Defensive work silences high-scoring Broncos

Jack Pettit and Riley Hale can’t fight back the emotion in the waning seconds of Saturday’s game. (Rick Benavides/SLN)

 

By Mike Ramczyk

sports@southernlakesnewspapers.com

UNION GROVE – The all-Southern Lakes Conference WIAA Division 2 sectional continues, but Thursday’s semifinal won’t involve the teams everyone expected.

Fourth-seeded Elkhorn used its patented perimeter defense to smother the top-seeded Union Broncos Saturday night, shutting down star point guard Jack Pettit and holding the explosive host Broncos to a mere 35 points on 25 percent shooting in a 47-35 victory.

Union Grove finishes 19-5, snapping a season and area-long 12-game win streak.

The Elks (17-7) captured their first regional championship since 2009, when the Division 1 Elks rode 6-foot-11 center Skyler O’Laughlin all the way to the sectional final before falling 66-62 in a thrilling double-overtime loss to Beloit Memorial.

Different division, different big man.

Enter 6-foot-10 center Quin McDonald, the only senior on the Elk roster that sees significant minutes.

McDonald and Elkhorn closed the deal Saturday with a 10-3 run to end the game.

With 1:08 to go, Vince Umnus pushed the ball up the floor and sliced a dish down to a waiting McDonald, who ignited the animated Elkhorn student section, donned in a “white-out,” with an exclamation point two-handed stuff, extending the lead to 41-32.

The Elks pushed it to 47-32 with free throws.

It was a puzzling loss for Union Grove, which knocked off the Elks the past two postseasons. In fact, before this year’s two playoff wins, Elkhorn hadn’t won a playoff game since 2014.

It was an end of an era for Union Grove senior point guard Jack Pettit, who was held to 10 points on 3-for-14 shooting in his final high school game.

The St. Norbert recruit has enjoyed the coaching of his father, Dave, since he was 4 years old. After the game, Jack realized not only was the season over, but he wouldn’t be with his dad on the court anymore.

“I don’t know if it’ll ever wear off, because my dad coached me for my whole life. He never will again,” Jack Pettit said, fighting back tears.

“It’s the last game with the people I grew up with and the last game on this floor. It’s the last everything for high school. We came out flat and didn’t make any shots. They just out-played us. I’m surprised and disappointed.”

 

Elks exact revenge

McDonald and the Umnus twin guards, Luke and Vince, are excited for a new challenge at sectionals. They couldn’t wait to end the Broncos’ season for a change.

“It feels really good because last year we fell short three times to Union Grove, and this year we really wanted to go get it done, and we did it,” McDonald said.

“The key tonight and last night was stopping their two best players, Riley Hale and Jack Pettit,” Vince Umnus said. “Our defense was really good tonight.”

Hale, the Broncos’ second-leading scorer, scored five points on 1-of-7 shooting.

It was a stark contrast to Friday night, when Elkhorn beat Fort Atkinson with 88 points in an 88-71 win.

Elkhorn took third in the SLC this season and earned the No. 4 seed. McDonald said the team is peaking at the right time, and Luke Umnus said the squad is playing together.

“We’re overall more patient with the ball and taking time to get good looks,” McDonald said.”We’ve come a long way.”

“We’re playing together, and we’re waiting with the ball. We know teams are going to go on their runs, but we’re so patient and we know we’ll grind them out at the end.”

McDonald, the tallest player in the conference, imposed his will at times during the game. According to Vince Umnus, the big man is playing with confidence and making a major impact.

“He’s been playing 10 times better than the beginning of the year,” Vince said. “He’s got his confidence up, he’s not fouling. That opens up everything on the outside, like drive lines. Defensively, guys are stopping halfway through the paint, they don’t want to go for layups.”

“It’s an intimidation factor,” McDonald added.

Elkhorn lost by 20 in the first meeting with Westosha Central, but the Elks knocked off the favored Falcons with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer for a dramatic win last month.

“We match up pretty well,” said Luke Umnus. “If we are patient and play defense, we will be fine.”

What is special about this underdog team?

“We’re going to play hard every possession,” Vince said. “We were seeded fourth and ranked fifth in the preseason in conference. Nobody ever thought we’d be here.”

“We just kept working all summer and went hard this winter. I think it’s finally starting to pay off.”

Vince Umnus led the Elks with 11 points, and McDonald and Chance Larson added nine apiece.

Luke Umnus contributed eight points.

No. 4 Elkhorn (17-7) and No. 2 Westosha Central (18-4), which beat No. 3 Waukesha West, 61-52, will battle in a D2 sectional semifinal Thursday at 7 p.m. at Burlington High School.

 

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