JANESVILLE

Tournament tested.

That’s been the building block for success this postseason for Elkhorn’s boys basketball team.

The Elks punched their ticket to state Saturday thanks to a thrilling 60-58 win over Mount Horeb in a WIAA Division 2 sectional final game.

Elkhorn outscored its two sectional opponents by just three combined points. And the Elks have won their four tournament games by an average of just five points.

“It’s been like riding a roller coaster, sometimes,” Elkhorn coach Josh Skatrud said of the last three tournament games that saw the Elks win by a combined nine points. “You have to remember that they’re 16-, 17- and 18-year-old kids, and sometimes they do things that drive you crazy. But then they turn around and do exactly what you thought and knew they were capable of, and that’s winning these type of games.”

Elkhorn beat Mount Horeb by two points, Westosha by one in the sectional semifinals and won by six in a regional final at East Troy.

“These kids have done everything I’ve asked of them, and they earned this,” Skatrud said. “People kept asking me if I get nervous and if my stomach is in knots. And I always tell them no, because I’ve got such faith in these kids. We won today, and that’s awesome, but even if we would’ve lost I still would’ve felt great about my kids.”

Revenge has also played a big part in the Elks’ tournament success.

They had a 12-point lead in a sectional semifinal game last year against Westosha Central and lost. And after losing twice to Westosha during the regular season, Elkhorn had to play the Falcons again in a sectional semifinal game Thursday.

Chance Larson hit a driving layup at the buzzer to lift Elkhorn to a 49-48 win. The senior said the team never lost confidence.

“We really changed our mindset toward the end of the regular season,” Larson said. “We knew we had to be mentally tough, play solid with the ball and refuse to lose.

“And I think all of us felt like sooner or later, things had to start going our way. If we made some shots, played great defense and believed in each other, good things would happen.”

Luke Umnus, who made the the game-winning basket with a second left against Mount Horeb, said Saturday’s game was one that the Elks might not have won earlier in the season.

“We’re much more positive now around each other, and that’s something that has changed from earlier in the year,” Umnus said. “When we got blown out by Westosha, we said afterward that things had to change. We had to stop worrying about the officials, or the environment, or what the other team was doing.

“Once we did that and started believing in each other, we’ve been a different and better team. When you stick together and play as hard as we do, we can beat anybody.”

The Elks have proven that thus far in a tournament run that has them back at state for the first time since 1987.

John Barry is a sports writer for The Gazette. Email him at jbarry@gazettextra.com

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