The Whitefish Bay boys basketball team needed someone to step up Saturday afternoon in its WIAA Division 2 sectional final with second-ranked and heavily favored Wisconsin Lutheran.
And senior forward Ron Patten proved to be that man, as he hit a runner from the left wing in traffic with 24 seconds left in overtime that held up to be the gamewinner as the Blue Dukes advanced to next weekend’s WIAA State Tournament in Madison with a 51-50 win.
“I just knew I had to step it up, step it up big,” said Patten, who led all scorers with 32 points. “During the timeouts, they were telling me ‘Ron, take it, take control ‘ and I just knew I had to do it.”
With the win, the Blue Dukes (18-8) advance to a state D2 semifinal in Madison next Friday at the Kohl Center in Madison while the Vikings saw their 22-game winning streak come to an end (22-3).
The win also erased a bad memory for Patten and the rest of the Blue Dukes of a lopsided loss to eventual state D2 champion Catholic Memorial in the sectional final last season.
“It was huge to have guys like Ron and Cal (Ehrke) and Jamie (Schneck) who are battled-tested and are tough in situations like this,” said coach Kevin Lazovik. “We knew after we got that big early lead (it was 22-5 midway through the second quarter) that Lutheran was just too good not to try and comeback. We didn’t respond to it well at first and it didn’t help that we had huge foul trouble.”
But Bay remained tough. Lutheran closed a 29-13 halftime deficit to 34-28 with the help of an 11-0 run midway through the third quarter. Guard Kelin Johnson stopped the run with a drive, but the Vikings clearly had momentum going into the fourth quarter.
Patten put together a three-point play to open the fourth for the Blue Dukes but Lutheran, behind all-state level guard Terry Nash (20 points) closed the gap to 37-36. Patten stopped that run with one three-pointer but eventually the Vikings broke through as guard Chris Golden hit a putback with 3:09 remaining for Lutheran’s first lead at 3:09.
Again, Pattten came through with another three to put Bay up 43-41 with 2:35 left, but then Nash knocked down two free throws with 2:28 left to tie the score at 43-all.
Both teams missed out on opportunities to win it down the stretch, with Bay getting the last opportunity as Johnson’s baseline jumper was just long at the buzzer.
Things went bad early for Bay in the overtime as a turnover led to a Nash steal and lay-up gave the Vikings the early lead. Schneck, the Blue Dukes emotional center for much of the season, fouled out on the play.
“It wasn’t my night but that’s why we have the rest of the team,” said Schneck.
Indeed, Patten tied the score up on a hoop immediately afterword but then Lutheran got a tip-in from Chris Rotruck to put it back ahead at 47-45 with 2:47 remaining.
Junior guard Will Davis calmly hit two free throws to tie the score back up for Bay with 1:40 remaining, but then Joshua Gordon battled in traffic for the go-ahead hoop for the Vikings and then Joshua Lindner hit one of two free throws to make it 50-47 Lutheran with just 1:09 remaining.
But Patten got fouled and hit two free throws with 55 seconds left to make it 50-49 and after Lindner missed two free throws, Bay had a chance. After a long possession, Patten fought his way into traffic off the left side. It became a bit of a scramble and Patten made contact with a defender but then calmly sank the decisive shot.
“When the defender fell, I thought they might call an offensive foul, but they didn’t. I saw that the angle was open and I just took the shot,” said Patten. “I just knew I had to do it.”
But the Blue Dukes weren’t out of the woods just yet. Lutheran took two timeouts on the subsequent possession and put the ball in Nash’s hands.
After their second timeout with 4.7 seconds remaining, Lindner got the shot off for Lutheran. It came off the iron and Lutheran had a second chance but the ball got tipped out and Bay could start to celebrate.
“We’ve had a tough non-conference schedule all season and it was done just for this purpose,” said Ehrke. “It’s been an up-and-down season and we’ve overcome adverse situations and been in tough games before, but never something of this magnitude.
“This is amazing.”
Lazovik couldn’t say enough about Patten’s effort.
“I couldn’t be prouder of the guy,” he said. “To see him develop from his freshmen year on up, to now and with this kind of effort in this kind of situation. That’s a senior really getting the job done.”