A slow start signaled the end to the Greenfield boys basketball team's season as the Hawks fell 69-55 to Racine Park in the first round of the WIAA Division 1 tournament at Greenfield on Tuesday.
After Greenfield senior guard Ricky Santiago drilled a 3-pointer to open the scoring, the visiting Panthers closed the first quarter on a 13-0 run and never relinquished the lead.
"I thought both teams came out a little lethargic or timid at first, and we did dig ourselves a hole," Greenfield head coach Jack Miller said. "Usually, we are a better shooting team than we were tonight, but we did manage to come back a couple times."
That they did. After falling behind by as many as 11 points midway through the second quarter, the Hawks closed the gap to 24-18 on back-to-back layups by junior Josh Czerwinski and sophomore Jeremy Swider.
And after Park extended its lead to 30-18 early in the third quarter, the resilient Hawks rallied to within 34-33 when senior forward Sonnie Wilbert converted in the paint with two minutes left to cap a 9-0 run. The charge was sparked by Santiago, who scored nine of his game-high 22 in the period.
"We went to a man-to-man press to try to wear them down, but Santiago didn't look very tired," Park head coach Jim Betker quipped. "Even at the end of the game, he was unconscious. (Greenfield) played hard."
"(Santiago) had a big second half," agreed Miller. "He's a 1,000-point scorer (for his career), so one thing he can do is put the ball in the hoop."
But the fourth quarter belonged to Park, which used its pressure defense to force turnovers and kickstart fast breaks. In a particular frantic 3-minute stretch, the Panthers rattled off 16 points to extend their lead to 59-45.
That was a deficit the Hawks could not overcome.
"Their height and athleticism hurt us a lot," said Miller. "Our help defense wasn't quick enough or high enough. We met (their penetrators) too deep near the basket, which caused us all sorts of problems."
Senior guard Travis Reszcynski tallied 10 points for Greenfield and Wilbert added seven points and four blocks. Park had four players finish in double digits, led by Chris Rogers' 17. The Panthers (7-17) will take on top seed Milwaukee Hamilton in the second round Feb. 22.
Greenfield finished the season 9-9 in the Woodland Conference and 10-14 overall. Miller praised his senior class for sticking with the program for four years.
"I've got to commend them for it," he said. "Out of 1,300 kids, there're only five seniors on the team. It's hard work, and I've got to compliment them for their dedication over four years."
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