The final 2 ½ seconds of the WIAA Division 2 boys basketball regional matchup between New Berlin Eisenhower and visiting Waukesha North epitomized the four quarters that had preceded.
Waukesha North's Connor Jimenez stepped up to the line for an extra point after Ike committed a foul on a 2-point layup for North, which made the score 57-55 with just more than 2 seconds to go. North coach Greg Polkowski called for a time out and instructed Jimenez to intentionally miss his free throw, giving the team a chance to tie the game on the rebound. The ball came back off the rim of the basket as planned, and several North players had the opportunity to collect the rebound, but Ike caused enough problems under the basket to hang on to their lead and make it through to the next round.
"The momentum was with us in the end," Polkowski said. "Our leading rebounder was on the right block and Ruben (Ortiz) on the other side was within arm's reach of (the ball)."
The chance to stage a huge first-round upset over Eisenhower was just beyond North's fingertips.
Momentum shifted several times throughout the quick paced matchup. Waukesha North gained the momentum early on and led Ike 15-12 after the first quarter, but Ike came out swinging in the second to grab a 20-15 lead. The momentum shifted midway through the second quarter with 6-4 Cory Michaelis scoring six consecutive to put North back on top, 23-20.
North then jumped out to a 34-27 lead in the third quarter, but Eisenhower found its shooting stroke. Crobin Messman scored two 3-pointers and Sandro Pesqueira added another en route to a 40-39 lead after three quarters.
"It was a better shooting game for me," said Pesqueira. "The ball felt good. I was practicing with the break that we had. I'm a senior, so I knew that this is my last time and I didn't want to lose at home, so that's good motivation."
Ike's Mitch Arman scored 6 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter, displaying a remarkable ability to avoid would-be blockers under the hoop.
"It's all about being strong," he said. "We're a little undersized against other teams, so we have to be strong and try to get the big guys into foul trouble, and we did that just well enough tonight. It's all about feel, getting the ball and making a move. We work on it in practice every day."
Despite his contribution, Waukesha North refused to quit, even when the Northstars went down 49-41 halfway through the fourth quarter. They fought their way back into the game with good tenacity and some 3-point shooting of their own from Ortiz and Marquis Carter.
"We had some looks that we didn't finish and we gave up some transition points," Polkowski said. "We could have done better in transition ourselves. They weathered the storm and they did what they needed to get the momentum back. They're the one seed. I don't want to say that I'm happy walking out of the gym, but we gave them our best crack. I'm proud of where we can go. Next year, we can really hit the ground running."
Ike coach David Scheidegger observed, "It was the first game of the regional. North is a very nice team and they're set up by the numbers. They did a great job. We were trying to match up with 42 (Michaelis) and we sprung some leaks in other places, but we kept our eye on the ball and stayed with our game plan. We stayed patient even when we were down by 7. The shots that we didn't get early on came later. It was a good team victory. The seeding is nice, but we haven't played in 8 days, and they had one under the belt. It's a bit of a snake pit game."
The Lions will host Whitnall at 7 p.m. Saturday. Pesqueira and Arman both feel confident.
"It's a bit of a rivalry," said Pesqueira, "but if we keep the intensity we'll be alright."
Arman agreed. "They're a good team, but our mind set doesn't change. It doesn't matter who we play; we focus on what we need to do."
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