With every loose ball, every dive and every collision, Elkhorn was determined to gain the respect of a rowdy sellout crowd at East Troy High School on Saturday night.
After snapping state-ranked East Troy’s 21-game winning streak, the Elks undoubtedly earned the respect they were seeking.
Luke and Vince Umnus set the tone, combining for 17 second-half points to help third-seeded Elkhorn post a second consecutive regional championship with a 56-50 victory over second-seeded East Troy.
“We were upset all year, because we should have been ranked in the state as a top-10 team in Division 2,” Vince Umnus said. “East Troy is ranked up there in Division 2 and so is Westosha, and we want a piece of them. We came into East Troy’s gym and it was loud, and we just wanted to win at their place and send them home.”
The respect-garnering victory sets up another grudge match against top-seeded Westosha Central on Thursday in a WIAA Division 2 sectional semifinal at Fort Atkinson High School.
The Falcons outlasted the Elks, 46-41, in a sectional semifinal game last season and beat the Elks twice in the regular season this year.
With their recent struggles against Westosha, the Elks will need to play with the same prickly edge.
The Trojans never found an answer for the Elks’ intensity in the regional final.
“I think their seniors won out tonight,” East Troy coach Darryl Rayfield said. “They have been together for a while and they are very physical.”
Elkhorn needed all the momentum it could muster to counter the all-around game of AJ Vukovich.
The junior scored seven of his game-high 29 points in the first six minutes to help the Trojans earn a 14-7 lead.
Elkhorn guard Chance Larson helped chipped into the deficit with nine first-half points, including a lefty layup over Vukovich that gave the Elks their first lead of the game, 28-27, late in the first half.
“We had to pick our poison a little bit and tried to stay between Vukovich and the basket,” Elkhorn coach Josh Skatrud said. “And then we tried not to lose their shooters, because when you lose them they go off on teams.”
Vukovich countered the double-teams with a nifty post spin move and reverse layup to briefly give East Troy a 32-31 lead early in the second half.
But Vince and Luke Umnus would not be denied, scoring seven straight points to give the Elks a 39-33 lead with 13 minutes left.
“They were trying to get into our heads, face-guarding us and touching us a bunch,” Luke Umnus said. “But we used their aggressiveness against them, and we got easy post-ups. And Vince and I find each other easily and got the high and lows all day.”
East Troy got as close as within one point, 39-38, behind a Vukovich three-point play and two Michael Rosin free throws with 7:38 to play.
But the Trojans’ comeback quest was damaged by a 13-for-23 effort from free-throw line, helping the Elks maintain their lead down the stretch.
“Got to make free throws,” Rayfield said. “In a game like this, it comes down to the little things.”
On this night, Elkhorn did the little things too well.
ELKHORN 56, EAST TROY 50
Elkhorn (56)—Johnson 1-0-2, Lauderdale 2-0-5, Larson, 4-2-11, Luke Umnus 5-2-12, Davey 0-1-1, V. Umnus 2-5-10, Brown 6-2-15. Totals: 20-12-56.
East Troy (50)—Rosin 3-2-10, Polakoski 1-5-7, Lottig 1-2-4, Vukovich 12-4-29. Totals: 17-13-50.
Elkhorn 28 28—56
East Troy 27 23—50
3-point goals—Elkhorn 4 (Lauderdale, Larson, V. Umnus, Brown), East Troy 3 (Rosin 2, Vukovich). Free throws missed—Elkhorn 4, East Troy 10. Total fouls—Elkhorn 18, East Troy 19. Fouled out Rosin.