WDP outlasts NDA in double overtime
By Jordon Lawrenz
PULASKI – It took 44 minutes of play, but the West De Pere boys’ basketball team punched its ticket to a sectional final.
The No. 1-seeded Phantoms took down No. 2-seeded Notre Dame Academy in a double-overtime thriller, 65-62, at Pulaski High School.
Thursday night’s Division 2 sectional semifinal featured a battle of Bay and Fox River Classic Conferences first-team players, Ethan Heck and Emmett Lawton. Lawton put up a game-high 26 points in the losing effort for Notre Dame, with Heck close behind at 23 for West De Pere.
Notre Dame had an ideal chance to put the game away without overtime being necessary. The Tritons held the ball for the final 91 seconds of regulation, but Charles May couldn’t knock down a 3 and Max Augustine’s attempt for a put back bounced around for what seemed like an eternity before rimming out.
With the score tied 51-51 heading into the first overtime period, Notre Dame’s shots fell cold. West De Pere took a 54-51 lead with two minutes remaining.
Lawton began the period 0-for-3 shooting, but he pushed through. The Phantoms expanded their lead to four with 65 seconds remaining before Lawton found his touch. After Bryce Borowicz missed a layup that could’ve put the game on ice, Lawton knocked down a layup to tie the game at 55 with just 1.6 seconds remaining.
Double overtime was a back-and-forth battle until the final whistle. The Tritons’ first offensive possession led to an offensive rebound and a Lawton bucket. Lawton had the first eight points for Notre Dame throughout the two overtime periods. Henry Weber missed both of his free throws, which turned out to be big in the end.
Notre Dame shot 6-for-12 from the line during the game.
West De Pere found themselves leading by one point with 65 seconds remaining. Ethan Heck’s defense came up clutch as he stole Notre Dame’s inbound pass. After Riley Kraft knocked down a free throw to put the Phantoms up by two, he would later gather a steal before the officials called a travel to the dismay of the West De Pere faithful.
Notre Dame had a chance to tie, but Ethan Wall-Atim came up short. A pair of free throws from Andrew Baumgart gave the Phantoms a four-point lead with 22.9 ticks left on the clock.
Augustine hit a clutch 3 with 11.9 seconds left to get the Tritons back within one. Both teams were out of timeouts as West De Pere once again knocked down a pair of free throws to go up 65-62. The Tritons still had life. With 10.9 seconds remaining, Lawton missed a 3 but the rebound went through the hands of Sutter Deschane. Notre Dame had three seconds to force triple overtime, but Lawton had a bad angle on a 3 from the corner and the celebration began for the West De Pere players, coaches and fans.
“We knew we were in for a battle when we lost by three to them earlier in the season,” West De Pere coach Todd Deschane said. “Tonight was no different but we had great support from our fans and student body and it was a great atmosphere.”
Notre Dame (15-12) has nothing to be ashamed about. The No. 2 seed in Division 2 Sectional 2 made history.
“This was the first time Notre Dame has ever played in the sectional. I’m just incredibly proud of our seniors and the rest of our team for making history.”
Notre Dame coach Brian Bobinski said, “They gave it everything they had tonight. Credit to West De Pere for just making one more play.”
West De Pere (16-10) played from behind in the first few minutes. The Tritons enjoyed a 15-8 lead with 10 minutes remaining in the first half. Ethan Heck, a unanimous first-team selection for the Bay Conference, had eight of the team’s first 10 points.
The Phantoms picked up their first lead with just over seven minutes remaining in the half, 19-17.
Defensively, West De Pere shut down Wall-Atim. The 6-foot-5 senior was held to eight points on the night, and didn’t score for the first 13 minutes. His first points proved to be a factor as the Tritons went on a 9-0 run and held the Phantoms scoreless for four of the final five minutes. That final minute of the half was the biggest as it kept West De Pere in the game.
Easton Deschane went down with an injury, but that only further motivated the Phantoms. West De Pere led at the half, 28-26, thanks to a 7-0 run in the final minute. Riley Kraft exploded with five of those seven points, all coming in the span of 47 seconds.
“Riley has been coming on lately in the past two to three games for us,” coach Deschane said. “He started off strong then got sick and injured, but now he’s continuing to rise up.”
Coach Deschane and all of the West De Pere fans gave sophomore Kraft the respect he deserves. Kraft finished with 12 points, the only Phantoms player in double digits besides Heck.
With five minutes remaining in the second half, West De Pere led 48-45. The Tritons would go on a 6-0 run in the next few minutes to take the lead, 51-48, with 2:50 remaining. A key moment in the half was sophomore Adam Guyette fouling out with 1:31 remaining. While Guyette scored all nine of his points in the first half, Notre Dame was down a huge defensive presence.
“I’m so proud of the effort, fight and resiliency our kids gave,” Bobinski said.
To go along with Lawton’s 26 points, Weber added 10, and Wall-Atim contributed eight. All three will be graduating in a few months.
Other than Heck and Kraft, the Phantoms had a balanced scoring attack. Easton Deschane, Landon Nordgaard, and Baumgart all finished with eight points. Of the top five scorers on the night, Heck is the lone senior. Throughout West De Pere’s three playoff games, Heck has scored 88 points.
Notre Dame and West De Pere now sit at 2-2 in their past four meetings, which date back to 2017. The Tritons won earlier this year, 63-60, which lit a spark under the Phantoms. Since that loss, West De Pere has now won five of its last six.
After No. 1-seeded Nicolet took down No. 2-seeded Whitefish Bay, 62-41, the showdown is set for a sectional final. Top-seeded West De Pere will play Nicolet on Saturday at Menasha. The game is scheduled for a 1 p.m. tipoff. With roughly a day and a half to prepare, coach Deschane has a plan in mind.
“It’s all about recuperation of the body at this point in the season,” Deschane said. “We’ll do some stretching and get some rehydration. More mental in terms of the practice, going through their stuff and we’ve been scouting them for a little while too. Not that you ever look ahead, but you have to look ahead sometimes.”