Greenfield - The first quarter made all the difference for the Whitnall boys basketball team in its 69-48 victory over Wauwatosa West on Friday night.
Whitnall jumped out to an early 24-4 lead after that period, and the Trojans were never able to recover.
The Falcons, who also beat South Milwaukee, 68-52, on Feb. 7, improved to 13-2 in the Woodland Conference Black Division, one game ahead of New Berlin Eisenhower (12-3).
Those two squads square off at Whitnall at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 17, with the division title in the balance. The Falcons can clinch the crown outright with a victory, while the Lions can move into a first-place tie if they win.
Avenging earlier loss
Whitnall will try to avenge an earlier 60-58 loss to Eisenhower on a shot in the final seconds.
The Falcons (17-2 overall) visit Waterford (12-6) in a non-conference game at 2:45 p.m. Feb. 18, then close out the Woodland slate for the season at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 22 at Greenfield (3-12, 4-15).
"We're in the hunt here," said head coach Kent Kroupa, "but every game is going to be a challenge for us."
They maintained their narrow lead over Eisenhower with their easy victory over Tosa West on Friday, a triumph built on the explosive 24-4 start.
"We've been starting strong in most of the games we've played this year," Kroupa said. "We do come out very well in the first quarter. We try to get the other team down and make it more difficult for them to come back and play."
The first points of the game were scored when Whitnall's Stephen Pelkofer intercepted a pass and scored a dunk, igniting his team. The Falcons proceeded to score the first nine points of the game before West got on the board with a 3-point shot from JJ Belknapp.
"It definitely gave us a spark to start the game," said Pelkofer, who finished with 16 points. "You always want to start out like that."
Kroupa said of Pelkofer, "He's been a leader for us. He's a complete team player, which means he's got everyone else involved."
Pelkofer said, "We don't care who scores, we just want to distribute the ball. They had a smaller guy guarding me, so I got a good matchup."
Trojans never recovered
The Trojans were able to play with Whitnall for the rest of the game, but were never able to recover from that first-quarter onslaught, as the Falcons' fast pace, agility and excellent passing proved too difficult for the Trojans to defend.
The second half began much the same as the first, with Whitnall dunking the ball to open the scoring, this time from Bryan Nagy, who finished with a game-high 18 points.
Ian Ray added 11 points with a trio of 3-point field goals for the Falcons.
"I was pleased with our play," said Kroupa. "Any win you can get on the road is a good one."
In the earlier victory over South Milwaukee, Luke Mentkowski tallied 21 points with a trio of 3-pointers, while Pelkofer and Ray each added 14 points. The Falcons used a 22-10 second quarter to go up, 40-20.
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