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Big second half propels West De Pere to victory

By Greg Bates

DE PERE – Two games into the season, West De Pere boys’ basketball coach Todd Deschane has found balanced scoring from his team.

Four players tallied double digits as West De Pere used a big second half to defeat Green Bay Southwest 70-62 in a nonconference game Thursday.

West De Pere outscored Southwest 43-27 in the second half after the Phantoms had trailed by as many as 12 points.

“The beginning of the second half we had a letdown, so after we called a timeout, we talked to them about facing adversity and how to overcome things,” Deschane said. “We didn’t talk about anything else but life in general. They came out, had great communication, fought back and did a nice job.”

Senior Nate Heikkila scored a game-high 21 points to lead West De Pere.

Ethan Heck and Andrew Baumgart both chipped in 11 points, and Danny Campbell put in 10.

“With overall leadership, (Heikkila) is doing a good job,” Deschane said. “Our communication starts with him. He sets the tone for our communication on the court. He’s a heady player and a smart kid. He gets after it and loves to play. I’m glad he’s on my team because he does a nice job.”

Heikkila said starting the season 2-0 after a come-from-behind victory is important for West De Pere.

“Going into a big game Saturday (Dec. 4) against No. 1-ranked east De Pere, it’s a big thing for us early in the season,” he said. “We have lots of new guys on our team and lots of young, raw talent. I think it’s going to go good the rest of the season.”

Southwest is now 0-2 after losing at the buzzer to Seymour in the season opener two days earlier.

On Thursday, the Trojans were without point guard David Danforth, who suffered a strained calf in the opener.

Trojans Head Coach John Polkowski said his guys had a tough time against West De Pere’s pressure defense.

“Missing David (Danforth) took a handler out of our playbook,” he said. “It got the best of us. It got us to play fast, and we did what West De Pere wanted us to do.”

West De Pere led 11-5 before Southwest went on a 20-6 run to go 25-17.

The Phantoms hit one of their first 10 3-point attempts, but Thomas Walder came off the bench and drained a big 3.

Moments later, West De Pere tied the game at 26-26.

However, the Trojans answered with a 9-1 spurt in the final three minutes to go into the half up 35-27.

Early in the second half, Southwest bumped its lead to double digits, 47-37, as Connor Pytleski scored three of his team-high 20 points.

With three of its starters out of the game, bench players provided a spark for West De Pere.

After Heikkila converted a three-point play, the Phantoms were down two, 47-45.

“We saw those younger guys step up when they needed to,” Heikkila said. “Our coaches called on them when they needed to be out there, and they did what they needed to do and got it done.”

With 5:37 remaining, Heck drained a 3-pointer — his second field goal of the game up to that point.

That gave the Phantoms the lead back at 56-54 and seemed to energize the team.

“I think that was the turning point for intensity-wise,” Heikkila said. “Ethan (Heck) started slowly in the first half, but he came around and stepped it up in the second half.”

When Heck hit the 3-pointer, Deschane said he felt some relief.

“My first thought was, ‘Yes, finally, he hit one,’” he said. “It’s once you take that lid off, it’s contagious. It’s like hitting in baseball – once you get one, it gets contagious. Our guys did a good job moving it around. (Heck) had some good looks earlier in the game and was missing – that’s part of the game.”

West De Pere never trailed from that point on.

Southwest cut its deficit to two on three occasions in the final four minutes, but it could never get over the hump.

The Phantoms scored the last six points of the game.

Early in the season, Deschane said he’s enjoyed watching his players turn into a team — playing well together and learning each other’s on-court tendencies.

“We’ve got a young team, and they’re learning to play together,” he said. “They have an understanding of what they’re doing and what we want to do as a program culture-wise. We’re starting to work with those guys on that. Initially, I thought, oh, we’ve got a ton of home games in the beginning, but I think that’s nice because that gives them a comfortable setting to learn in their home setting. They don’t have to be traveling all over creation to go to different games and try and figure things out – that’s been positive.”

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