The rest of the WIAA Division 2 playoff field would do well to take note of the Brown Deer Falcons, because we’ve seen this before.
The No. 3-seeded Falcons (18-5) are set for a 4 p.m. clash with No. 2-seeded Cedarburg (21-2) with a trip to sectionals on the line. After taking down No. 6-seeded Plymouth, 81-63, in Friday night’s regional semifinal, Brown Deer is starting to look a lot like the teams that won back-to-back state titles in 2014 and 2015.
“When we’re rolling, we’re just rolling,” Brown Deer senior guard Damon Jackson said. “We don’t care about the seeds. We’ll go to ball with anybody.”
Jackson led the charge with 25 points as the Falcons brought a relentless energy from the opening tip and only fell short of the century mark because they showed mercy in the final 10 minutes and opted for ball control. A 55-33 halftime lead made it clear the Falcons were not looking past their first-round matchup.
It was the Falcons’ eighth consecutive win as they continue to improve at the most crucial point of the season. They stood at 3-3 after the first six games. Their two state championship teams lost four and five games and ended the season on 18- and 15-game winning streaks.
“We tend to drop a couple early on,” Brown Deer head coach Kelly Appleby said. “But we figured some things out. Our style of plays tends to lend itself to getting used to things. We play very fast and loose, but we lost to quality teams. I schedule just about everybody. It’s your job as a coach to challenge your team.”
Plymouth (11-13) played valiantly despite almost immediately trailing by double digits, but the Panthers just couldn’t run with a Brown Deer offense that never stopped to catch its breath. Cody Kuhn, Derek Schweiger and Alex Shutter reached double figures for the Panthers with 17, 11 and 11 points respectively.
The Falcons connected on 13 three-pointers, including nine in the first half, and shot 10-of-12 from the free-throw line. Jackson and senior guard Jalen Greenlee (14 points) each had four of the triples. Brooklyn Jagers scored all nine of his points from behind the arc, while Jay Gentry and Johnny Saengphonphakdy scored 13 and 12, respectively.
Jackson faced the most resistance from a Plymouth student section that spent much of the night trying to get under his skin. He responded only once midway through the second half with a simple point to the scoreboard.
“They try to bring you down,” he said. “But when I can show them the scoreboard, that’s really the only comeback I need. It’s the best one.”
Brown Deer has a tall order in Cedarburg, the North Conference champion that went undefeated in that division. But a lack of confidence won’t be an issue.
“We’re confident but humble,” Greenlee said. “We’re a team that’s really unstoppable when we’re hitting our shots. Losing some games, we learned ways to win when we aren’t always hitting them.”
There will be something of a clash of styles on Saturday. Cedarburg averages 66 points per game but allows just 51. The Falcons score 77, but the run-and-gun style surrenders 62 per game.
“We feel very comfortable when someone tries to run with us,” Appleby said. “We’re usually in good shape if that’s what happens. But you can apples and oranges the conferences all day if you want to; Cedarburg has two losses. If you lose two games all year, you’re a pretty good team.”
While there are no more weak teams still standing at this point in the season, the Falcons don’t mince words when it comes to their expectations.
“We’re trying to get up to state, but it’s a one game at a time thing. This is the first playoff game and this is how you want to come out,” Greenlee said.
“But we think we’re the best team in D2,” Jackson said.