After one quarter of its WIAA Division 3 regional championship contest on Saturday night, the Brown Deer boys basketball team held a comfortable 16-5 lead over visiting Racine St. Catherine’s.
Head coach Kelly Appleby and his team, however, were not fooled by that.
“We expected them to come back,” Appleby said of the Angels. “They’re a good team and a quality opponent. They’ve got a great coach over there (the veteran Bob Letsch), and they’ve had huge success through the years.
“We knew they wouldn’t just roll over for us. We weren’t too excited about what we had there. We had a good start, but we had a whole game to play.”
True to Appleby’s prediction, St. Catherine’s indeed kept coming back, climbing to within one point in the second period and two points in the fourth quarter, but each time, the Falcons answered with a run of their own.
Brown Deer eventually eased to a 55-42 triumph to improve to 21-3 on the season and claim a regional crown.
The Falcons next meet top seed East Troy, a 61-41 winner over Kettle Moraine Lutheran, at 7 p.m. Thursday at Marquette High School.
The winner there takes on either Oostburg or Berlin at Hartland Arrowhead at 2 p.m. March 2 for the sectional title and a trip to the state tournament.
“We’ve been on a roll,” Appleby said. “We’ve got 12 wins in a row and 21 wins on the season. We feel good about what we’re doing. We like our chances every time we lace them up and we’ll see what we can do.”
The Falcons were tested against the Angels, who wound up 17-7 on the season.
After the 16-5 first period, St. Catherine’s just kept getting closer throughout the second quarter, drawing within 22-21 on a putback basket by Grant Zimmerman. Brown Deer, though, tallied a quick nine points to close the half on baskets from Trayvon Palmer, Devante Jackson and Desmond Jackson and a 3-pointer at the buzzer by Jacob Schimenz for a 31-21 advantage.
The lead went to 41-24 midway through the third period on a one-handed dunk by Devante Jackson, who led the Falcons with 22 points.
The Angels then rallied with a 9-2 burst capped by a 3-pointer from Shey Smith, their top scorer with 19 points.
St. Catherine’s Zach Rammelt opened the fourth period with back-to-back 3-pointers, then stole the ball and scored to cut it to 43-41. Appleby called a timeout.
“We just had to slow things down a little bit,” he said, “refine what we were doing and make sure we focused on our halfcourt defense. They got a couple of threes there and we just had to make sure we spied those guys and closed out on them.”
The Falcons really clamped down after that, holding the Angels to just one point the rest of the way.
Palmer, who had 15 points, then hit a pair of free throws and a short shot in the lane to make it 47-41 with 3 minutes, 20 seconds left.
St. Catherine’s was down 48-42 with two minutes remaining and had possession. The Angels turned it over, though, and that led to a fastbreak layup from Devonte Jackson and a 50-42 edge.
Free throws from Palmer and Devonte Jackson then clinched the game.
Long-time Falcon fans will remember that Brown Deer beat St. Catherine’s in a 2002 sectional title contest to advance to state in Steve Novak’s final season. They can hope that beating the Angels again could be a good omen for a team which clearly has designs on returning to Madison.