Both the Whitnall and Pewaukee boys basketball teams entered Saturday's WIAA Division 2 regional championship game coming off emotional victories the night before.
One of the questions then was, which team would bounce back the fastest for the second game in the back-to-back set?
It turned out to be Whitnall, which scored the first five points of the contest and took a 19-8 lead. The Falcons stayed on top all the way, eventually downing the Pirates, 61-47, to claim the regional crown.
Whitnall (17-7) advanced to a sectional semifinal contest at 8 p.m. Thursday, March 10, at the Al McGuire Center in Milwaukee. The Falcons will meet Wisconsin Lutheran (22-2), which has 22 straight victories since losing its opening two games to Arrowhead and Milwaukee King. The Vikings advanced by beating Pius XI, 59-48, on Saturday.
The Falcons jumped ahead of Pewaukee when Geoff Wisialowski nailed a 3-pointer to open the scoring, and Bryan Nagy scored inside for a 5-0 lead. Nagy tallied again later to build the margin to 12-5, and Stephen Pelkofer dropped in a driving shot to close the period at 19-8.
"I liked our recovery in 24 hours," said Falcons coach Kent Kroupa. "It was a good start for us, and we've had some good starts. We've never had to come from behind lately. When we did, it was always a struggle, because you lose all that energy getting back into the game. We didn't have to do that tonight."
Pewaukee coach Tim Reuter, by contrast, saw his team a bit sluggish early.
"We were a little stagnant (early), and the shots weren't dropping for us right away," Reuter said. "They (the Falcons) came out and made their shots."
In the first quarter, Whitnall shot 53 percent (8 of 15) from the field, while the Pirates hit 27 percent (3 of 11).
"We just came out mentally prepared and physically prepared," said Pelkofer, who led both teams with 18 points. "Coach got us ready, we came out fast and then just never looked back."
Pewaukee (17-8) made a bit of a run in the second period, coming within 27-21 on a tip-in by Jordan Edgerson, but Whitnall scored the final six points of the quarter, highlighted by Pelkofer's steal and crossover dribble-drive past a defender for a layup. The Falcons were up 33-21 at the half.
The third period opened with nearly four minutes of mistakes and missed shots by both teams.
"It wasn't an attempt to delay, but for those first minutes, nobody scored," Kroupa said. "I thought, 'well, that's good; at least they're not scoring.'"
Nagy broke the drought with a driving shot, and Lucas Mentkowski hit a free throw and basket to make it 40-24. Pewaukee's Jordan Daul then scored five points, including a 3-point shot, but the Falcons were still ahead 47-31 after three.
Pewaukee stayed within range and when John Czerwinski hit a pair of 3-point shots, it was 54-47 with 1 minute, 40 seconds left. Whitnall then hit seven free throws to seal it, finishing with 12 of 18 from the line in the period and 22 of 34 for the game.
"We knew Pewaukee was going to come back; we knew the threes were going to start flying," Kroupa said.
Whitnall was also helped by being able to corral most of the loose balls.
"We had 20 deflections," Reuter said, "and they seemed to be always going their way."
Daniel Weymier, coming off a 22-point effort on Friday night, finished with 13 points, and Mentkowski put in 12 for the Falcons. Edgerson totaled 13 points and Czerwinski nine for Pewaukee, which saw a seven-game winning streak end.
"Pewaukee had been playing exceptionally well," Kroupa said. "Defensively, you have to cover every base. It's not just a strong post game or outside game; they've got everything. It's the package. They're going to be awful strong next year."
For now, though, the Falcons will try to see what else they can do this season.