An injury during the warmups to West Allis Central senior forward Brent Hunter cast a pall over the Bulldogs' city boys basketball showdown against West Allis Hale on Feb. 25.
'He sustained a compound fracture of the tibia and fibula of the left leg during our jumping line before the game,' coach Dave Mlachnik said.
The injury clearly shook up both teams and affected the game, which the Huskies won, 55-42.
'That was very tough for us,' Mlachnik said. 'Brent has been a leader all year and has been good for the younger guys to look up to and relate to. (The injury) had a tough impact on the kids.
'I thought our kids competed well, considering they saw their leader carted off the floor. It had a huge emotional impact, but we fought through it and played well.'
Hale coach John Palesse echoed Mlachnik's feelings, saying, 'It was a bizarre night. (Hunter) going down in warmups with the injury really shook up a couple of our players. I feel badly for the player and their team. It had to be tough for them to see their teammate go down right before the game.'
Palesse said the game itself had an ugly feel to it, with both sides struggling to recover emotionally. Hale led, 24-20, at the half and then gradually took control in the second half.
'They made a few more plays down the stretch,' Mlachnik said. 'We were down by 10 but came within 5 points a couple of times.'
Palesse liked his team's effort.
'We were active on defense, communicated well and, most importantly, rebounded well,' he said.
Mat Wall led in rebounding with 10, followed by Ryan Haertel and Devonte Patterson each with six; Rich Haertel five; and Greg Nelson four.
Rich Haertel led the Huskies with 21 points, connecting on 8-of-11 field goals. Patterson tallied 11 points, Wall 9 points and Casey Farner 6 points.
For Central, Geo Owens scored 10 points, Paysharne Jelks 7 and Griffin Johnson and Jose Cruz each 6 points.
'I was glad to get a win; we needed any type of win with the struggles we have had the last couple of weeks,' Palesse said. 'It was nice to get a win heading into the (WIAA) playoffs. As Central proved last year (with a stirring run to the state tournament), you get hot at the right time and you never know what can happen.'
Hale (7-7 in the Greater Metro Conference, 12-10 overall) opens WIAA Division 1 regional play at 7 p.m. Friday, March 4, at Milwaukee King (14-8 overall, 7-5 in the Milwaukee City Conference).
Central (4-10, 8-14) begins at Racine Horlick (15-7, 9-5 in the Southeast Conference).
Regional championship games will be played at 7 p.m. Saturday, March 5, with sites to be determined.