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Phantoms finish strong in victory over Pirates

By Greg Bates

DE PERE – When it’s crunch time in close games, the West De Pere Phantoms boys’ basketball team is at its best.

Of the Phantoms’ 15 games this season, seven have been decided by five points or less.

In these tight contests, West De Pere is an impressive 6-1.

Clinging to a one-point lead with 4:46 remaining against Bay Port, West De Pere outscored the visitor’s 9-5 down the stretch in earning a 72-67 victory in a nonconference matinee Saturday, Jan. 15.

“I know when we have close games like that, we all try to rally,” West De Pere junior Ethan Heck said. “We have a good sense of team communication, and when it does get to that point, we dig in. We don’t necessarily do it for ourselves, we do it for each other so we get that positive outcome we want.”

West De Pere has now won seven of its last nine games.

“Communication has helped a lot,” West De Pere Head Coach Todd Deschane said. “They’re in tune with each other, now at least. Right away, it was learning everybody — learning new guys and learning how to play together as a group. We’ve been playing together, and we’re almost two-thirds of the way through the season and they’re starting to figure it out.”

Danny Campbell tied his career-high with 21 points.

The crafty senior guard got to the rim and hit some big shots.

Heck added 14 points.

Bay Port, which had won back-to-back games coming in, was led by big man Nate Forystek with a season-high 21 points.

He got in the lane and used his 6-foot-7 frame effectively.

AJ Lieuwen added 16 points and Vince Vandervest — the team’s second-leading scorer this season — was limited to eight points.

“We need to understand we need to work things through (Forystek),” Bay Port Head Coach Nate Rykal said. “If we do that, it’s going to be easier for AJ (Lieuwen) and Vince (Vandervest) and everybody else to get looks.”

Bay Port (5-7) had a slow start but responded with a 14-4 run to go up 14-8 after seven points from Forystek.

The Pirates bumped their lead to 32-21 with 3:34 remaining in the opening half.

West De Pere (11-4) started working the ball around the perimeter, and Tyas Olson came off the bench to drain back-to-back 3-pointers.

The Phantoms ended the half on a 16-4 run, as Heck hit a 3 with 14 seconds on the clock to go up, 37-36.

Heck said his team’s big push at the end of the half was fueled by defense.

“We made a couple of lackadaisical mistakes on defense and continued to move around and get open looks,” he said. “When we started that run, we knew we could do it. All it took was a couple of defensive stops and get some buckets on offense.”

After Forystek hit a pair of free throws with 12:07 remaining, West De Pere went on a 10-2 run to go up 58-48.

Langdon Nordgaard and Tyas Olson both hit key 3-pointers during that stretch.

Olson, who came in averaging 1.6 points per game, hit his third 3-pointer in as many tries.

Scoring nine unexpected points off the bench was huge for the Phantoms.

“Any extra little bit helps,” Deschane said. “Tyas (Olson) is doing a great job in his role. He doesn’t get starter minutes, but he knows if he gets an open look, he’s got the ability to shoot it. Fortunately for us, he knocked it down.”

Down 10, Bay Port wasn’t finished.

It went on a 14-5 run to pull within one, 63-62, after Forystek’s second dunk of the game.

With West De Pere clinging to a 69-66 lead, Lieuwen put up a 3-pointer for Bay Port that rimmed out.

The Pirates got the rebound and took a timeout; however, a few seconds later, the Phantoms stole the ball.

West De Pere’s Thomas Walder hit a free throw, and Kaden Hannula hit two free throws in the final 29 seconds to put the game away.

Rykal said he liked the effort from his guys, but he didn’t like the shot selection at times.

“We need to go to the basket harder and not settle for jump shots,” he said. “We’ve got to do a better job defending. We didn’t defend the ball well. (Campbell) killed us going to the basket. I think he had 15 in the second half. He did a nice job in isolation ball, and we didn’t do a good job stopping it. We’ve got to do a better job going to the basket. We’ve got to go inside more and then get our 3-point shots from going inside out. Right now, we’re settling for some pullup jump shots we could probably get at any time.”

The victory puts West De Pere above .500 in nonconference games this season at 5-4 and 2-2 against teams in the Fox River Classic Conference (FRCC).

“This is a super quality win for us,” Deschane said. “We love playing the FRCC. That helps prepare us for down the road as we go along.”

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