The three-pointers came in a seemingly never ending barrage from all corners of the Dick Emanuel Gym late Friday night.
At least, that’s what it must have appeared like for the Appleton West boys’ basketball team as Appleton North connected on 11 three-pointers en route to a 64-53 Fox Valley Association upset victory over the Terrors in front of an overflow crowd.
It was the biggest of rebound wins for North, which dropped a 57-55 heartbreaker to Neenah earlier this week in its FVA opener.
“This is a huge win for us,” Appleton North guard Ryan Albers said. “We beat the third-ranked team in the state at their place and we had a big crowd of people here. West is a great team and now we can build off this, play with a lot of confidence and keep working hard. We know now that we can play with anybody.”
West, the preseason favorite to win the FVA, struggled to keep the pace with North’s long-range attack, even though the Terrors were shooting from the bonus late in the first quarter.
The Lightning dictated game flow on both ends of the court, but it was the North defense that helped feed the Lightning offensive game, according to junior guard/forward Mike Lukashewich.
“We focused on that in practice, on the defense,” Lukashewich said. “Whenever we get in the flow on defense, our offense usually starts clicking too. And the three-pointers were clicking for us today and it fell for us in practice, so we were confident.”
North played a mix of man defense in the first half before switching to a zone look in the second half. West, which boasts some of the top offensive talent in the conference with guards Austin Berlick, Matt Reader, Troy Mielke and forward Jake Verhagen, struggled to find a flow on offense and North appeared to be a half-step quicker on hustle plays.
“We were simply outplayed tonight. And we were outplayed by a team that shot the ball extremely well,” Appleton West Brennan Hussey said. “They deserve credit. They deserved to win the game. We have to take more care to close out on shooters and not give them rhythm looks. But (North) earned those rhythm looks. And they converted and put a lot of pressure on us to score, which I don’t think we handled well in return.
“But make no mistake about it. Appleton North outplayed us tonight.”
North led 37-29 at the half, connecting on nine three-pointers, and led by at least six points throughout the second half as the Lightning was sharp on the free throw line down the stretch.
Physical play was a theme throughout the game, but the Lightning didn’t shy away and stood toe-to-toe with the taller Terrors.
“We focused on cutting to the spot and beating them there and not letting them get to their spot,” Lukashewich said. “We knew it was going to be a physical game. They’re bigger than us, but we battled through it and we got to their spot before them and forced them where we wanted them to go instead of where they wanted to go.”
Albers had 23 points to lead the Lightning, with Lukashewich and Clark Eagan adding 12 each for North (3-1, 1-1). Jake Verhagen finished with 11 points to pace West. Reader and Adam Lang chipped in 10 points and Berlick also had nine points for the Terrors (3-1, 1-1).
Albers said that North coach Eric Eastman helped keep his team’s confidence high following their two-point loss to the Rockets earlier this week.
“We had a tough loss Tuesday and he said to stay positive,” Albers said. “Neenah’s a great team and West is a great team and a big rival, so we all got focused and put out a lot of energy, came out strong and shot well.”
Appleton North: Dudley 4, Albers 23, Johansen 3, Lukashewich 12, Gross 2, Gerrity 3, VanHandel 5, Eagan 12. Three-pointers: Dudley, Albers 3, Johansen, Lukashewich 2, Gerrity, Eagan 3. Totals: 19 15-21 64. Fouls: 18.
Appleton West: Reader 10, Thompson 2, Verhagen 11, Berlick 9, Wiegman 2, Mielke 9, Lang 10. Three-pointers: Verhagen 2, Berlick, Mielke. Totals: 17 15 21 17. Fouls: 18.
— Ricardo Arguello: 920-993-1000, ext. 558, or firstname.lastname@example.org; On Twitter @PCRicardo