A Brown Deer boys basketball assistant coach first asked the question outside the Falcons' lockerroom at Waukesha West on Thursday, and then it was echoed inside the lockers a moment later by a relieved head coach Kelly Appleby:
"What time is practice?"
It was a jubilant call as the Falcons had just put themselves a step away from the WIAA Division 3 state tournament with a harrowing, physical 58-55 sectional semifinal decision over East Troy.
"I knew from the beginning that there would be a chance this could happen," said 6-7 senior forward Jerry Luckett, who had 14 points. "I knew that if we kept working together it could happen because we had the talent on the team to do it."
The victory pushed Brown Deer (20-5 overall) into a D3 sectional final on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at Whitefish Bay against Ripon (21-5), which was a 45-38 winner over Oostburg in its own sectional semifinal.
The WIAA state tournament will be March 13-15 at the Kohl Center in Madison. The last time the Falcons advanced to the sectional final was in 2008 when they lost an epic last-second decision to eventual state D2 champion New Berlin Eisenhower at the Al McGuire Center.
Coach Kelly Appleby said Thursday night's win was big in another way, as it allowed the Falcons to extract a little vengeance against the Trojans for a loss in the sectional semifinal last season.
"It's nice that we had to go through East Troy to get here," he said. "A lot of our talk this week was about opportunities and making the most of your opportunities. They ended our season on this level a year ago and now we're one step closer (to state)."
But it was never easy.
Foul trouble dogged the Falcons throughout the first half as defensive ace, and catalyst Zack Baun had to sit most more than a quarter with two fouls. Luckett had eight first half points and reserve forward Jordan Milam knocked down a shot with 34 seconds left to give Brown Deer a 24-23 lead going into the halftime break.
The Trojans (17-8) made a point to make the Falcons work hard on defense, swinging the ball aggressively from side-to-side until they could find an open spot for one of their numerous 3-point shooters. They hit seven threes on the night as opposed to just one for the Falcons.
"Credit to them, they really made us work," said Appleby. "We like to play in the 60s and 70s (point range) and they kept it down in the 50s and gave themselves a chance."
Furthermore, the Trojans kept themselves in the game with an aggressive effort on the offensive glass against the much bigger Brown Deer squad.
East Troy took the lead twice more in the third quarter, the last time on John Brehm's 3-pointer that made it 33-32 with 3:35 left in the period.
But then Luckett hit a shot in the post at the 3:22 mark to make it 34-33, and Brown Deer would never trail again.
The Trojans tied it up twice more. The last time came at 42-all on a Joey Ciriacks 3-pointer with 4:40 to go. Luckett then hit one of two free throws with 4:11 to go and Baun got a valuable putback with 2:50 to go to make it 45-42 Brown Deer.
Brown Deer scored its final 13 points of the game from the foul line, as the Falcons struggled to put the game away with 15 of 26 free throw shooting in the fourth quarter.
The lead was cut to one (45-44), then to two (48-46), but after center Devante Jackson hit one of two tosses with 48 seconds to go, it was 55-48.
The Falcons were still not safe though.
Hard-charging Trojans guard Jacob Growel, who led all scorers with 20 points, got a couple of key buckets down the stretch, and Will Iloncaie hit a 3 with just seven seconds to go to cut the lead to 57-55.
Jackson hit the first toss of a subsequent trip to the foul line with six seconds left, but missed the second, giving East Troy a chance. The Falcons defended well, however, and the last-ditch Trojan 3-point attempt from the left wing was wide of the mark.
"Our whole strategy was to play defense, especially on the 3-point shooters," said Jackson, who finished with 11 points.
Falcons guard uard Lewrenzo Byers finished with a team-high 16 points, including five free throws in the fourth quarter.
"We worked very hard for this," said Byers, who along with Jackson, was one of the few returnees on the team from last year's strong squad. "We've been working for this since last year."
"It feels a lot better than last year," said Jackson.
Brown Deer hit 27 of 42 free throws for the game as opposed to 10 of 16 for East Troy. Byers was 8 of 12 on the night from the line, and Luckett 8 of 10.
Appleby said that defense was everything.
"They negated some of the better thing we did with their 3-point shooting," he said. "They forced us to repsect their (outside) shooting so in the end it came down to us playing good man defense."
"It's funny how it always turns out that way. You've got to get the stops in the man-to-man."
Your link to the biggest stories in the suburbs delivered Thursday mornings.
Enter your e-mail address above and click "Sign Up Now!" to begin receiving your e-mail newsletter Get the Newsletter!
- Williams' diverse efforts lead Brown Deer football team to 41-0 rout
- Football: Pewaukee defense holds Brown Deer scoreless
- Gridiron Guide: Get to know: Brown Deer Falcons
- MTEF tennis program in Brown Deer a summer hit
- Brown Deer baseball team hung together despite tough season
- Young Brown Deer baseball team finds some rays of light
- Baun's injury doesn't mar Brown Deer's state track efforts
- Brown Deer boys' depth leads to six state track entries
- Brown Deer boys track team wins own invite, girls third
- Buy-in important for D3 champ Brown Deer hoops success