Boys Basketball: Wilmot relies on resilience, team chemistry

Mason Cummings finds an opening in Fort Atkinson’s defensive scheme during Wilmot’s Jan. 23 non-conference meeting (Jason Arndt/The Report).

Panthers gelling as a squad in final stretch

By Jason Arndt

Coach Jake Erbentraut recognized his players needed time to form a strong team bond since they didn’t have much experience playing with one another entering the Wilmot boys basketball season.

The Panthers, who opened the season slate 2-4, have since won seven of their last eight games en route to a 9-5 overall record and 6-4 in Southern Lakes Conference play as of Jan. 25.

“We came into the season with very little experience of us playing together,” Erbentraut said. “I think we needed time to figure out who we are. I think our team settled into our roles and built trust with one another and that’s helping.”

Wilmot, meanwhile, experienced its lone loss in a 68-65 decision at Westosha Central on Jan. 19 despite a holding a 37-29 halftime lead.

The Falcons, according to Erbentraut, presented a challenge for his team in the second half with some Westosha Central players finding their rhythm.

“We got a really good start in the first half, but like all good teams, they made a comeback,” said Erbentraut. “They had a couple of players get into their rhythm and I think we got tired, trying to hold the lead.”

The Falcons arsenal included junior Jack Rose, who went 9-for-15 from field goal range and finished with a game-high 21 points along with seven rebounds, four assists and a steal.

Junior Kenny Garth finished with 15 points, six rebounds, four assists while senior Eddie Menarek pitched in 11 for Westosha Central.

Although Westosha Central completed the season sweep, the second contest was a marked improvement from Wilmot’s first meeting on Dec. 11, when the Falcons won, 78-46.

“I am very proud of our team and their resiliency. After having lost to them by (more than) 30 early in the season, this was a positive improvement,” Erbentraut said.

For the Panthers, senior Kevin Sandman led with 19 points, collected five rebounds, chipped in two assists while adding a steal.

Junior London Glass, who went 4-for-9 from the arc, finished with 18 points along with three assists.

Senior Isaiah Hoyt bolstered the Panthers’ offensive attack and tallied 14 points and picked up a team-leading eight rebounds.

Panthers bounce back
Wilmot, however, rebounded from the loss to Westosha in back-to-back games, starting with a Jan. 22 win against visiting Elkhorn.

The Panthers, who carried a four-point lead into halftime, outscored the Elks, 34-27, in the second half to come away with a 75-64 victory.

Wilmot received contributions from the trio of Hoyt, Glass and Sandman.

Sandman, who knocked in a game-high 25 points, went 5-for-5 from the free throw line and made eight of 19 baskets. The senior collected six rebounds, three assists and had four steals.

Hoyt, who went 9-for-17 from field goal range, finished with 22 points along with two rebounds.

Glass chipped in another 21 points and picked up nine rebounds.

“I have found that if teams can have three threats to score, it makes it more difficult to concentrate on a few,” Erbentraut said. “(Hoyt, Glass, Sandman) are all very talented players and if they get going, good things happen for us.”

Erbentraut added he is fortunate the three players stepped up against the Elks.

Drew Davey (20 points), Austin Bestul (18), Tyler Ettem (11) and Matt Franz (10) contributed for Elkhorn, which dropped the season series to the Panthers, and fell to 5-7 overall and 5-4 in the SLC.

The next day, on Jan. 23, the Panthers won their second straight game with a 62-47 decision against non-conference opponent Fort Atkinson.

Wilmot, which trailed 29-26 at halftime, produced a 36-18 second half to seal the contest.

Glass (22 points, seven rebounds, two steals), Sandman (12 points, five rebounds, three steals, two assists) and Cummings (11 points, two rebounds, five assists) paced Wilmot.

Cade Cosson finished with 12 points to lead Fort Atkinson (4-1).

Endurance test
Since the start of the season, Wilmot has averaged three games per week, which has been a test of resilience for the Panthers.

But Erbentraut believes the schedule offers an advantage for his team.

“It’s a great experience for our players and allows us to see whether we’re improving or not.” he said. “I feel our players handled it very well by keeping a short memory from the previous game and moving onto the next.”

Erbentraut and his coaching staff, meanwhile, continue to remind players they should feel fortunate for the rigorous schedule because other schools have seen limited action due to COVID-19.