For the seniors on the Park High School boys basketball team, Dec. 7, 2018, just might have been their wake-up call.
That’s when the Panthers lost a Southeast Conference game to Kenosha Indian Trail 64-59 at home in their second game of the season.
“We had a funny start to our season,”said Park coach Jim Betker. “Our first game was later than usual, then we had two weeks before our second game. After we lost that, the seniors knew they had to step it up a little bit.”
And boy have they ever.
On Tuesday night, the Panthers avenged their only SEC loss with a resounding 69-49 win over Indian Trail at Kenosha. Park, ranked No. 7 among Division 1 teams in the Associated Press poll, has won five in a row and 13 of 14 since that fateful December night.
“We’re more engaged,” Betker said. “I sense this team has some defensive urgency to it. We have seven seniors and they know the regular season is coming to an end.”
The Panthers (13-3, 10-1 SEC) showed that renewed defensive prowess on Tuesday by playing a “near-flawless” first half, Betker said. Park led the Hawks 27-18 at the break.
“They were just phenomenal,” he said. “They allowed only 18. They did a great job communicating. I was great to watch them play like that.”
The Panthers were almost as good on offense, Betker said. The team committed only two turnovers in the first half, made 15 of 16 free throws in the game, and got 19 points from Larry Canady, 18 from Zyiere Carey and 16 points and 10 rebounds from Richie Warren.
Nobal Days added seven points, grabbed 10 rebounds and had seven assists.
The Hawks (11-7, 7-5 SEC) made a run in the second half to get close, but the Panthers extended their lead and never looked back.
“I think we’re a much different team than we were,” Betker said. “These guys wanted to go down to Kenosha and split the series with them. Chemistry is huge with this team and right now they are really playing for each other.”
RACINE LUTHERAN 74, PRAIRIE 71: Jackson Woodward scored 29 points, including a game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Crusaders a Metro Classic Conference victory at Racine Lutheran.
The Crusaders (9-9, 6-7 MCC) trailed 20-10 in the first half, but went on a 30-13 run to take a 40-33 halftime lead.
The Crusaders led 71-65 with 20 seconds remaining in regulation when the Hawks (10-8, 6-6 MCC) scored a pair of 3-pointers to tie the game at 71-71 with six seconds left.
The Crusaders inbounded the ball to Woodward at half court. The sophomore guard spun around, dribbled forward, and made a 35-foot shot at the buzzer to give the Crusaders the win.
“That was (Jackson Woodward)’s best scoring night of the season,” said Lutheran coach Jeff Christensen. “He was absolutely terrific.”
Woodward made six 3-pointers in the game. Senior Elijah Solis added 10 points and grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds. Senior guard James Wilson scored 20 points, while sophomore guard Brady Wilks chipped in 10.
The Crusaders have won three straight after losing five in a row. “We are playing much harder on the defensive end during this streak,” Christensen said. “Everybody is contributing right now.”
The Hawks had won two straight games and three of their last four entering tonight’s contest.
For the Hawks, sophomore Antuan Nesbitt scored 21 points and had nine rebounds. Senior guards Quinton Stafford and Jack Polzin added 19 and 17 points respectively.
“I’m proud of the effort to come back against a very well-coached team,” Atanasoff said. “It was a great high school basketball game. Unfortunately we came out on the losing end. Hats off to Lutheran. They shot lights out most of the game.“
RACINE LUTHERAN 59, PRAIRIE 37: At Lutheran, Caroline Strande scored a game-high 23 points as the state-ranked Crusaders avenged an earlier loss to Metro Classic Conference rival Hawks.
The Crusaders (17-2, 11-2 MCC) previously lost to the Hawks 63-57 on Jan. 15 at Prairie. On Tuesday they found themselves trailing 6-2 before going on a 16-0 run and taking a 29-15 halftime lead, said Racine Lutheran coach Steve Shaffer.
“Our energy level was great in the first half,” Shaffer said. “Our team defense was key. We guarded (Prairie) how we wanted to. We forced them to take the shots that they didn’t want to take.”
Sophomore Morgann Gardner added 17 points, 12 in the first half. Strande took over the second half, scoring 14 of her 23 points. Jayden Davis also hit double figures for the Crusaders with 11 points.
The Crusaders, ranked fourth among Division 4 teams in the Associated Press poll, have won five games in a row.
For the Hawks (14-6, 9-5 MCC), sophomore Abby Decker led the team with 20 points and a game-high four 3-pointers. Senior guard Brooke Foster was limited to six points, but contributed a team-high seven rebounds and three steals. Foster scored 12 points in the Hawks first meeting against the Crusaders.
“(Racine Lutheran) shot the ball really well tonight,” said Prairie coach Alan Mills. “We turned the ball over too much and they didn’t. That was the difference between this game and our first game with them. They were mirrored games.”
The loss ends a three-game winning streak for the Hawks.
MILWAUKEE ACADEMY OF SCIENCE 91, HORLICK 66: Olivia Pitrof scored a team-high 20 points, but it wasn’t near enough as the Rebels lost a nonconference game at Horlick.
The Rebels (12-9) trailed 34-23 after the first half. It was in the second half when Shemera Williams, a senior guard for the Novas (13-5), erupted for 28 of her game-high 40 points.
Williams hit eight 3-pointers in the second half and ended the night making 10 3-pointers. The Rebels were 9-2 coming into tonight’s game when scoring 65 points or more in a game.
Pitrof also grabbed a team-high 15 rebounds. Senior guard Jordann Ellison added 18 points, while sophomore guard Alexandria Cannon scored 12 points and nine rebounds.
“(Ellison) played very consistent throughout and (Pitrof) got going in the second half,” Horlick coach Ambrial Sanders said. “But, in the second half, they couldn’t miss. (Williams) kept hitting shots.”
The Rebels have lost three straight games and five of their last six.
“Our girls played until the buzzer,” Sanders said. “They never gave up. I’m proud of them tonight.”
PARK 32, INDIAN TRAIL 20: The Panthers didn’t score many points, but didn’t need that many to win a Southeast Conference game at Park.
Alexis Betker scored a game-high 10 points for the Panthers (7-12, 4-9 SEC), who led 22-12 at halftime. Park limited the Hawks (3-18, 0-13 SEC) to only eight points in the second half.
Betker went a perfect six for six from the free-throw line in the second half. Junior guards Adele Senzig and Azia Price each added seven points.
The Panthers had lost their last two games and seven of their past nine.
“Sometimes, it is good to win ugly,” said Park coach Carey Palacios. “We held them to under 20 points for three-quarters of the game. It’s a win regardless. We’ll take it.”