Larson’s late layup caps second half comeback

It’s pandemonium Thursday night at Burlington High School as Vince Umnus (23) and Elkhorn players and students celebrate the team’s sectional semifinal victory over Westosha. (Rick Benavides photo)

 

By Chris Bennett

Sports Correspondent

In the visiting locker room at Burlington High School Thursday night, following the Elks’ 49-48 victory over Westosha Central in a WIAA Division 2 sectional semifinal, coach Josh Skatrud told his young men that all they needed was a chance.

The members of the Elkhorn Area High School boys basketball team then pointed and acknowledged guard Chance Larson.

Larson scored on a layup as time ran out and sent the Elks and their fans home with a 49-48 victory.

Elkhorn (22-3) will play Mount Horeb (22-3) Saturday at 1 p.m. at Janesville Craig for the right to advance to the WIAA Division 2 state tournament March 14-16 at the Kohl Center in Madison.

The Elks’ victory over the Falcons must be considered an upset.

Central (23-2) beat the Elks twice this season in SLC play, and four times in six matchups over the previous two seasons. Central entered the game seeded No 1. in its playoff bracket. The Elks are seeded No. 3 in the same bracket.

The latest clash between the two titans of the Southern Lakes Conference hinged on a final play. The Elks inbounded the ball with 17 seconds on the clock, trailing 48-47.

Coach Josh Skatrud said the original play called for a shot from the low post. The Elks’ Nick Brown had the ball low and opted to pass instead of taking an ill-advised shot.

“My mindset is always to get the best shot, even if it doesn’t mean I’m in the spotlight,” Brown said. “The team matters – not just me. I knew that someone was going to be open, and they were doubling hard.”

Brown passed to Larson, who remained composed as time ticked down. Larson took the game’s final shot as time was close to expiring.

“I thought about a three, and then saw a drive line,” Larson said. “I took it to the hoop, went out strong and it went in.”

Larson’s shot went in and left the Falcons little time to gather themselves and run a play. The Elks’ players sprinted to the student section to celebrate.

Central led 24-17 at halftime. The Falcons decided to sit on the ball late in regulation and dare the Elks to foul. Elkhorn, for the most part, did not. The Elks took their first lead, at 45-44, with 2:13 left in regulation.

Central standout Jaeden Zackery commended the Elks following the game. In what turned into a physical battle, the Elks limited Zackery to 10 points – 12 below his season average.

“They played a really good game,” Zackery said. “That is the best they have played against us. We weren’t shooting well and they just defended well. It came down to that.”

Elkhorn’s next opponent – Mount Horeb – is ranked ninth in Division 2 in the most recent WisSports.net coaches poll. The Elks reached this point in the postseason after beating two teams ranked higher.

Central ended the season ranked fifth. East Troy – which the Elks beat 56-50 at East Troy March 2 for the regional title – entered that game ranked fifth.

The Elks opened the postseason March 1 with a 62-51 win at home over Burlington in the regional semifinals.

Elkhorn last advanced this far in the postseason in 2009. The Elks advanced that season to the Division 1 sectional final and lost 66-62 to Beloit Memorial at Janesville Craig.

Elkhorn last advanced to the state tournament in 1987. The Elks competed in the WIAA Class B, and lost 53-40 to Wisconsin Dells in the semifinals.

Coach Fred Suchy, for whom Elkhorn’s gymnasium is named, led Elkhorn to three straight appearances in the Class B title game from 1978 to 1980. The Elks won state titles in 1978 and 1979.

 
 

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