By Dan Truttschel

Sports Correspondent



About halfway through the third quarter Friday afternoon, it looked like the Wilmot boys’ basketball team might leave the West Allis Hale Tournament with the first-place trophy.

That’s where Hale’s Nick Sotiros entered, however, and ruined the Panthers’ chances.

Sotiros scored eight straight points to erase Wilmot’s 53-51 lead and turn it into a 68-61 non-conference loss. The defeat dropped the Panthers to 4-4 overall heading into a non-conference contest Tuesday night at Brookfield East.

Results of that matchup were unavailable by press time.

Wilmot earned its way to the title contest with a convincing 78-59 win over Milwaukee North the previous day.

Despite the two-game split, Wilmot coach Terry Bruton felt his team got out of the tournament what it had hoped.

“We shored up a lot of stuff we were looking to shore up,” he said. “I was very pleased with our rebounding, our post defense, and our press defense for the most part.

“There were a lot of areas that we came into Christmas saying, ‘Let’s focus on these.’ And we seemed to get better at those kinds of things.”

Against Hale, the Panthers fell behind 21-16 after the first quarter, but trailed by just two at 32-30 by halftime.

That deficit quickly grew right after the intermission, as Hale went on a run to build a 10-point lead. Wilmot eventually cut the deficit to three points twice late in the contest, but couldn’t complete the rally.

“I thought West Allis shot extremely well in the first an third quarter,” Bruton said. “We started the game down 10 and the second half, we were down two and went to being down 10 about a minute into the third quarter.

“We played from behind most of both halves, and as a result, it didn’t go our way down the stretch.”

Chris Nelson led the Panthers against Hale with 23 points, followed by Brandon Schattner with 11.

Nelson was tough in the post all day long, Bruton said.

“He played like a senior,” Bruton said. “He’s doing everything we ask him to do. And he made some shots from the outside, too. He had a good weekend.”

In the opener, Wilmot blew open the game with a 48-29 advantage in the second and third quarters combined to pull away.

“I think it was fatigue on Milwaukee North’s part,” Bruton said. “They have some young players, and as a result, I think our press and our pace of the game caught up to them. They were just gassed.”

Matt Betz led a balanced scoring attack with 17 points, followed by Nate Hensel with 16, Nelson with 15 and Mike Stevensen with 10.

“I was very pleased with the way we shared the ball that game,” Bruton said. “We moved the ball well and scored a lot in transition. We made the extra pass and got the best shot.”

Following Tuesday’s contest, the Panthers will take a 3-2 Southern Lakes Conference record to Burlington next Tuesday, Jan. 10, at 7 p.m.



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