The story of the week surely looked like it would be a double-overtime loss to Brookfield Central in a battle for supremacy in the Greater Metro Conference. And double overtime was still very much a conversation piece.
But it wasn't the game the Chargers lost that loomed largest.
With the share of the Greater Metro Conference on the line at Marquette on Feb. 14, the Chargers needed a victory after falling to Central two days earlier. This time, Hamilton walked away with a 59-55, double-overtime victory.
With 13 seconds remaining in regulation, Austin Kendziorski tied the game with a 3-point field goal. The two teams each scored 4 points in the first overtime before Hamilton edged the hosts during the final four minutes of the second extra session.
"That was a huge shot by Austin, and in both overtimes we dug in defensively and allowed them only one shot," Hamilton head boys basketball coach Andy Cerroni said. "We got a lot of contributions from several different players, especially in overtime."
Brady Ellingson was dialed in again. The Chargers sharp shooter went 7-for-11 from the field, which included five successful 3-point shots. He was 10-for-11 at the free-throw line, scoring 29 points.
Kendziorski ended up scoring 15 points for Hamilton, which welcomed the return of Mitch Willer, out since Dec.18 with a concussion. He had five rebounds in 13 minutes of action against the Hilltoppers.
On Feb. 22, the Chargers host Menomonee Falls in the second round of the WIAA Division 1 tournament. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Central edges Chargers
Brookfield Central edged Sussex Hamilton, 58-56, in double overtime Tuesday at home.
After Chargers junior Brady Ellingson missed a shot at the end of regulation and then again at the end of the first overtime, the Lancers finally won the game with a late surge of free throws in the second overtime.
With three Lancers guarding Ellingson, junior guard Austin Kendziorski missed on shot from the right side at the final buzzer in double overtime.
"I'm proud of our kids," Chargers coach Andy Cerroni said afterward. "We knew it was going to be a battle. We talked about it being a championship game, a championship effort.
"We had some opportunities; it was about making plays. We had some chances, missed some free throws. They earned a right to play in a game like this, and they certainly didn't disappoint me, our community or our program."
Girls go back to back
This wasn't the same atmosphere as last year, when the Hamilton girls basketball team won a conference title for the first time. This season, after the Chargers sealed at least a share of the Greater Metro crown with a 45-32 win over Brookfield Central on Feb. 12, there was no wild celebration, net cutting or fans lingering for 45 minutes thereafter.
This time, the work feels unfinished.
The Chargers weren't ever really threatened against the Lancers in a complete performance that moved Hamilton to 20-1 overall and 13-0 in the GMC. After Divine Savior Holy Angels lost to that same Central team later in the week, the crown became an outright one, bringing Hamilton back-to-back championships.
Hamilton closes the season against DSHA on Feb. 21 in the regular-season finale, but the Dashers can't catch the Chargers.
"We were prepared for Brook Central," said Hamilton guard Hannah Menzia, who led the Chargers with 13 points. "We knew who their shooters were, and we got out on them. We know they drive baseline, so we worked on that. We got the scouting report done and worked really hard in practice."
Menzia and her teammates had their own baseline jumpers working well, with Central focusing its defensive attention on stopping Chargers post Mackenzie Latt. Freshman Taylor Klug added a pair of 3-pointers in the first quarter to help her team grab a 16-10 lead after one, and the edge swelled to 24-14 by halftime even though Latt missed most of the quarter with a bloody nose.
The Chargers were already playing without defensive standout Robyn Elliott, who went through warmups on an aching knee but never checked into the game. Forward Jenny Shernell has already been lost for the year.
"I cannot give enough credit to our bench," Hamilton coach Dan Carey said. "Sarah (Thompson) steps in there and does her job and Tristen (Hayes) just keeps battling. That's been us all the year. With the injuries and everything going on, players have had to step forward. Whether it's starting a couple games or playing meaningful minutes, that's only going to benefit us down the stretch."
Emily Kneer was the late sub into the starting five for Elliott, and she hit the first basket of the game. Latt returned for the second half and finished with 12 points, and the Lancers were never closer than 11 points in the second half.
The third time could be the charm for Chargers senior Nick Knoebel.
Twice before, the Hamilton product has been to the WIAA Division 1 wrestling state tournament, and he'll be looking to lock down his first state tourney win at the Kohl Center in Madison when wrestling gets under way at 3 p.m. Thursday. Knoebel advanced again by taking second place at 152 pounds in the Oconomowoc sectional on Saturday, emerging from the event with a 35-4 record.
Next up is Muskego junior Connor Price (42-5) in the opening round at state, and it could be one of the more intriguing first-round matchups in all of Division 1.
Price was ranked fourth in the Wisconsin Wrestling Online rankings released Feb. 11, while Knoebel was fifth.
For five others, Saturday marked the end of the line. Vince Pascale came close at 106, taking third place after working his way into the battle for second. He fell in a wrestelback against Aidan Yde of Arrowhead with a second-period pin.
But Pascale left the sectional with a parting gift, having pinned Mike Correa-Volkman of Pius in the opening round, a takedown of the top seed in the bracket.
Brett Neverman also took third at 113, though he wasn't afforded a wrestleback.
"Brett was within two points in his semifinal match and could not get the tying takedown," Pulvermacher said, referring to a 7-3 loss to Kai Castaneda of Wauwatosa.
Hunter Lau took fourth at 120, winning his first match before incurring an injury and bowing out against top seed Bill Holz of Menomonee Falls. Lau then dropped a tight decision in the third-place battle with Arrowhead's Rudy Otters.
"Hunter has been an inspiration to me and his teammates for overcoming multiple injuries that date back to his sophomore season," Pulvermacher said of the senior. "For him to complete the season was an accomplishment within itself."
Jake Macaluso (220) and Brad Biswell (285) both won opening matches at the sectional.
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