Warhawks block Hamilton's path
Arrowhead was all charged up Saturday at Sussex Hamilton.
The Warhawks took five offensive fouls in the second half, digging in defensively, and turned the tide in a performance that earned them a trip to the WIAA Division 1 sectional semifinal Feb. 28 against No. 1 ranked Germantown. Arrowhead, seeded No. 3 in the regional, upended second-seeded Hamilton, 49-36.
Arrowhead led 20-14 at the half in a grind-it-out defensive struggle in front of a packed house.
After Hamilton pulled back to within 24-22, Jackson Abresch sank two free throws with 4:10 remaining in the third quarter, and DJ Escamilla found shooting room from the corner, drilling a 3-pointer to give Arrowhead a three possession lead 29-22 with 3:30 showing on the third quarter clock.
Thereafter, the Chargers were whistled for five offensive fouls in attempts to attack the basket, as Arrowhead stood its ground inside.
"Give our kids credit, showing willingness to give up their bodies for the team, and tonight that was a big thing," Arrowhead coach Craig Haase said. "We work on taking charges all the time in practice believe it or not. The kids don't like it, but it sure paid off for us today."
Kyle Keranen knocked down a 3-point field goal with 5:07 to play in the fourth quarter, giving Arrowhead a double-digit lead at 37-26.
From there, Arrowhead put the ball in the hands of their capable ball handlers like Dominic Todarello, Keranen, Brandon Kim and Kenny Finco, melting time off the clock with Hamilton in the gamble and chase mode.
"We've got some good guards and at that point we needed to take care of the basketball. For the most part we did a good job of that," Haase said.
Todarello did better then a good job defensively, on guard with Ellingson, one of the state's top sharpshooters. All evening, he shadowed Hamilton's leading scorer, making him take shots in haste or a little farther out then preferred.
"Obviously Brady is a great shooter," Todarello said. "I just tried to force him left and to dribble more then just spot up and shoot the three. I have to thank my teammates for helping me out on him. He's a great player."
Ellingson finished with 15 points for game-high honors on 6 for 19 shooting. He was 3 for 10 from long range.
Hamilton was also stingy, allowing Arrowhead to go 16 for 35 (35.6 percent) from the field. The Chargers ended up 14-for-43 (32.6 percent) for the night.
Todarello led Arrowhead with 13 points. Keranen and Finco each achieved double figures with 10 points and Billy Hirschfeld, exchanging body blows with Chargers enforcer Tony Gumina most of the night, had 4 points, but more importantly 11 rebounds.
Gumina had 7 points and nine rebounds for the Chargers.
"We needed to make some shots, some plays, but to their credit, they got after us tonight defensively," Hamilton head coach Andy Cerroni said. "We battled and tried to get to the rim but they were there to take charges."
The Warhawks have their work cut out for them against the other Warhawks, a team with a 52-game winning streak dating back to last year's undefeated Division 1 championship season.
"Yeah Germantown, the unbeatables," Haase said. "They pounded us the first time. We'll practice hard this week, do the best we can and see what happens."
Arrowhead tops Kettle Moraine
The Warhawks downed visiting Kettle Moraine in a first-round regional game, 68-57, but the spunky Lasers (12-11) made it awfully interesting. The two teams battled to a 14-14 draw after the first period and the score was still tied at halftime, 35-35.
Arrowhead had defeated the Lasers by big margins in their two Classic 8 Conference games. The Lasers took fifth in league play while Arrowhead was conference co-champion, but underdog Kettle Moraine turned in a courageous effort and turned in one of their best performances of the season.
"We knew coming into the game that Kettle Moraine was going to come in here tonight and give us everything they had," said Haase. "They have some very good basketball players. They played well. I think our defense turned things around in the second half. That was the difference tonight."
There was no question about that.
The Warhawks picked up the defensive pressure in the third quarter. They held the Lasers without a basket in the first 6:30 of the period and turned that halftime draw into a 46-36 lead with 1:46 remaining in the quarter. From there, KM never got closer than five points (46-41) the rest of the night.
Arrowhead put the game away by going on a 12-0 run to start the fourth period. Suddenly it was 58-41 and the game was over. Billy Hirschfeld, DJ Escamilla, Kenny Finco and Dom Todarello all scored in that surge.
"We battled back after some adversity and got back into the game," KM coach Brad Bestor said. "They've got a good team. I asked the guys three weeks ago to fight through the grind of February and they did that. They fought hard and we got better as the season moved. I'm proud of the guys. They played hard tonight."
While Arrowhead (19-4) moved on to the regional title game the following night, KM's season ended at 12-11.
The Lasers led most of the first period and fell behind 24-16 in the second quarter. But led by a surge from Mike Ottusch, Ben Varick and Paul Miller, Kettle Moraine tied the game at 35 at the intermission.
Finco led the Warhawks with 18 points. Kyle Keranen chipped in with 12 points, Hirschfeld 12 and Todarello added 11.
Paul Miller led the Lasers with 15 points. Ottusch chipped in with 14 tallies and Mitchell Oleson added 11.
- Chuck Delsman contributed to this article
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