Waukesha West started the day with Arrowhead as the enemy and ended the day as a reluctant friend after the Warhawks surprised the Wolverines in the Classic 8 Conference battle Feb. 14, 52-48.
The loss knocked West one game back of Mukwonago in the league standings with one to play. Arrowhead represents that final test Feb. 21 for the Indians, meaning the Warhawks can still help West regain what was taken away.
West (17-4 overall, 11-2 in sectional) and Mukwonago (20-1, 12-1) have split games this season.
West hurt its chances for a come-from-behind victory with back-to-back technical fouls with 3:20 left on the clock. An assistant coach got hit with the first one, and then head coach Mark Busalacchi was cited 15 seconds later.
Junior Kelly Smith of the Warhawks, who finished with 22 points and made 8 of 10 foul shots for the night, converted 2 of those four technical free throws, and on the ensuing inbounds play, Smith was fouled and made two more, upping the lead to 9 points.
West made one final surge when freshman guard Dani Rhodes hit a 3-pointer and then made a hoop with 11.7 seconds remaining to cut the deficit to two at 50-48. Smith sealed the win by canning two more free throws with 5.3 seconds left, creating the final score.
"Give them credit, they played good basketball tonight and we didn't," said Busalacchi. "We didn't play well from the start. Our offense was making poor decisions and then we threw the ball away too many times. Our defense broke down too much. We had a good third quarter. Unfortunately, we had the ball when the technicals were called, so that was a big swing. They made more plays than us all night."
West drew the second seed in the WIAA sectional and will host Kettle Moraine on Friday, March 1.
Other seeds awarded
If West wins, there's a chance it would face Waukesha South in the next round, though the sixth-seeded Blackshirts must upset No. 3 Germantown.
In Division 2, the tourney starts a little sooner for area teams. Sixth-seeded Waukesha North will host 11th seed Milwaukee South on Tuesday, Feb. 26, looking to meet third seed New Berlin West on Friday. Eighth seed Catholic Memorial will host ninth seed Kenosha Indian Trail on Tuesday, with top seed New Berlin Eisenhower awaiting the winner.
The boys tournament, which began Tuesday, continues Friday. West plays at Homestead, Catholic Memorial plays at home, and South and North were involved in meetings Tuesday that could have them facing top seeds Friday.