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Preps Alcove

Lake Country Publications Sports Director JR Radcliffe provides tidbits and details from the Lake Country prep sports scene to the Wisconsin sports world at large. His weekly column presents exclusive interviews, commentaries and observations.

Last-second shots make playoff time a thrill

 The year has already been a good one for buzzer beaters. Consider Kettle Moraine's Mike Ottusch hitting a shot from halfcourt to beat Lourdes Academy early in the season, or Marissa Landry of Mukwonago hitting a deep 3-point heave to help her team stun Waukesha West in a crucial battle for first place in the Classic 8 Conference.

Waukesha North has two great plays this year, with Cory Michaelis hitting a half-court shot to beat Beaver Dam at the buzzer, and Ruben Ortiz hitting a runner to shock Brookfield Central.

Oconomowoc's T.J. Schlundt added to the 2012-13 scrapbook with a 3-pointer that helped his team win a regional opener against Verona on Feb. 19. His shot went through officially with 1.8 seconds on the clock, giving the Raccoons a 76-73 win that included a comeback from 17 points down in the second half.

 

 I'm a sucker for these sorts of plays, as I've written before. I tend to think buzzer-beaters are what make basketball one of the absolute best to cover in prep athletics.

It gives me yet another excuse to recount some of the recent buzzer-beaters, and in the spirit of the season, these are shots that took place in the WIAA playoffs. It's one of the things that makes this time of year so much fun for hoops fans.

March 3, 2012

Jake Knueppel scored one basket all night for the Hamilton boys basketball team, hitting a layup in the final second as the Chargers stunned Arrowhead in the regional final, 65-63.

Hamilton outscored Arrowhead by a 12-2 count in the final 1:11, with Brady Ellingson scoring 22 points in the second half and 33 overall. His 25-foot bomb with 7.4 seconds left tied the game, but he was a decoy after Hamilton procured a turnover, and the play went through Knueppel just before the buzzer.

"They had us down most of the game, but we never quit," Knueppel said. "We just kept playing hard. The coaches kept telling us to stay in the game. We never lost our confidence. Tonight we finished the game."

For Arrowhead, it was a stunning playoff ouster via last-second shot for the second straight season.

"I've suffered my share of disappointing defeats over the years, but this one just might hurt the most," said Arrowhead coach Craig Haase. "Our guys played some outstanding basketball until the final 18 or 20 seconds."

March 11, 2011

Defending champion Arrowhead sustained an equally stunning loss one year earlier in the sectional against Waukesha West at the Al McGuire Center in Milwaukee.

The Wolverines scored six points in the final 10 seconds, with Joe Schobert's baseline 3-pointer at the buzzer giving West a staggering 58-57 win.

Dillon Gilpatrick hit a 3-pointer with 7.3 seconds to go, and after a timeout and two missed free throws, West's Austyn Lingle brought the ball up court and found Schobert, who double clutched in mid-air against a hard-charging Blake Mattson but still landed the winner.

"He's probably the only athlete I know of who can make that play," said Haase.

March 5, 2011

St. John's Northwestern Military Acadmey senior D.J. Mlachnik took the ball at midcourt and launched a game-winning 3-pointer, lifting the Lancers to a 60-57 win in the regional semifinal against The Hope School.

"I told the guys in the huddle to just get me the ball because I am not letting us lose," said Mlachnik, who finished with a game-high 21 points.

Miles Holmes rebounded a Mlachnik missed free throw and scored to pull his team within 2 points, and as the Hawks inbounded, Mlachnik knocked the ball away to Holmes, who scored to tie the game with 21 seconds to go.

Hope missed with 1.4 seconds to go, allowing SJNMA to rebound and call timeout for the last second heave. Mlachnik grabbed the long inbound and hit the runner, though the team would be eliminated by Dominican one night later.

March 1, 2011

David Reese canned an awkward runner from 23 feet with just seven-tenths of a second on the clock, and Pewaukee emerged with a 51-48 win over Catholic Memorial in the Division 2 regional opener.

"I really didn't know how much time was left, I just kind of let it go and it went in," said Reese. "I took a peek once when I was dribbling and all I saw was a 3 on the clock. I didn't know if it was three seconds or three-tenths of a second. I just launched it and the ball went in. That was crazy."

Reese forced a turnover with 4 seconds to play that helped the Pirates set up a final shot.

March 19, 2010

Of course, not all the buzzer beaters went against Arrowhead. In 2010, the Warhawks etched some iconic moments into program history.

Against Marquette in the Division 1 state semifinal at the Kohl Center in Madison, Charles Rushman banked in a 3-pointer in the final seconds, helping Arrowhead hold off a late charge from the Hilltoppers and win, 60-58. The squad gathered its first state title one day later.

Marquette hit two free throws to take a one-point lead with 18 seconds to go, capping a 5-point surge in 40 seconds.

With seven seconds to go on an inbound, Andy Fox shuffled the ball to Rushman.

"When it came off my hand, it felt straight," Rushman said. "As it got closer to the hoop, I thought, 'Oh it's a little long, but oh, it's long enough.' I got a little lucky, but I might as well take it."

It wasn't the only buzzer beater from the playoff series. Michael Skarie, a senior known mostly for his defense, hit a driving layup with 4 seconds left to lift Arrowhead past Menomonee Falls in an absolute epic sectional final, 50-48, at the Al McGuire Center.

March 10, 2006

The shot Haase called "the best shot in Arrowhead gym history" came from John Hoch, now an assistant coach for the Warhawks. Hoch caught an inbound with less than 4 seconds to go and hit a runner from the free-throw line in the sectional semifinal against Waukesha South, giving his team a 50-48 win. The shot launched the Warhawks to the sectional final, where they won on their way to the state semifinals.

Will there be more buzzer beaters this season? I can't wait to find out.

Pictured: Pewaukee senior David Reese (24, center) is rushed by teammates and fans after scoring the game-winning 3-pointer against Catholic Memorial on Tuesday, March 1, 2011. Photo by Scott Ash.

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