West Allis Central boys survive Looney's huge output
Central tips Hamilton to head to sectional this weekend
Everyone in the West Allis Central Fieldhouse knew Kevon Looney would be taking the final shot.
The UCLA recruit had already scored a season-high 44 points, and most in the gym probably thought Looney was going to make the long-range 3-point field goal to propel the Milwaukee Hamilton Wildcats to a victory over the host Bulldogs in a WIAA Division 1 regional title game on Saturday night.
Ultimately the shot did swish through the net as time expired, but not before it bounced off the back of the rim, bounded high up into the air, and caromed off a bracket that holds the backboard — an area considered out of bounds.
Thus, instead of kicking themselves for squandering a 16-point second-half lead, the Bulldogs celebrated an 84-82 victory while improving to 20-4 during what has been a memorable season.
"He's a great, great player, probably one of the best of all time to come out of Wisconsin," Bulldogs head coach David Mlachnik said of Looney. "I was scared when he released it. It looked on. I was hoping and praying it wouldn't go down because the kids worked their tails off tonight, and they have all season."
Central takes early lead
Despite being in control for more than three quarters, and building a 53-37 lead early in the third quarter, it was the Bulldogs who had to rally late.
Hamilton took a 72-71 lead on Jalen Addison's layup with 3 minutes, 43 seconds remaining for the Wildcats' first lead since the opening moments. The Wildcats pushed it to a six-point advantage on a pair of Addison free throws about a minute later.
The Bulldogs, though, did not falter. Devaughn Ross, who had not hit a shot all game, calmly knocked down a 3-pointer, and Jaquan Martin scored on three separate fastbreak opportunities to push Central back ahead 81-80 with 50 seconds left.
"We talk all year about playing 32 minutes," Mlachnik said. "We said, 'They'll make a run. They're a great team.' We just had to stay disciplined. We got rattled when they came back and started doing some things out of character. We took a timeout and got them refocused. They made some plays down the stretch."
After Looney turned the ball over, Central's Ron Turkvan made the first of two free throws with 18 seconds left. Jerome Cummings pulled down the offensive rebound on the miss of Turkvan's second try, was fouled and made one of two himself, putting Central up 83-80 with 16 seconds on the clock.
"I was just trying to get in and get a handle on the ball and go to the line," Cummings said.
Looney made a pair of free throws with 10 seconds left. The Bulldogs' Brandon Key then made one of two foul shots on the other end with eight seconds left, setting up Looney's final attempt. He received the inbounds pass, dribbled up to the top of the key and released what was a contested shot.
"I thought it was in, honestly," said Key, who finished with a team-high 28 points. "This is a big win. Last year, we had a bad year. I think we can get to state this year."
Looney stays hot
It is the second straight year the teams met in the WIAA postseason, and the second consecutive time Looney went off for more than 40.
A year ago, the 6-foot-9 center, who handles the ball like a point guard, scored 43 in Hamilton's 89-72 regional final triumph over the Bulldogs. This time his 44 weren't enough.
"We were playing one of the top-ranked players in the country," Cummings said. "We wanted to run at them. We went at him. We wanted to get him tired. We pushed at him, free throw line to free throw line.
"This is real big because no one expected us to get this far, not even a close game. We came out and played defense. We had a plan and stuck to it the whole game."
Mlachnik disagreed with his junior forward a bit and would not say the victory was an upset, even though the Wildcats were rated 10th in the Division 1 state poll and had won the always-rugged City Conference.
"We played good all year," he said. "We only had two losses going into the seed meeting and ran into Brook Central, the best team in the state. They handled us, but all year long, we've been battling and playing. That's a great team and we knew this was going to be a battle."
Central came into the contest losers of two of its last four, both at the hands of Greater Metro champion Brookfield Central, but got out to a blistering start in the regional final.
The Bulldogs knocked down their first four shots, all from beyond the 3-point arc. They made six of their first seven 3-point tries and seven of 12 in the quarter, four of which came from the hot-shooting hands of Turkvan, who finished with 19 points.
Bulldogs played hard
"The game plan was to play hard and that's what we did," Turkvan said. "(The hot start) gave us a lot of momentum. We played hard and stuck with it, played 32 minutes of basketball."
Looney was consistent throughout. He posted up often, brought the ball up and pulled up from long range. He had 20 at halftime, tacked on 11 in the third and finished with 13 in the fourth.
ON TO SECTIONAL
The 84-82 victory over Milwaukee Hamilton put West Allis Central in a WIAA Division 1 sectional this weekend.
MARCH 6: West Allis Central (20-4) vs. Racine Case (20-3) at Oak Creek at 7 p.m.; Brookfield Central (24-0) vs. Milwaukee King (22-2) at Brookfield East at 7 p.m.
MARCH 8: Championship game at West Allis Central at 4 p.m.
WEST ALLIS CENTRAL: The Bulldogs finished second in the Greater Metro Conference at 11-3, losing twice to Brookfield Central and once to Menomonee Falls...their leading scorers are Brandon Key at 15.5 points per game and Ron Turkvan at 14.7...Jaquan Martin leads in rebounds with five per contest and Key in assists with 3.5.
RACINE CASE: The Eagles won the Southeast Conference with a 14-0 mark...D'Angelo Jackson tops them in scoring with 12.7 points per game and Darion King is next at 12.2...they feature a balanced attack and they are a deep team...they beat Racine Horlick 75-60 behind 16 points each from James Trice and King to win their regional contest on Saturday.
BROOKFIELD CENTRAL: The Lancers claimed the GMC crown at 14-0...their top scorers are Riley LaChance at 23.4 points per game and Elijah Goodman at 13.6...Goodman paces them in rebounds with 8.0...Central routed Milwaukee South 80-42 in the regional title game on Saturday.
MILWAUKEE KING: The perennial-power Generals placed second in the Milwaukee City Conference at 10-1, with the lone loss coming to Milwaukee Hamilton...Chris Howell leads them in scoring at 16.9 points per game and Jemell Posey is second with 15.2...King downed Milwaukee Riverside 76-61 to win the regional.
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