By Murray Gleffe
GREEN BAY – Coaches almost always talk about finishing a game.
The Green Bay Southwest boys’ basketball team didn’t start strong but managed to close hard and defeat a pesky West De Pere squad 65-55 March 2 at Southwest High School.
In winning the WIAA Division 2 regional championship, the Trojans advanced to play the Kaukauna Ghosts in a sectional semifinal game held March 7 at Pulaski High School.
“West De Pere stayed right with us, and we just continued to play our game,” said Southwest head coach John Polkowski. “We didn’t overreact to the situation that was at hand despite having some foul issues with Ty (Melchert) and Owen (Stieber). This win was a complete team effort on both sides of the ball.”
Will Pytleski led Southwest with 25 points, and Owen Stieber chipped in with 15.
Seniors Jake Karchinski and Jovan Webb played their final game in a West De Pere uniform, paving the way with 19 and 14 points, respectively.
The Phantoms ended the season 14-10.
“We were in a position to win this game,” said West De Pere head coach Andy Werner. “We isolated some matchups with them having some foul trouble. Unfortunately, our shots didn’t fall down the stretch. We didn’t make enough plays when we needed to. This group of seniors has been resilient all year after starting 2-6.”
Each team played very aggressive defense in the first half, as points were at a minimum.
The Phantoms took the early 10-7 lead after Webb connected on an up-and-under reverse layup.
A bit later, Pytleski answered with a great seal in the paint and a subsequent 2-foot jumper to tie the game at 11 apiece with 8:06 remaining in the first half.
At that point, no other Trojans player had scored a point.
Late in the first half, Southwest connected on a pair of free throws and an offensive put-back to even the game at 21 heading into halftime.
The offensive production picked up in the second half to a combined 78 points for those in attendance.
The lead changed hands seven times in the first 5 minutes of the second half with the Phantoms pulling ahead 36-31 after Karchinski connected on a pair of triples from the left-wing.
After a timeout by Southwest, West De Pere came out in a 2-3 zone, and the Trojans made them pay.
Southwest’s Ian Way and Carson Landry found themselves open at the free-throw line extended and buried open looks to give the Trojans the lead back at 47-44.
“We attacked the zone well,” added Polkowski. “I thought we made some good ball skips and got a guy open to make shots.”
With just under 2 minutes left and Southwest clinging to a one-possession lead, a strange sequence took place.
First, the Phantoms missed the front end of a bonus situation, and then emotions erupted on the next possession down the floor, as a Trojans player was fouled hard.
After the dust had settled, a common, flagrant and technical foul was issued.
The Trojans took advantage on their end by nailing free throws to extend the margin to 56-48 with a minute remaining.
“Kaukauna is a very well-coached team,” Polkowski added. “They can score a lot of points. We will have to play a complete game next Thursday to move on.”
West De Pere: 21, 34—55
Green Bay Southwest: 21, 44—65
Phantoms: Karchinski 19, Webb 14, Edinger 9, Darrow 6, Kempen 3, Wall 2, Kodanko 2.
Trojans: Pytleski 25, Stieber 15, Landry 8, Way 7, Melchert 7, Baade 3.