The Wauwatosa West boys had one of their biggest wins of the year Feb. 19 when they traveled to Whitnall and beat the Falcons, 85-81.
Whitnall is in second place in the Woodland West Division (10-5), the only team besides first-place Brown Deer with a winning conference record. They are an impressive 15-6 overall, a .714 winning percentage.
'This win was big, given the fact that we have been so close to some really good teams down the stretch, but couldn't close the deal,' coach Chad Stelse said. 'Against Whitnall, we finally came up big late in the second particularly on the defensive end (they didn't score in the last 2:30 minutes). Not to mention, it was on the road, we need to build on this and bring some momentum into the playoffs.'
The win left coach Chad Stelse's Trojans with a 12-9 record overall and a 7-8 record, good enough for fifth in the Woodland West Division.
It was their second win in a row and eighth out of their last 11 games.
Wild second half
The Falcons had a slim 43-40 lead at halftime and then saw the Trojans come roaring back to outscore them by seven points in the second (45-38) to earn a hard-fought victory.
'We got up 14 points in the second half because of great ball movement and guys stepping up and hitting some big shots,' Stelse said. 'A lot of attention was focused on Alou (Dillon) like always; therefore, our guards had a bigger responsibility to break down the defense, which they did a good job of, and then finding the open shooters.'
With West leading by 14, Whitnall sophomore guard Tyler Herro scored 13 straight points, and they eventually took a 77-76 lead with 3:30 left. But Dillon hit a huge 3 on the next possession to give the Trojans a 2-point lead, 79-76.
With the score tied at 81-81 with 30 seconds left, Se'veon James did a great job containing Herro, forcing him into a double team, which came from LaRon Perine. West forced the turnover, and Perine scored a breakaway layup for an 83-81 lead.
Herro came back down and forced a contested 3 that came up short. Perine made two free throws to seal the deal at 85-81.
'I was proud of LaRon for knocking down free throws this time (he missed one with 4 seconds left that would have given us a road win at Greendale a couple weeks back),' Stelse said. 'It's not easy for a young player to bounce back from that, but LaRon has in a big way.'
West had tremendous balance, as four Trojans scored in double figures.
Senior forward Alou Dillon had 21 points, sophomore guard LeRon Perine had 20 points, junior guard Se'veon James had 16, junior forward Tyrone Powell had 12 and junior Rayvon Bartlett, Jr. added 10.
Herro was almost a one-man-show, as he drilled in 45 points on four treys and was 9-of-10 from the charity stripe.
'Herro was unconscious,' Stelse said. 'We doubled him most of the second half, but it didn't matter. He hit some tough shots. It was an incredible performance, but I give our guys credit; we held him scoreless when it mattered most in the last three minutes.'
West had seven 3-pointers (LePine four, James two, Dillon one). Both teams shot well from the free-throw line, as West was 18-for-21 (.857) and Whitnall was 15-for-19 (.789).
'I'm not sure we did anything better in the second half,' Stelse said. 'Maybe our ball movement was better, but we made offensive plays all game. Scoring 85 points is a lot. Five guys scoring in double figures is a lot. I can't recall that happening for us in recent memory. If we can continue to get balance like that, we will be a tough match-up for anyone come playoff time.'
West is a fourth seed and will host the winner of the No. 5 Milwaukee Morse-Marshall/No. 12 Milwaukee Madison game at 7 p.m. Friday, March 4.
'Once again, the coaches showed respect for how tough our conference is,' Stelse said. 'For the third straight season, we earned the fourth seed, which is huge considering we get a bye and a home game again. I believe the road win at Whitnall was the difference between us getting a five or even a six seed as opposed to getting in the top four, which is what you want.
'Another big part of my reasoning for the No. 4 seed to the other coaches in our regional was the fact that we are 10-5 in our last 15 games with our five losses coming to Eisenhower twice (second-ranked team in state), Pewaukee twice (fourth-ranked team in state) and at Greendale in OT.'