The full extent of the offensive firepower of Whitnall’s boys basketball team was on display Saturday night during a 69-49 WIAA Division 2 regional final victory over New Berlin West.
Bryan Nagy tallied 10 points in the first quarter and finished with 16, Stephen Pelkofer totaled 11 points in the second period and wound up with a game-high 19 and Ian Ray netted a trio of 3-point field goals in the third quarter and tallied 12 points.
Luke Mentkowski chipped in with 15 points as well for the Falcons (22-2), who shot 58 percent from the field and nailed nine 3-pointers on the night.
“That’s our thing; it’s pick your poison, basically,” Pelkofer said. “You lock down on me, lock down on Ian, lock down on Luke, everyone else will step up.”
Nagy added, “It’s been balanced all year, but today, we just shined. Ian was hitting, Stephen was unconscious and they were finding me inside. If I couldn’t find it, I was kicking it (back outside) and they were hitting it.”
Head coach Kent Kroupa is thrilled about the balance and unselfishness that has helped the Falcons’ offense all season.
“We’re just a team,” Kroupa said. “No one cares who scores. You can’t stop everyone, and we’ve been fortunate that we haven’t had a night where everyone has been off.”
Besides all the offense, the foundation for Whitnall’s victory was also laid by Pelkofer’s sterling defensive work against West’s leading scorer, Dan Sidesky, who came in averaging 19.7 points. With Pelkofer shadowing his every move, Sidesky managed just three points all evening.
“He shut him down,” Nagy said. “That’s exactly what coach told him to do in the beginning of the game, and that helped us win the game, no doubt.”
In two games this season, Pelkofer held Sidesky to a total of five points.
“(Pelkofer) had the will to understand that Sidesky is their best player, and he’s our best player, and let the best man win,” Kroupa said. “Sidesky is a great player, maybe the most valuable in the league, but Stephen just rose.
“Once we took (Sidesky) away, they had to go to other options, and then it becomes, 'Who do you go to?”
West coach Jeff Lewiston also cited Pelkofer’s defense as a key to the game.
“Danny didn’t have a very good game, and I have to credit (Pelkofer) for that,” the coach said. “(The Falcons) did a good job. People have been trying to take away that weapon (Sidesky) all year, and when they have taken it away, we’ve still won a lot of games, but tonight wasn’t our night.”
Sidesky scored the first basket of the game, but that was his only one of the night.
Nagy tallied eight points as Whitnall assumed a 14-9 lead, then Ray and Mentkowski both hit 3-pointers to boost it to 21-11.
The first quarter ended on a high note for the Falcons as Pelkofer dribbled down the clock and fired a pass in the lane to Nagy, who scored at the buzzer for a 23-13 advantage.
Pelkofer then connected on a trio of 3-pointers early in the second from all different angles, helping the Falcons build a 34-20 lead.
Austin Fritz helped West stay in the game with nine second-period points, but Whitnall was up 39-28 at the intermission.
The Vikings stayed within 10 early in the third, but then Ray netted a trio of 3-pointers, each one barely moving the net, and the advantage went to 54-37. Ray was 4-for-4 from long range for the night.
The home Whitnall crowd was then treated to one more thrill, a pair of breakaway dunks by Pelkofer, the second giving the Falcons a 60-39 bulge.
The Falcons avenged one of their two losses on the season, a 51-50 setback to West in December.
“The first time we played, Ian Ray didn’t play because he was sick, and we missed about 13 free throws,” Nagy recalled. “A lot of things contributed to that loss, and it still stung, but tonight we got our revenge.”
Fritz led the Vikings (17-7) with 13 points and Jordan McKeon added 12.
“They (the Falcons) are a great ballclub and they deserved to win,” Lewiston said. “We had a great year. We went further than anybody thought we were going to go this year. I think my kids should be proud of this year, and I’m proud of my kids, every one of them.”
Whitnall now prepares to face Pius XI (21-3), the Classic 8 Conference champion, at 7 p.m. Thursday at Greenfield High School in a sectional semifinal.
“We’re looking forward to it,” Pelkofer said. “They have some tough players, and we’ll be ready for them.”
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