With 38.7 seconds left in regulation, Nicolet coach Allan Hanson called a timeout to set up a final play, tied 60-all against North Shore foe Germantown. After the Knights inbounded the ball and dribbled down the clock to about 10 seconds left, Nicolet sophomore guard Sonny Phinisee received the ball in the corner and drove to the hoop.
Despite two Germantown defenders in his face, Phinisee laid the ball up from just close to the hoop. The ball bounced once on the rim before falling in for the go-ahead bucket with 2.1 seconds left, securing a 62-60 win for the Knights (9-7, 5-3 NSC) over the visiting Warhawks (6-8, 3-5 NSC).
“It’s big,” said Phinisee about his game-winning shot. “I knew we didn’t have a lot of time. I just took it in. It got a nice little bounce and went in.”
Hanson was proud of Phinisee, who finished with 6 points after being demoted from the starting lineup to the bench prior to the game.
“I’ve been riding his tail for the last month,” Hanson said. “First game coming off the bench, he comes up huge.”
With this loss, Germantown snaps its four-game winning streak, despite outscoring the Knights, 31-27, in the second half. The Warhawks were scheduled to have a quick turnaround, returning to the hardwood on the road against Brookfield Central on Jan. 28 in the Luke Homan Invitational.
“You have to give them a ton of credit,” said Germantown coach Steve Martin, whose team beat Nicolet, 77-68, on Dec. 2. “They played with a lot of energy, a lot of enthusiasm and got it done.
“We at times played well, especially in a little burst in the second half. I though our defensive effort improved and we made better choices offensively. But, the first half we just didn’t get it done like we want to and expect to.”
In the first half, Nicolet came out energized. Down by 1 about 4 minutes into the opening half, the Knights went on a 10-2 scoring run, grabbing a 15-8 advantage with 12:15 left in the half.
The Warhawks fought back, but anytime they came within a basket, the Knights stepped up defensively and expanded their lead. Nicolet led at half, 35-29, while holding Germantown leading scorer Kyle Clow to just 2 points.
Despite struggling offensively in the first half, the Warhawks came out of halftime rolling, going on a 9-2 scoring run to take a 38-37 lead over Nicolet in the first 3 minutes of the second half.
“What we stressed was that we needed to run the offense,” Martin said. “When we make better choices, the ball falls in the hands of a lot of different guys. What we stressed was to continue to run the system. As they improved on that, things got better in the second half.”
Germantown pushed its lead to 8 points with 8:45 left, but Nicolet went on a 9-0 scoring, holding a 53-52 lead with 6:13 remaining.
“It’s been a story of our season so far where teams bounce back and responded,” Hanson said. “We haven’t necessarily thrown punches back. Over the last three or four games, we’ve just stayed the course. They’ve been doing a good job of just buying in.”
The Warhawks tied the score at 60-all with 58 seconds remaining on a jump shot by Clow to set up the final sequence. Clow may have been limited in the first half, but he finished with a team-high 16 points.
Nicolet had three players score in double figures. Jack Brahm paced the Knights with 18 points and five rebounds. Jeremy Ninham and Jayden Hardy each tallied 13 points.
“Jack Brahm has been huge for us all year,” Hanson said. “He’s just an athlete. He doesn’t relax. He’s just been a great guy for us so far. He’s carries us with his energy and athleticism. There’s no one else to look to. He’s always there for us.”