It was a personal challenge from Brown Deer coach Kelly Appleby to senior forward Donte Harmon and to the Falcon team in general.
Their unbeaten start to the season was serious jeopardy Tuesday night in Greendale, as Panther guards Jordan Perez (17 points in the first half) and Nick Dalton (15 points in the same session) ran around and through the Falcon defense to the tune of a 31-17 second quarter outburst that put Brown Deer in a 49-36 hole at the break.
"We struggled big time in the first half defensively," said Appleby. "Perez is a very fine player, but we were letting him get to the basket much too easily. We had to go out there and make a bit more uncomfortable."
"We were going to put Donte (Harmon) on him in the first half, but he (Harmon) picked up two fouls, but once we did it in the second half, he (Harmon) was spectacular. We took away the main focus to their offense and then we found a little rhythm ourselves."
Indeed, Perez scored only one more point the rest of the game and Dalton was held scoreless in the second half as the Falcons turned up the team pressure, flipping the score with an impressive 28-7 third quarter run that eventually led to an 85-70 Brown Deer victory.
"I just tried to force him (Perez) to his weak hand," said Harmon. "It was all a matter of intensity for us."
The victory improved the Falcons to 5-0 overall and 4-0 in the Woodland while the Panthers fell to 2-3.
Further, Brown Deer may have found a turning point in a season of high expectations.
"At halftime, I also challenged their character," said Appleby. "How do we respond to adversity?"
By doing what they did in the second half.
"We showed that we had some strong character," said senior forward D'Sean Groce, who had 27 points to lead all scorers. "It showed us we could face down tough obstacles."
"We needed to turn it up and not let them run us down."
And it was like flipping a switch.
Junior center Devante Jackson hit two free throws and converted a three-point play and then Harmon knocked down two free throws before the Panthers got off a shot in the third.
Josh Michaels got a bucket for the Panthers and then Perez hit one of two free throws for his only point of the half to make it 51-43 Greendale with 5:56 left in the third.
But then the Falcons scored 21 of the next 23 points, using high-pressure defense to force eight third quarter turnovers out of Greendale. Groce had eight points in the run while Jackson had 11 of his 17 in the period.
It was 64-54 Falcons before the Panthers scored a consolation bucket at the end of the period.
Brown Deer and Groce did not let up in the fourth, as Groce scored the first eight points of the session, including two three-pointers to make it 72-56. The lead never dropped beflow 12 after that.
The game was a bit messy, as Brown Deer hit 25 of 33 free throws and Greendale 21 of 26.
Trayvon Palmer also had 19 points for the Falcons despite battling foul trouble. Perez had 18 points for the Panthers and Michaels 17 to go along with Dalton's 15.
Groce said coach made it sound simple at halftime.
"He said that we just needed to get some stops and then take care of the ball," Groce said.
And sometimes the simpliest things are the ones that work.
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