of the season,” he said. “We have 11 seniors, so we know we need to keep this train moving.”

Next up for Westosha Central is a Thursday sectional semifinal showdown with No. 3 Elkhorn at Fort Atkinson High School.

The Falcons swept the regular season series against Elkhorn.

“We know them well, and they know us well. We will be ready and I know they will be, too,” he said.


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