It’s like Brown Deer boys basketball coach Kelly Appleby said:
Well, the Falcons clinched a share of the Woodland Conference Eastern Division title Tuesday night with probably their best quarter of the year, as they erased an eight-point halftime deficit to host Whitnall with a 33-8 third period frenzy that left their hosts looking for the bus that had run over them.
The end result was an 87-72 decision that improved the Falcons to 13-1 in Woodland play and 15-3 overall, while Whitnall fell to 8-6 and 10-7, respectively. Shorewood at 8-5 is the only team with an outside chance of even tieing the Falcons for the divisional crown with four games left to play.
Appleby said the team simply needed a change of strategy.
“We were working really hard at a tight man defense in the first half,” he said. “What we needed to do was to try something that was more usable and more conducive to success for us.”
Which was full-court, in-your-face man pressure, which would tighten up the gaps left as the Falcons had fallen behind, 41-33, at the half.
Brown Deer got the third quarter off to a good start, as a three-pointer from senior D’Sean Groce on the first possession, cut the deficit to 41-36. The host school bumped the lead back up to seven on a nifty lay-up by Daniel Weymier at the 7:31 mark of the third quarter.
Those would be the last points Whitnall would score for close to four minutes, as the Falcons would go on a 19-0 run that put them ahead for good at 55-43.
Senior point guard Desmond Jackson would get the go-ahead points on a three-pointer from the wing at the 5:44 mark of the third and he and Groce would combine on a unique five-point play that all but broke Whitnall’s back a minute later.
Jackson (14 points) got a steal and a lay-up to make it 49-43 Brown Deer. It was determined that he was fouled after the shot so Brown Deer got the ball back. Groce then calmly took the inbounds’ pass and notched a baseline three-pointer to make it 52-43.
A minute after that, Groce closed out the run with a trey from the wing that expanded the lead to 55-42 with 3:44 left in the third. Whitnall, which had expended two timeouts during the run, simply had no answers as Brown Deer would go on to take a 66-49 lead at the end of the third.
In the third, the Falcons hit 12 of 22 shots, including four threes, they would dominate the boards by a rough estimate of 15-1, force five turnovers and equal all the points they scored in the first half in just one period of play.
Brown Deer would hold Whitnall at bay in the fourth quarter as courtesy of 17 of 24 free throws on the night, the advantage would never drop below 10 points.
Appleby said the game was very similar to wins earlier in the season over Greendale and Pius XI, as in both those decisions, the Falcons fell behind big in the first half, only to rally and win going away.
“Both those games we responded very well early in the second half,” said Applby. “We knew we could put some pressure on them and speed up the game a little.”
Both Jackson and Palmer were pleased with the conference title, which was a very important first goal for the 10-man Falcon senior class.
“It’s always good to get that out of the way first,” said Palmer.
“It feels good because we’ve earned it,” said Jackson.
Center Devante Jackson, who would foul out of the game in the fourth quarter, would also finish with 18 points for the Falcons while Whitnall was led by Mitch Brault with 17.
Appleby was a happy and relieved man afterward as the Falcons can win the championship outright with a victory at St. Francis next Tuesday (Feb. 5).
“We have either a share of the Woodland title or we’ve won it outright (a tie for the moment), but we just want to keep the momentum going. We want a full head of steam by (WIAA) tourney time.”
“We can still do a lot better,” he said. “We have a lot more building to do until we reach our full potential.”
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