Umnus drives in for go-ahead bucket with 1 second remaining

Luke Umnus holds his arms out in celebration after the Elks beat Mount Horeb Saturday at Janesville Craig High School. (Rick Benavides/SLN)


By Chris Bennett

and Mike Ramczyk


After upsetting a third higher-seeded opponent in as many games the Elkhorn Area High School boys basketball team is headed to state for the first time since 1987.

Elkhorn got a layup from Luke Umnus with one second left in regulation and beat Mount Horeb, 60-58, Saturday in a WIAA Division 2 sectional final at Craig High School in Janesville.

The Division 2 state tournament begins Friday afternoon at the Kohl Center in Madison with two semifinal games. The title game is Saturday evening.

As of Saturday afternoon the Division 2 state field consisted of LaCrosse Central, Nicolet and Elkhorn. Milwaukee Bay View and Milwaukee Washington played Saturday evening for the remaining spot in the state field.

Elkhorn fans and students go wild after Luke Umnus’ game-winning shot. (Rick Benavides/SLN)

Mount Horeb (22-4) entered the sectional final as the No. 1 seed in its playoff bracket, and had not lost this calendar year. The Elks (23-3) were seeded third, and suffered just one loss in 2019.

With the score tied at 58-58 and with less than 15 seconds remaining in regulation, the Elks pushed the ball up court. Luke Umnus took it himself from the top of the key and scored on a cutting layup to the hoop with 1.0 seconds left on the clock.

The capacity crowd went into a frenzy, and the Elkhorn players on the floor urged calm.

On the inbounds play Mount Horeb attempted a full-court pass, but the ball hit the rafters in Craig’s gym, and was ruled out of play.

The Elks then inbounded the ball under their own basket. Luke Umnus rolled the ball on the floor to Nick Brown, who retrieved the ball and held on as time expired.

“We never think we’re going to lose a game,” Luke Umnus said. “No matter what they’re ranked, how much they’re up, what’s going on in the crowd – we never think we’re going to lose.

“We always think we’re the better team.”

Elkhorn overcame second-half adversity in both sectional wins.

“The gauntlet we’ve been put through is unbelievable,” Luke Umnus added. “We lean on each other, we trust each other to make the right play. They made a tough three and a tough and-one. Against Westosha, we made four passes on the final play. Not many teams are doing that.”

Pandemonium followed once the clock ran out. Elkhorn coach Josh Skatrud’s mother, Lynn, sat in stunned pride with tears streaming down her face, and the Elkhorn faithful seemed to be in a general state of disbelief.


Team kept believing in each other

Chance Larson led the Elks with 17 points, including a crucial acrobatic layup with 22 seconds left after Mount Horeb missed the front end of a 1-and-1 to give Elkhorn a 58-55 lead.

Chance Larson hangs for a shot Saturday. The senior led the Elks with 17 points. (Rick Benavides/SLN)

Mount Horeb was in the bonus for more than half of the second half, but couldn’t capitalize at the line.

Vince Umnus led the Elks with 16 points, including clutch 3-pointers and two huge free throws down the stretch in the second half.

“We decided to never give up,” Larson said. “We were going to push through and come out on top.”

“We’re all best friends. We mesh really well together. We’re very competitive, we want to win and we don’t back down from anybody.”

Brown, a 6-foot-5 force down low who made his presence on the glass, said the guys have worked so hard to get here.

“I’m just really overwhelmed, and grateful,” Brown said. “It really means a lot. We were just taking it the hole strong and finishing our shots.”

“We’ve been doubted all season long. We wanted to go out there and prove everybody wrong. We’ve been together since fourth or fifth grade. All that good mojo, we’re always there to pick each other up and it’s really great.”


The Elkhorn boys basketball team poses with the net and sectional champion plaque Saturday. (Rick Benavides/SLN)

Second half resilience

The second half did not open so rosy for Elkhorn. The Elks trailed 35-34 at halftime. The Vikings opened the second half with a 5-0 run, seized the momentum, and led 41-35 before the Elks went on an 7-1 run and took a 42-41 lead with 14:13 left in regulation.

Neither team led by more than five points for the remainder of the game, and the Elks displayed composure and a confident calm for the remainder of regulation.

Mount Horeb first held the largest lead of the game – six points – at 25-19 with 5:38 left in the first half. The close nature of the game surprised neither coach – sectional finals lend themselves to such margins.

“We had a lead, and we turned it over in a couple of possessions trying to increase that lead,” Mount Horeb coach Todd Nesheim said. “We allowed Elkhorn to come down and crawl right back into it.

“To give up a layup at the end – after the time out we talked about doing your job. Make them hit some shots over hands, and we didn’t do that well enough.”

The victory over Mount Horeb marks the Elks’ third consecutive victory over an opponent ranked in the top 10 of the most recent Division 2 state coaches poll.

Mount Horeb was ranked ninth. Westosha Central, which the Elks beat 49-48 March 7 at Burlington in a sectional semifinal, was ranked fifth. East Troy, which the Elks beat 56-50 March 2 in a regional final

Luke Umnus takes a selfie with #ElkFam just before cutting down the net Saturday in Janesville. (Mike Ramczyk/SLN)

at East Troy, was ranked seventh.

Nicolet is ranked No. 1. La Crosse Central is ranked No. 2. Milwaukee Washington is ranked No. 3 and Milwaukee Bay View is ranked No. 6.

Elkhorn has not been ranked in the Division 2 state poll at any point this season. The seeds of Saturday’s victory were planted almost a year ago. When the Elks met at the end of the 2017-18 season Josh Skatrud played the role of a prophet.

“We’ve been progressively been building our goals up,” Skatrud said. “I told them, ‘Next year, we’re going to Madison.’

“And that’s what we’re doing. And these guys accepted that challenge. They got in the weight room, they come in on Saturdays and Sundays and take shots – I’m just so proud of them. They earned this.”



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