With Pewaukee successfully limiting star sophomore Tyler Herro, somebody else had to step up for the Whitnall boys basketball team if it was going to spring an upset over one of the state's best teams.
Kevion Taylor was up to the task.
The junior forward finished with 30 points and 16 rebounds to lead third-seeded Whitnall to a WIAA Division 2 regional title with a 61-49 victory over second-seeded Pewaukee.
Whitnall (18-6) will face fifth-seeded Waukesha North (15-9) in a sectional semifinal at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 10, at Waukesha West High School.
'Absolute monster,' Whitnall coach Steve Kujawa said of Taylor. 'I think he's really underrated. He's really blossomed into an inside-outside player. He was huge for us. They couldn't stop him inside, and they couldn't stop him outside. It was a heck of a performance.'
Falcons start well
The Pirates, ranked second in the state in Division 2, scored just four points in the first 10 minutes of the game, which allowed Whitnall to grab a 17-4 lead.
Pewaukee (19-4) cut Whitnall's lead to five late in the first half, but a 3-pointer by Herro gave the Falcons a 25-17 advantage at the break.
That turned out to be just one of two made field goals by Herro, who entered averaging 24 points.
Just as they did when they limited Herro to 7 points in a 64-53 victory over Whitnall on Dec. 11, the Pirates ran a box-and-1 defense against the star sophomore.
Whitnall was more prepared this time around.
'We really worked on the box-and-1 and triangle-and-2,' Kujawa said. 'We had nine different sets that we ran all throughout the week. We were really prepared. We just had to execute. Pewaukee never made any defensive adjustments.'
The box-and-1 defense opened up space for Whitnall's other scoring threat, Taylor, who hit 11 of his 22 field-goal attempts to score 30 or more points for the third time this season.
'He came up big,' Herro said of Taylor. 'I've been telling him since Day 1 that he has to work hard. Someone has to step up besides me sometimes, and that was him tonight.'
Shooting just 5-for-25 from the field and zero for 10 from beyond the arc in the first half, Pewaukee was fortunate to be trailing by just 8 at halftime.
Gohlke sparks rally
The Pirates got a second-half spark from sophomore Jack Gohlke, who scored 8 straight points to cut Whitnall's lead to 34-28 with 11:30 left.
In its earlier loss to Pewaukee, Whitnall was leading by 4 points in the second half when it allowed an 18-0 run to lose the game.
This time, the Falcons had an answer for each Pewaukee run.
With the Pirates within 42-38, Daren Thomas, trailing on a fast break, rebounded a missed dunk and got the putback to put the Falcons up by 6 points with 3:52 left.
Wyatt Cook drilled a 3-pointer to cut Whitnall's lead to 46-41 with 3:06 to play, but Taylor answered on the other end.
Whitnall then hit 11 of its final 12 free-throw attempts to prevent a chance of a late Pewaukee comeback.
Herro finished with just 6 points but had seven assists, and Austin Brault tallied 8 points to go with seven rebounds and seven assists with just one turnover, and Dan Alexopolous added 10 points.
'We remembered the types of things we didn't do (the first time),' Kujawa said. 'We knew they were going to make their run. But we made our free throws down the stretch and didn't turn the ball over.'
Pewaukee shot just 28.1 percent from the field and hit just six of its 25 3-point attempts.
Whitnall tops Bay View
In a regional semifinal game on March 4, Whitnall tipped Bay View, 79-76, behind 41 points from Herro and 19 by Taylor. Herro connected on six 3-pointers and hit 11-of-12 from the line.
The Falcons rallied after being down by 10 points in the second half. Herro and Taylor both hit two free throws in the final minute to seal it.
The regional championship is the Falcons' first under Kujawa. Whitnall last made the sectional semifinal in 2012 in longtime coach Ken Kroupa's final season.
'We're an underdog,' Taylor said. 'All of the teams are getting knocked out. Eisenhower just got knocked out. We like being an underdog. We don't want people to know what we are capable of.'
WHAT: A WIAA Division 2 sectional boys basketball tournament
7 P.M. THURSDAY, MARCH 10: Whitnall (18-6) vs. Waukesha North (15-9) at Waukesha West and Milwaukee Washington (19-5) vs. Whitefish Bay (15-9) at Greenfield
4 P.M. SATURDAY, MARCH 12: Championship game at Brown Deer
WHITNALL: The Falcons finished second in the Woodland Conference East Division with an 11-5 mark. They are led by 6-foot-4-inch sophomore guard Tyler Herro at 24 points and four assists per game and 6-5 junior forward Kevion Taylor at 18.8 points and 6.2 rebounds per outing. They beat Bay View, 79-76, and Pewaukee, 61-49, in regional play.
WAUKESHA NORTH: The North Stars tied for third in the Classic 8 Conference at 8-6 after being picked for last; then they upset Greendale, 66-58, in their first regional game and downed Catholic Memorial, 67-53, to win the regional. They are paced by 6-0 senior guard Adam Wieczorek at 17.5 points per game, 6-1 junior forward Kendall Gould 12.2 and 6-5 sophomore forward Will McDonald at 11.6.
WASHINGTON: The Purgolders took second in the Milwaukee City Conference at 11-1. They topped Nicolet, 80-72, in overtime and Milwaukee Morse-Marshall, 71-58, to win the regional. They lost top scorer and rebounder Te'Jon Lucas to injury, but 6-3 senior guard Nakell Martin averages 14 points and 6-4 freshman forward/guard Deontay Long 12.3 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.4 assists.
BAY: The Blue Dukes came in third in the North Shore Conference at 8-6 and then beat Wauwatosa East, 65-64, and Pius XI, 56-53, to claim the regional title. David Thompson, a 6-0 junior guard, leads them with 20.9 points per game, and 6-0 senior guard Elijah Moore adds 19.8 per contest.