WILLIAMS BAY – For the Williams Bay boys basketball team (9-8), it was a roller-coaster week — first up, then down.
They beat Madison Country Day (3-13) on Jan. 30, then lost a nailbiter to Palmyra-Eagle (13-4) on Feb. 2, and then lost a grudge match to crosstown rival Faith Christian (10-5) on Feb. 5.
Madison Country Day
After beating Country Day by 43 in their first meeting of the season, the Bulldogs didn’t win quite as handily this time around, coming out victorious 71-64.
The Bay only had a four-point edge at halftime, and only outscored their foe by three in the second half, but sometimes, all that matters is having that slight edge, even if it isn’t flashy.
Madison’s Carl Ashworth led all scorers with 21 points, while WBHS senior Eric Norton had 19 to lead the Bulldogs. Williams Bay senior Sahej Singh, still hampered by an ankle injury that forced him to miss much of January, scored 13 points. MCD junior Declan Young rounded out the double-digit scorers with 14 points.
Perhaps Williams Bay’s performance against Madison Country Day can be chalked up to who was next on the schedule.
Palmyra-Eagle went into the game at 7-1 in the Trailways South division, and the Bulldogs at 6-2 were within striking range with a victory.
For the first 13 minutes of the first half, it was a back-and-forth affair. The teams traded leads and ties, and with five minutes remaining the Bulldogs had a 17-16 edge.
After that, the Panthers pounced, going on a 14-8 run to take a 30-25 advantage into halftime.
Scoring was sluggish when play resumed, but the Bulldogs were clawing back, and after about eight minutes, the two teams were tied at 40. The closeness was short-lived, and Palmyra stretched their lead back to seven, 50-43.
Things weren’t perfect for Palmyra-Eagle, though, as the team found itself in foul trouble. While the Bulldogs’ game plan was physical, the referees certainly didn’t do them any favors.
Williams Bay head coach Troy Nottestad kept his team out of the same trouble with minor adjustments.
“I think there were times where you were trying to decide what the refs would call, or what would they not call, but I thought we adjusted throughout the game,” Nottestad said.
WBHS didn’t roll over, and they fought back to bring the game within one score, 52-50, with four and a half minutes remaining. The Panthers lead remained slim, a mere 59-57 with one minute remaining.
On the Bulldogs’ next possession, Singh was fouled, and he sank both his free throws to tie the game. When Palmyra took it down the court, senior Austin Kwait drove into the lane, forcing contact with Williams Bay freshman Ben Venteicher.
If the Panthers had the wrong side of close calls earlier, they got the right side of this one, picking up a blocking foul on what looked to be a charge that would’ve given possession back to the Bay.
Instead, Kwait headed to the free throw line, making both shots, and giving his team a 61-59 lead with 25 seconds remaining.
After tying the game 30 seconds earlier, the ball was back in Singh’s hands, as he made a layup while being fouled, tying the game with a shot to win. His free throw was no good, however, and Palmyra quickly called a timeout with eight seconds left on the clock.
The Panthers set a couple screens coming off the timeout, making a running layup as the buzzer sounded to take the 63-61 win in front of a Williams Bay hometown crowd.
Despite the heartbreaking loss, Nottestad felt his team played well.
“I thought we battled, I thought we kept throwing punches, and I thought we had them at the end, but they made one more play than we did down the stretch,” Nottestad said. “We did pretty much everything we wanted to, we just didn’t come out on top on the scoreboard.”
Norton led all scorers with 20 points. Even though he was playing through injury, Singh was close behind with 18. Senior Freddie Mannelli also cracked double figures, scoring 12 points.
In the crosstown matchup, the Eagles were able to take revenge on the Bulldogs for a defeat earlier in the season.
Faith outscored the Bay 33-23 in the second half to power them to a 71-54 victory.
For more on the game against Faith Christian, turn to 2C.