In the first meeting between the Greendale and Whitnall boys basketball teams this season, the Falcons prevailed by a fairly substantial margin of 60-40.
They met again on Friday night, and the outcome was the same: a Falcons win.
But this time, the Panthers would not let the Falcons simply push them around with ease as the game was much more competitive and the outcome was in doubt until the very end before Whitnall squeaked out a 66-61 overtime win.
The smaller gap was not because of any falloff by Whitnall, but was a product of the continuing improvement of the Panthers.
In the past four games, the Panthers have won twice - including a victory over a strong South Milwaukee squad - and dropped narrow decisions to the top two teams in the Woodland Conference Black Division, New Berlin Eisenhower and Whitnall.
'It's just part of the improvement of the players,' Greendale head coach Ryan Fiet said. 'We've had better practices, and there has been a huge improvement in our understanding of what great shots are.'
Against Whitnall, the Panthers shot 23 of 40 from the field (58 percent).
'When we take great shots, we have fewer turnovers, and we don't allow transition baskets for the other team,' Fiet continued. 'That makes it a half-court game, which we like. We can be in there against any team we play.'
Whitnall head coach Kent Kroupa has also noticed the change in the Panthers' play.
'Greendale has improved tremendously since the first time (the teams played),' Kroupa said. 'The post kids are better and they (the Panthers) are playing better as a team. We had to make good decisions the whole way.'
The contest was tied at 21-21 at the half, 37-37 after three quarters and 53-53 after regulation play. Greendale tied it when Shawn Markham picked up a loose ball in the lane and laid it in with 40 seconds left. The Falcons held the ball the rest of the way but missed a 3-point field goal attempt at the buzzer.
In the overtime, Luke Mentkowski tallied seven points for Whitnall, including a key 3-pointer, while Stephen Pelkofer added four points.
'We achieved some separation,' Kroupa said, 'and kept it, which we didn't do (in a loss to) New Berlin Eisenhower (the week before).'
Pelkofer paced the Falcons with 18 points, while Mentkowski added 17 and Ian Ray 13. Both Mentkowski and Ray netted a trio of 3-pointers on the night. Sam Mentkowski tallied 10 points and Bryan Nagy eight for the Falcons.
For Greendale, Jordan Perez scored 15 points, Markham 11 and Alex Noggle and Matt Habeck each 10.
Whitnall moved to 9-2 in the Woodland Black, trailing Eisenhower by one-half game for first, and 13-2 overall. Greendale fell to 5-6 in the Woodland and 5-10 overall.
The Falcons, who played against St. Thomas More (9-2, 11-4) on Tuesday, welcome Brown Deer (8-4, 11-5) at 7:30 p.m. Friday and South Milwaukee (8-3, 11-4) next Tuesday.
'We have seven games left, and we don't have an easy game the rest of the way,' Kroupa said.
The Panthers host St. Thomas More at 7:30 p.m. Friday and New Berlin Eisenhower (10-2, 13-3) next Tuesday.