Brown Deer boys basketball coach Kelly Appleby knew what his team was up against in its WIAA Division 3 sectional semifinal against East Troy on Thursday night at Marquette, a game that ended in 67-57 defeat at the hands of the Trojans.
Twin towers, 6-9 seniors Brett and Alex Prahl, loomed large in the Trojans 22-3 success so far this season.
But so did 6-3 senior guard Nate Dodge, and he was the one who did in the Falcons in the end, as he drained five 3-pointers in the first half and had 22 points in the session, as the Trojans took a 42-26 halftime lead.
The Woodland Conference champion Falcons fought back, but the deficit proved to be too much, as their season came to an end.
"We were just playing catch-up all night," said Appleby. "They (the Trojans) did a nice job early, built a 10-point lead and then Dodge just went off. It's really hard to match-up a guard like him, who averages 22 points a game, and then they have two 6-9 guys on top of that."
The loss ended the Falcons' 12-game winning streak, and they closed the year with a 21-4 mark. East Troy (22-3) now advances to a 2 p.m. sectional final Saturday at Arrowhead against Berlin (19-6), which upset top sectional seed Oostburg in the other semifinal Thursday night.
Brown Deer had only one lead on the night, at 3-2, and then East Troy went on a 15-4 blitz to take control of the game.
It was 22-14 East Troy at the quarter despite 10 points from Brown Deer senior forward Trayvon Palmer. Dodge had 11 points in the period but was only getting warmed up.
He keyed a 16-6 surge that started the second period, and when he hit the second of back-to-back treys at the 3:08 mark of the session, East Troy had its largest lead of the night at 38-20.
"We obviously wanted to go inside (with the Prahls) and make them believe (that we could do that all night)," said Trojans' coach Darryl Rayfield, "and once we did that, we were able to set some slip screens for Nate and also get some run-outs."
But the Falcons, who have been able to fight back from double-digit deficits on several occasions this winter, tried to evade the elimination notice as best they could.
"That was what we said at the half," said Appleby. "We're down 16 but we've been here before. I knew we had a lot of fight left in us."
The Falcons forced eight turnovers in the third quarter and closed the deficit to eight on two occasions. The first time came on a a lay-up by D'Sean Groce off a great hustle save by David Bach at the 5:18 mark (44-36) and then on a pair of Devante Jackson free throws with 4:39 left (46-38).
But 6 of 19 shooting in the third slowed the comeback, though Brown Deer came back once again going on a 10-2 burst to open the fourth.
When guard Jake Schimenz hit a three with 6:07 left the game was at its closest since the first period, at 58-53.
But just seconds after that, the Falcons' best all-around player Palmer picked up his fourth foul. He had been active all night on the boards and was the only one who could get inside on a consistent basis against the Trojans' twin towers.
And with the score still the same at the 4:24 mark, Palmer fouled out trying to stop a putback after a missed free throw. Alex Prahl hit the two subsequent free throws to make it 62-55.
Desmond Jackson got the Falcons to five one more time on a driving lay-up with 1:54 remaining, but the Trojans' dominated the boards in the final period (an estimated 11-5 margin) and would hit 9 of 11 free throws in the session to seal the deal.
Dodge would finish with 30 points on seven 3-pointers, and Brett Prahl had 21.
Rayfield, whose team lost at the buzzer in the sectional final last season and who have the word "Finish" on their warm-up shirts, praised his team's defensive effort against the high-scoring Falcons.
The Trojans had been belted by defending state D1 champ Germantown earlier in the season, and Rayfield said the team has only gotten tougher because of it.
"It's the reason why we play games like that," he said. "We had some inexperienced guards going in and they needed some seasoning. They've come along and so have we.
"It starts with defense and rebounding, make it tough on the opponent to score. Then you go from there."
For Appleby and his team's 10 seniors, it was a tough pill to swallow. Groce finished with 16 points while Desmond Jackson and Palmer had 12 each and Devante Jackson eight.
"Even with Trayvon fouling out, it was still only a five-point game with four minutes to go," he said. "We were handling things in a hostile environment, but we just couldn't quite finish it."
"It was just hard to match-up with their length. We tried to speed it up, but they weren't afraid to run with us. It was a good battle."
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