After a lackluster opening quarter against Cudahy on Tuesday night, the Greendale boys basketball team needed a spark.
The Panthers actually received two sparks in the second period, one from their defense and the other from guard Josh Michaels.
Greendale held the Packers to just four points in that quarter and Michaels tallied 11 himself to help stake the Panthers to a 33-19 halftime lead.
They went on to coast to a 62-45 triumph in a WIAA Division 2 regional quarterfinal contest, improving to 10-13 and earning a visit to Pewaukee at 7 p.m. Friday for a regional semifinal game.
Before securing the victory on Tuesday, though, the Panthers had to shake off the cobwebs of a slow start, especially on defense.
They jumped in front 10-4 midway through the first quarter but saw the Packers come back with six straight points to tie things at 12-12. Keith Henschel had two baskets in that Cudahy surge.
Later, Henschel nailed a 3-pointer from just inside midcourt as the buzzer sounded to give the Packers a surprising 15-13 lead.
"It was a very slow start," Greendale head coach Ryan Johnsen said. "I don't know what it was, but give credit to Cudahy for coming out strong. We really picked it up, though, in the second and third quarters defensively. We didn't shoot very well, and the defense is what won us the game."
The Panthers made it tough for Cudahy to even get off good shots, and the Packers had just four field goals combined in the second and third periods.
"We went to the 1-3-1 zone," Michaels said. "We had a lot of pressure and we trapped them."
With the score tied at 17 early in the second period, David Pulizos hit back-to-back putbacks, and then Michaels went to work.
The sophomore netted a 3-pointer after another offensive rebound, then hit two of three from the free throw line after being fouled shooting another trey. He added another pair of 3-pointers late in the period.
"They were focusing on Jordan (Perez, Greendale's leading scorer), my teammates were finding me and I hit open jumpshots," said Michaels, who finished with a season-high 22 points, more than twice his average.
Johnsen said Michaels' offensive burst was welcome.
"Josh Michaels was tremendous, and he's been that way the second half of the season," the coach said. "This was by far his best game shooting. It's really good to see his maturity coming on at the right time of the year, right at playoff time.
"That's when we need other scorers, especially when Jordan is struggling. We get guys like Josh to step up, that's what going to carry us the rest of the way."
In the third quarter, Pulizos hit back-to-back baskets and Michaels converted a three-point play to make it 46-24.
The lead grew to 57-30 midway through the fourth period before Johnsen cleared his bench.
Perez wound up with 11 points, half his average, while Pulizos put in nine points. Cudahy was led by Tyler Fricke's 15 points.
Now the Panthers move on to Pewaukee, having lost twice to the Pirates this season by nine and three points.
"We'll see what happens Friday," Johnsen said, "but I know our kids are excited, and (the coaches are) excited. They're a very good opponent, and we like our chances."
Johnsen thinks the Panthers could be a dangerous team in the playoffs.
"We're playing our best ball at the right time," he said. "Today's win got us to 10 wins, which is the most Greendale's had in several years. That's a credit to all those kids for working hard and for getting better at the right time."
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