Had the Greendale boys basketball team put forth anything less than a strong defensive effort against New Berlin West on Jan. 4, it likely would have walked away with a loss.
The Panthers overcame poor free-throw shooting and inconsistent offense by getting a key defensive stop on the final possession of the game to hold on for a 58-57 victory over the Vikings in a Woodland West game.
"It was one of our best defensive efforts of the year," Greendale coach Ryan Johnsen said. "We held them to 57 points. We were 0-for-7 from 3 and 4-for-17 from the free-throw line. Our defense really won this one for us. It wasn't just one person. It was outstanding to see.
"All five guys really dug in, and it really helped us on the defensive end. A Wednesday game on the road, the offense isn't going to be there. The defense really dug in. That's what won it for us."
Harrison gets stop
Joe Robey scored inside to give New Berlin West a 57-56 lead with 1 minute, 40 seconds to play. Fred Cottrell nearly got a steal for the Vikings, but the ball deflected off him into the hands of Tommy Kujawa, who drove to the hoop and found an open Zach Harrison for a layup to put Greendale up 58-57 with 1:22 left.
The Vikings threw the ball away on their ensuing possession, but Clay Kujawa missed the front end of the bonus with 42 seconds on the clock, giving New Berlin West the ball back down by one.
Cottrell took it strong to the basket and was fouled by Harrison. He missed both free-throw attempts, which forced the Vikings to foul. Clay Kujawa again missed the front end of the bonus, and Robey grabbed the rebound with nine seconds remaining.
Robey quickly got the ball to Cottrell, who took it the length of the court and missed a shot contested by Harrison in the lane as time expired.
'It was essentially our best defender, Zach Harrison, against arguably their best offensive player in Fred," Johnsen said. "I thought Zach had two good defensive possessions. I thought it was a jump ball on the (foul) on the previous one. Then I thought Zach had a good contest and played good D (on the final possession)."
Greendale led, 33-28, at halftime and scored the first 4 points of the second half to extend its advantage to 9. Hunter Pipik hit a corner 3-pointer to tie the game at 44-44, beginning a 9-2 spurt that gave New Berlin West a 50-46 lead on a layup by Cottrell with 7:16 left.
The Vikings then turned the ball over on four consecutive possessions, leading to four easy baskets by Greendale, and the 8-0 run put the Panthers in front, 54-50, with 3:47 on the clock.
Pipik hit another big triple to bring New Berlin West to within 54-53 and then connected on a pair of free throws that gave the Vikings a 55-54 lead.
Panthers draw respect
"Greendale is a good program, so we had them circled on our schedule," New Berlin West coach Brandon Mattox said. "They put it on us a couple times last year, so this was a good showing. But down the stretch we have to value the ball and be smart. We had some guys not used to being in that situation and tightened up a little bit."
Tommy Kujawa led Greendale with 20 points, while Clay Kujawa had 17 points and 10 rebounds in just his second game back from a broken hand. Harrison was the third Panthers player in double figures with 10 points.
The Panthers used their size advantage over the Vikings to score 48 points in the paint.
Greendale struggled on offense again on Jan. 6 and paid for it with a 60-25 loss to New Berlin Eisenhower. They were down, 29-14, at the half and managed only 11 second-half points.
Clay Kujawa led with 7 points, and Vlado Zrnic added 5 for Greendale, which hit just 10 of 20 free throws.
Greendale, 2-4 in the Woodland and 5-5 overall, will play at 7:15 p.m. Friday, Jan. 13, at Pius XI, which dropped a tough game to Pewaukee last week. The Panthers then take on West Bend West at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 17, at home.