By Greg Bates
DE PERE – West De Pere might only be one-third of the way through its Bay Conference boys’ basketball schedule, but it has a stranglehold on first place.
The Phantoms hosted fellow conference unbeaten Green Bay East Friday with the top spot on the line, and the game didn’t disappoint.
West De Pere got 14 or more points from four players and erased a nine-point, second-half deficit to eke out a 75-72 victory in overtime.
“We played with energy, the crowd brought it and it was a fun game to play,” West De Pere senior guard Danny Campbell said.
The West De Pere players were fired up following the victory, but still have nine conference games left this season.
The Phantoms moved to 5-0 in the Bay, with East in second place at 3-1.
“To start out like this, it will help down the road,” West De Pere Head Coach Todd Deschane said. “We’ve got to continue to press along and do our thing.”
East — which got a game-high 32 points from Ryan Sweeney — was dealt its first loss of the season after starting the year 10-0 for the first time since 1992-93.
“Overall, they played hard, and you can’t ask for more than that,” East Head Coach Rick Rosinski said. “I think we can take a lot away from this loss. I actually think maybe we needed to lose to bring us down. We told them, ‘It’s not the end of the world.’ We’ve got 14-15 games left. I don’t see any team in our conference going undefeated. We’ll get another crack at them at our place, and maybe the outcome will be different.”
Campbell and Nate Heikkila each scored 16 points to lead West De Pere, while Kaden Hannula and Andrew Baumgart put in 14 points apiece.
In its fast-paced tempo game, the Phantoms are used to draining 3-pointers, averaging seven per game.
However, West De Pere converted only one against East.
Without the long ball falling, the West De Pere shooters relied on a different method to score: drive the lane hard and make tough, contested shots near the rim.
“We try to get to the paint; if we’re open, we shoot. If not, we kick to an open guy to try and hit 3s,” Campbell said. “We weren’t necessarily knocking them down as much as we like tonight.”
Deschane said he liked his team’s dribble penetration all night.
“They’re a great defensive team, but they like to play on the perimeter and be in the passing lines,” Deschane said. “Against teams like that, our reads are to make backdoor cuts from one pass away. The kids did a good job of that, and they recognized it. The kids on the bench were talking about it, too. Everybody was into what they were doing and understanding what we wanted to do.”
West De Pere (9-3, 5-0 Bay) took an 18-13 lead as Baumgart tallied his only hoop of the first half.
East (10-1, 3-1) answered with a 15-4 run as Bill Felix and Jalen Flowers each had back-to-back baskets to give the visitors a 28-22 advantage.
The Red Devils stretched their lead to eight, but the Phantoms scored the half’s final five points on a three-point play by Hannula and hoop by Ethan Heck.
West De Pere was up 43-41 early in the second half when Sweeney took over with seven points in a 12-1 run to put East up comfortably, 53-44.
A Baumgart hoop with 6:48 remaining gave West De Pere the lead back at 63-62.
The teams combined for five lead changes at the end of regulation as neither team scored in the final 2:33 to send the game into overtime.
In the extra session, East got a hoop from Felix to go up 71-69.
Heikkila and Hannula scored to put West De Pere back up.
Felix, who finished with 18 points, was fouled and hit one of two free throws before Baumgart got a layup with 49 seconds left to make it 75-72.
East had multiple chances at the end to tie the game, but it couldn’t get a good shot off.
Sweeney, who had 18 second-half points, was 0-for-4 from the field in overtime.
“We knew (Sweeney) was going to be the guy they went to in overtime, so we got help defense on him and it ended up working out,” Campbell said.
West De Pere’s defense allowed three points in the final 6 minutes, 47 seconds of regulation and overtime.
“They didn’t get flustered; they had an understanding of what we needed to do and made a play,” Deschane said. “They’re all heady players — (Heikkila), (Campbell), (Heck) and (Baumgart) all have experience. The guys in the game at that time were composed. (Hannula), even though he didn’t play that much last year, is a composed kid and has an understanding of the game. He helps us do a lot of good things.”