Lutzen leads PHS boys to 2 OT win
Junior center, Pirates win in 2OT
Another close game. Another victory for the Pewaukee boys basketball team, which continued its Houdini act Friday night.
Hosting Whitnall in a Woodland Conference game, the Pirates struggled once again at the free-throw line but made more than their share of big plays when it counted most and escaped with an exciting come-from-behind victory over the Falcons in double overtime, 71-65.
The win, its eighth in the last nine games, improved Pewaukee to 12-4 on the season and 9-2 in the West Division Woodland standings. The Pirates are tied for first place for the division lead with New Berlin Eisenhower.
Friday's win was the fourth overtime decision this year for the Pirates. Pewaukee is 3-1 in those overtime games. The Pirates have won three games this year by six points or less.
The Pirates were led by a spectacular performance by junior Eric Lutzen. The 6-foot-6 center turned in one of the best individual performances in school history, finishing with a game-high 26 points and what is believed to be a school-record 22 rebounds.
Lutzen's effort surpassed that of J.J. Watt on March 11, 2006 when Watt scored 25 points and pulled down 18 rebounds in a WIAA Division 2 sectional semi-final victory over Waukesha Catholic Memorial at Waukesha South.
"That was just a monstrous game by Eric," said first-year Pewaukee coach Mike Basile. "I don't think we've ever seen that here at Pewaukee, a guy getting 22 rebounds and 26 points. He was a man among boys tonight."
PHS had to survive another abysmal free-throw shooting performance, making just 18 of 32 foul shots - and that included the Pirates making 5 of 6 in the second overtime. In the last 3:12 of regulation and through the entire first four-minute overtime period, PHS converted just 3 of 9 free throws.
"The scary part of that is if we don't get better at the line, it's going to come back and get us one of these nights," Basile said. "We're not going to keep escaping shooting as poorly as we are at the line."
Despite the line struggles, it was four consecutive free throws without a miss in the second extra period that iced the win. Junior guard Ryan Stepanovich, who sent the game to overtime by making a runner in the lane with 8.2 seconds left to play, canned both of his foul shots with 2:13 left on the clock, making it 66-65 and giving the Pirates the lead for good.
Stepanovich, who finished with 13 points, made another two free throws with 20.2 seconds remaining that put his team up 70-65.
"I just blocked everything out and knew I could make them," Stepanovich said. "That's why we practice them. There was a lot of pressure, but I kind of like that. This is a team sport and we have a lot of good players this year. I was glad I could help us win. But a lot of guys played well tonight. I thought the entire team handled the pressure of the game very well."
PHS rallies from behind
Pewaukee led 21-12 after the first period and 25-24 at halftime, but the Pirates fell behind 39-38 going into the fourth period. Whitnall built up a 50-46 advantage with 2:59 to play when Brent Sluka dropped in a pair of free throws.
Thanks to four points from Dave Girmscheid and Lutzen, the Pirates tied the game at 50 but watched as the Falcons regained the lead at 55-52 with 49 seconds left to play.
Once again, the Pirates bounced back. Lutzen made 1 of 2 foul shots with 37 seconds left before Stepanovich hit his runner in the lane to tie the game and force overtime.
Pewaukee never trailed in the first overtime and then fell behind 65-64 with 2:26 left in the second extra period. Stepanovich, Girmscheid and Lutzen then scored the final seven points of the game to give them the win.
"To be honest, the game is kind of a blur to me," Lutzen said. "I really didn't know how many points or rebounds I had because the game was so intense. Our guys were hustling all over the place. I was a lot bigger than their guys and we did a good job of getting the ball inside to me. Whitnall did a good job of pushing me around, but I got good position down low and made some shots. I'm drained. I'm just glad we found a way to win it."
Junior Jordan Hass fired in 11 of his 14 points in the first quarter.
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