Whitnall slips past Pius on late 3-point field goal
Hurst nails his fifth trey to boost Falcons
Greenfield - With his team locked in a 54-54 tie with Pius XI on Friday night, Whitnall's Brent Sluka drove into the middle of the lane, hoping to create an offensive opportunity.
Sluka saw teammate Austin Hurst near the 3-point field goal line and passed back out to him.
That seemed like a wise choice, since Hurst had already hit four 3-point goals in the game. Hurst made it pay off, as he nailed his fifth 3-pointer with 2.1 seconds remaining to give the Falcons a thrilling 57-54 victory in a Woodland Conference basketball game.
"First, (the pass) was a heady play by Sluka," head coach Steve Kujawa said. "Hurst took it with a guy right in his face, and it went in, out and back in."
Hurst finished with a team-high 23 points for the Falcons, continuing his fine recent play.
"He has really worked on his shot," Kujawa said of the senior. "He is our most consistent shooter."
The Falcons won their fifth straight game and improved to 7-3 overall and 6-2 in the Woodland East Division. They are now off until Jan. 4, when they visit South Milwaukee.
"We are hitting our stride," said Kujawa, whose team also beat New Berlin West, 60-41, Dec. 18. "I tell the guys that we need to take a series of steps. We're playing well now, and we need to make another jump in January."
The matchup between Pius and Whitnall was intriguing, since the Popes had knocked the Falcons out of last season's WIAA Division 2 sectionals in what turned out to be the final game of Kent Kroupa's coaching career.
"This was big, with Pius' reputation, its coach (the legendary Joel Claussen) and its history," Kujawa said.
The Falcons jumped in front 19-10 after one quarter and led for virtually all the contest.
"It was nip and tuck," Kujawa said. "They hit some big shots to get back into it, but we hit big shots to answer."
They were up 46-38 after three periods, but Pius came back. Levi Bradley hit two free throws to tie the contest at 54-54 with 45 seconds remaining.
Whitnall worked the clock down to 15 seconds before Kujawa called a timeout. The Falcons ran a set play, which resulted in Sluka's drive and key pass to Hurst.
There was some extra tension as the clock had to be reset on Pius' ensuing inbound play. The Popes got the ball to Donovan Jackson, their leader with 23 points, but all he could manage was a desperation shot from half-court that fell short.
Danny Weymier added 16 points and Mitch Brault seven for the Falcons.
In the earlier victory over New Berlin West, Weymier tallied 17 points, Brault 11, Hurst nine and Sam Mentkowski and Michael Radavich each seven points.
The victory was especially satisfying for Kujawa, who worked on West coach Jeff Lewiston's staff earlier in his career.
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