With one final possession and a sectional final berth in the balance, Elkhorn left everything to Chance.
Elkhorn senior guard Chance Larson’s game-winning layup gave the Elks a 49-48 victory over top-seeded Westosha Central in a WIAA Division 2 sectional semifinal game at Burlington High School.
The heart-pounding victory propelled Elkhorn into a sectional final against Mount Horeb on Saturday in a 1 p.m. game at Janesville Craig.
“I just knew I had to go up strong and had to get a good look at the basket,” said Larson, who led the Elks with 15 points. “I went up strong and finished.”
Larson’s shot provided a bitter ending for the Falcons, who trailed for just 14 total seconds in the entire game.
“We were down the whole game, down seven at half and nine later in the second half,” Elkhorn senior guard Luke Umnus said. “We’ve matured so much. Last year’s team would have lost this game by 25 points, and that’s a testament to our guys and coaching staff.”
Westosha Central seemingly had the game in control after Adam Simmons drained a corner 3-pointer to give the Falcons a 34-25 lead with 13 minutes to play.
But the Elks finally got rolling with a 3-pointer from Umnus. And a Nicholas Brown turnaround jumper trimmed the deficit to 37-36.
Westosha continued to answer the Elks’ surges with clutch baskets from Joey Michelau, Jaeden Zackery and Dylan Anderson to maintain a 48-45 edge with a 1:08 left.
Larson responded with a layup to cut it 48-47. The Falcons then missed the front end of a one-and-one twice in the remaining 42 seconds to give the Elks extra chances to take the lead.
Then, on their final possession with 17 seconds left, the Elks put an exclamation point on the season with their trademark team basketball. Brown got the ball inside and then worked it back outside to Umnus, who then reversed the ball left to Larson. Larson drove the lane and rose over a Westosha defender for the bucket and the win.
“It’s kind of what we do,” Elkhorn coach Josh Skatrud said. “We don’t have a Zackery that averages 20 points a game, so we trust that if we take the right shot, we’ll score.”
The Elks struggled to take the right shot early on against the tough Westosha zone defense. They trailed 24-17 at halftime.
The Falcons continued to control the game for the first eight minutes of the second half, leading by as many as nine before Skatrud called timeout. From there, Elkhorn methodically cut into the lead before Larson finally put them over the top for good.
“We’re not done yet, but we’ve felt we’ve been overlooked this season,” Skatrud said. “It feels really good to win two in a row against two really good programs.”
The Elks finally earned vindication.
And now they are a victory away from a trip to the state tournament, a place the Elkhorn program has been four times—but not since 1987.
ELKHORN 49, WESTOSHA CENTRAL 48
Elkhorn (49)—Larson 6-1-15, L. Umnus 3-0-7, Davey, 2-0-5, V. Umnus 3-2-10, Brown 2-1-5, Lauderdale 2-0-5, Johnon, 1-0-2. Totals: 19-4-49.
Westosha Central (48)—Simmons 3-3-10, Michelau 5-2-14, Anderson 3-0-7, Zackery 5-2-12, Rose 1-0-5. Totals: 18-7-48.
Elkhorn 17 32—49
Westosha Central 24 24—48
3-point goals—Elkhorn 7 (Larson 2, L. Umnus, Davey, V. Umnus 2, Lauderdale), Westosha Central 5 (Simmons, Michelau 2, Anderson, Rose). Free throws missed—Elkhorn 3, Westosha Central 5. Total fouls—Elkhorn 15, Westosha Central 10. Fouled out—V. Umnus