Falcons close game with dominant 18-4 run

Westosha junior Adam Simmons swats a shot by Luke Umnus Thursday night. The Falcons clamped down defensively, holding Elkhorn to four points in the final six minutes. (Earlene Frederick/SLN)

By Mike Ramczyk


And Tim Wester

Sports Correspondent


That’s the kind of reaction and ovation usually reserved for the star of the night, but sometimes it can be for the unsung hero.

Westosha Central senior Joey Gilliland, who was engulfed by “MVP” chants the second he left the locker room by a rambunctious maroon and gray sea of Falcon students, fit that bill in Thursday night’s WIAA Division 2 sectional semifinal at Burlington High School.

With his team down 12 points late in the second half, the 6-foot-3 sharpshooter ignited a furious 18-4 rally with consecutive 3-pointers, and teammate Jaeden Zackery provided the exclamation point for a 46-41 victory over an Elkhorn team that nearly game-planned its way to another stunning playoff upset.

“Joey’s our best pure shooter,” said Westosha head coach James Hyllberg. “That’s his strength. He’s always confident and ready to lock and load. The main thing was being patient and not panicking, that’s what we did the second half.”

Zackery was held to two points in the first half, which came on two free throws near halftime, but exploded in the second half.

Hyllberg said the Falcons, who trailed 25-14 at the break, needed a second-half spark and moved point guard Nic Frederick to shooting guard and allowed Zackery to run the show.

The result was a more fluid, ball-movement pace on offense, as Gilliland, Frederick and Cooper Brinkman provided a three-man, 10-0 run to give Central its first lead, 40-39, with just under two minutes left.

Central never relinquished the lead.

Westosha, the No. 2 seed, improves to 21-4, its most wins in school history, and advances to Saturday’s Division 2 sectional final at Oregon High School against top-seeded Monona Grove (22-1), which beat Stoughton Thursday, 58-47.

Zackery, who Hyllberg calls the ‘best finisher in the conference,’ got some advice from an assistant coach at halftime.

“We just had to come together,” Zackery said. “Our assistant coach said ‘You’re one of the best players in the conference, you can’t be scoring 0 in one half, you gotta come out there and show everybody what you’re made of.’”

Zackery listened, especially in clutch time, as his corkscrew layup increased the lead to 42-39 with a minute left.

He then added four free throws to seal the deal.


Elkhorn’s run impressive

This season’s Elkhorn boys basketball team won’t be remembered for being overly athletic or physically superior to most teams.

Instead, the understated Elks displayed that recognizable intangible that every underdog team has during an improbable postseason run.

The Falcons unleashed an 18-4 run in the final 10 minutes to erase a 12-point lead and eventually finish off the Elks.

Elkhorn, which finished 17-8 and exceeded expectations as a No. 4 seed, meanwhile, is left to watch after a disappointing second half.

“It was great the way we came together and played some good basketball but it’s very disappointing to lose,” Elkhorn coach Josh Skatrud said. “It doesn’t take away one bit from what we accomplished.”

The Elks’ playoff journey, which included victories over Wilmot and top-seeded Union Grove, had all the signs of continuing into Saturday.

After the Falcons opened the second half with a 9-2 run to close the Elks lead to 27-23, junior guard Vince Umnus responded with a pair of layups, including bouncing off a defender and converting an acrobatic layup and foul to help rebuild the lead to 36-24.

Umnus had a team-high 11 points, while Quinlan McDonald had 10 to lead a balanced scoring attack.

The shell-shocked Falcons, who were out-of-sync for most of the game against the Elks’ defense, got a much-needed boost from Gilliland’s consecutive three-pointers to cut it to 38-34 with six minutes to play.

“Those threes were huge,” Westosha senior forward Cooper Brinkman said. “Those threes were more than six points to us because just the feeling of back-to-back threes got us fired up on the defensive end, and we played better defense after that.”


Falcon D clamps down

The Falcon defense indeed was better at the most important time, holding the Elks to just four points in the final six minutes of the game.

“They picked up their defense a little bit and caught us by surprise,” Vince Umnus said. “If we were able to weather that storm and not turn the ball over as much as we did, I think we’d be playing Saturday.”

Prospects for Saturday continued to slip away for the Elks as Westosha scored eight of the next nine points.

The Elks had two chances to tie the game, but McDonald’s offensive foul gave the Falcons the ball with 28 seconds left.

“We had a tough time getting into anything and a credit to them because their defense got to us,” Skatrud said. “Our kids played hard, but ultimately, playoff basketball is about scoring in the half court and we just couldn’t do it.”





Elkhorn – Larson, 3-0-7; L. Umnus, 0-3-3; Davey, 3-0-7; McDonald, 5-0-10; V. Umnus, 4-3-11; Hergott, 0-3-3. Totals: 15-9-41.


Westosha Central – Zakery, 3-6-13; Frederick, 1-3-5; Anderson, 5-0-11; Brinkman, 4-3-11; Gilliland, 2-0-6. Totals: 15-12-46.


Elkhorn                     25 16-41

Westosha Central   14 32-46


Three-point goals – Elkhorn 2 (Larson, Davey), Westosha Central 4 (Anderson, Zackery, Gilliand 2). Free throws missed – Elkhorn 5, Westosha Central 5. Total fouls – Elkhorn 21, Westosha Central 13. Fouled out – Larson.