Conference showdown between Whitnall/Ike goes Lions' way down the stretch
Falcons suffer second conference loss, look to rebound on Friday at Greendale
Greenfield - Oftentimes, big games don't always live up to expectations.
Last Friday night, however, the contest between Whitnall and New Berlin Eisenhower lived up to all the hype.
In a battle of the top two teams in the Woodland Conference Black Division, Whitnall (12-2 overall, 8-2 Woodland) and New Berlin Eisenhower (12-3, 9-2) went toe-to-toe for four quarters before the Lions staked their claim on first place.
Reed Timmer had a lot to do with that as the sophomore guard hit a jump shot with 4.3 seconds left to play to give Eisenhower a thrilling 60-58 victory over Whitnall and a ½ game lead over the Falcons in the conference standings.
Whitnall looks to rebound and stay right on the Lions' tail when it takes on Greendale (5-9, 5-5) at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Ike, meanwhile, travels to Wauwatosa West (2-12, 2-7) on Friday.
The Falcons then travel to St. Thomas More (11-3, 8-1) Jan. 31 for a showdown with the Woodland Blue Division leader.
Eisenhower doesn't have a conference game next Tuesday, meaning if the Falcons win their next two games they will be tied once again with five league games to go.
The game, however, that will most likely decide the title is the rematch between the Falcons and Lions on Feb. 17 in both teams' second-last conference game of the year.
In last week's game, though, the Falcons actually led, 56-55, and 46.7 seconds to play when Timmer found a wide-open Sandro Pesquiera on the left side and he drilled his seventh 3-pointer of the night to put his team up, 58-56.
"He actually made the shot that I think won the game," said Whitnall coach Kent Kroupa whose team's only losses are to the two New Berlin schools (Ike and West). "He misses that shot, we get the rebound, it's a whole different thing."
Whitnall tied the game at 58 with 32.1 seconds left when Stephen Pelkofer hit a jumper.
But Timmer and the Lions had the last word as after a timeout, Ike worked the ball to Timmer, who calmly sank a jumper from just beyond the free throw line for the winning shot.
"As a coach it's not overly difficult (giving the ball to Timmer)," Eisenhower coach Dave Scheidegger laughed. "It wasn't quite as it was diagrammed, but I won't tell you that. We're just going to say it worked exactly like we drew it up."
It was a fitting end for a game that went back and forth several times.
Eisenhower's Keith Kahlfeldt added eight points and John Crowley six in the second quarter to give the Lions a 30-25 lead at halftime. Whitnall's well-balanced scoring had Michael Bonin and Ian Ray with six each while Pelkofer and Bryan Nagy had four each.
The Falcons, behind Nagy and Luke Mentkowski, went on a 10-0 run and took a 39-37 lead with 3:27 left in the third quarter. Ike bounced back and closed out the period on a 9-3 run as Kahlfeldt had six points and Pesquiera a 3-pointer giving Ike a 46-42 lead after three quarters.
The Falcons used a 7-0 run in the final period to take a 52-48 lead with 3:01 left as Pelkofer hit a free throw and a basket and Sam Mentkowski and Nagy had baskets.
Timmer hit a shot and Pesqueira a 3-pointer to take a 53-52 lead. The teams then exchanged baskets until Pelkofer's jumper tied the game at 58.
"It was a good basketball game; we didn't capitalize when we had the leads," Kroupa said. "That's what we needed to do to win the game. We had two opportunities; we had the lead a couple times and we didn't capitalize. We either missed a shot or had a couple bad passes. We could not maintain our lead.
"I expected a tough challenge tonight. There's a lot of equal teams in the league … Tonight was a lesson to be learned. We will do those things better down the road."
Nagy finished with 14 points, while Pelkofer and Ray totaled 11 each and Bonin 10.
In the end, though, it came back to Pesquiera, who Scheidegger said gave the team cards with an individual message on confidence.
"I put that in my sock and said I'm confident," Pesquiera said. "It's a real big win. We have some big momentum now. We started playing like a team. We have a way better chance at winning conference now. I see our team coming together every day, little by little."
Scheidegger was more down to earth about the win.
"Regardless of how it came out, let's face it, it could have gone either way; both teams played great," Scheidegger said. "I think it was a step forward for us. We helped each other get a little bit better."
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