Jacob Hartung didn't see the floor in the first half Friday night. But he's one of the main reasons Sussex Hamilton's boys basketball team will see the floor again Saturday.
The sophomore scored all 14 of his points after halftime, a huge pick-me-up for a Chargers team that went down by as many as 10 points in the second half against Homestead in the WIAA Division 1 regional semifinal. Brady Ellingson scored his customary allotment, bringing in 29 points, and the 1-2 punch was enough to stage a 57-47 upset in Mequon.
Hartung closed the third quarter with a 3-pointer and three free throws to give the Chargers a 1-point lead heading into the fourth, and he scored 7 straight Chargers points in the fourth quarter, when Hamilton was able to slowly pull away.
"I knew I had to come in and help my team hit open shots," Hartung said. "It's either me, (Mitch) Geszvain or Dan (Lunowa); we have to feed off Brady. When he gives us open shots, we have to knock them down."
Hartung, the third or fourth player off the bench for the Chargers, saw his first action in the first 2 minutes of the second half. So why not sooner?
"Defensive matchups, that was our biggest worry early," Hamilton coach Andy Cerroni said. "We didn't want them to get in any rhythm. They're long, and with Drew (Patterson) and Brett Buehler, you look at those guys, and they don't score a lot, but they're the anchor for us defensively. We have to have them on the floor. They provide so much toughness.
"We tried to figure out where we could get another shooter. 'Geszy' played a little in the first half but wasn't able to shake loose. We moved Brady to the point, then we were able to get Jacob an opportunity. Talk about answering the bell."
The Chargers hit 12 of 16 free throws in the fourth quarter to keep Homestead from making a push. Jaylen Key scored all 10 of Homestead's points in that final period and finished with 12 overall, but foul trouble kept him limited in a scoreless first half.
"We have to spread the ball around," Homestead coach Kevin McKenna said. "I thought we did for a while there, but I don't think we ever got into a flow. They did a real good job of taking some of the flow, did a real nice job not letting us feel comfortable out there. Early in the game, we didn't put pressure on them. We'd make the pass and held the pass. We never got in sync."
Ellingson scored 15 first-half points and Jerrod Walton led the Highlanders (18-5) with 12, and when he ran that total to 15 with a 3-pointer early in the second half, Homestead had its biggest lead at 8 points. The advantage ran to 10 points on a Seth Cooley triple with 4:45 to go, but when Hartung hit his first basket of the game, the 3-pointer tied the score with a minute to play in the quarter.
"I thought that both teams were even; I just think they made more big plays than what we made, and that's going to happen," McKenna said.
Ellingson had 10 points in the 12-2 run that followed.
"We just needed to settle down and get some good looks on offense," said Ellingson, the all-time leading scorer in Hamilton history. "That's what I thought we did. We really locked in on defense, got some key stops and got some easy buckets on the offensive end."
Homestead was unable to string together consecutive buckets the rest of the way.
"After we went up, we knew we just had to maintain the lead and be strong with the ball," Hartung said. "We got good stops and produced on the offensive end."
Said Cerroni, "Our coaches did a heck of a job knowing what we had to do against their personnel. We frustrated them. They didn't score in bunches, and that's what we tried to stay away from, the runs they're capable of making."
Sixth-seeded Hamilton (16-7) will travel to face second-seeded Kettle Moraine (21-2) on Saturday.
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