With his team trailing Union Grove by two points and time quickly running out, Greendale's Jordan Perez took the ball downcourt.
Perez encountered a double team near the top of the key and passed off to a wide-open Nate Thomson in the right corner.
Thomson let fly and connected on a 3-point field goal at the buzzer to give the Panthers a thrilling 55-54 triumph in a WIAA Division 2 regional championship contest Saturday night.
"Thomson is a lights-out shooter," said head coach Ryan Johnsen. "When he gets an open look, we have confidence that he will hit it. It was also an unselfish play by Jordan."
The victory boosted the Panthers to 17-8 and sent them into a sectional semifinal game against McFarland High School (14-10) at 7 p.m. today (March 6) at Clinton.
Panthers bounce back
On the road against top-seeded Union Grove (19-5) on Saturday, Greendale fell behind 15-9 after one quarter.
The Panthers did not panic but instead rallied in a big way, outscoring the Broncos 17-3 to take a 26-18 halftime lead.
Union Grove came within 40-37 after three periods and eventually tied the game in the final minutes.
Cody Walters stepped to the line with five seconds left and the contest even at 52-52. He hit both free throws to put the Broncos up 54-52.
Perez inbounded and quickly got the ball back, taking it to the free-throw line before finding Thomson for the winning shot.
Ironically, those were Thomson's only points of the night.
David Pulizos chipped in with eight points and Mitchell Brees added six points and eight rebounds for Greendale.
In Friday's victory over Wilmot (17-6), Pulizos tallied 11 points and Josh Ringelberg and Braxton Joehnk seven apiece. Greendale lost a 12-point halftime lead and fell behind by one going into the fourth period, but then outscored Wilmot 28-16 in the final period.
A standout player
Thomson played as big a part in Greendale's regional crown as anyone. Not only did he hit the game-winning shot against Union Grove, but he tallied a team-high 25 points, with six 3-point shots, in the Panthers' 80-58 romp over Westosha Central in the opening regional game Feb. 25.
He wasn't the only hero for the week, however.
Josh Michaels poured in a game-high 32 points in a 74-63 victory over Wilmot in the regional semifinal Friday night and added 21 against Union Grove.
"He stepped up in a variety of ways," Johnsen said of Michaels.
Perez was typically consistent as well, coming up with 17 points against Central; 12 points and 15 rebounds against Wilmot; and 11 points, eight rebounds and four assists in the Union Grove contest.
Overall, the Panthers put forth a strong team effort in sweeping the three regional games and erasing their slow finish to the regular season.
"We came into the playoffs losing three in a row, which is not ideal," Johnsen said. "(We lost) to two good teams, Pius XI, the conference champ, and Pewaukee. We think our conference is very good, and we got ourselves some momentum (last week)."
Thomson gets hot
The Feb. 25 contest with Westosha Central (6-16) was close after one quarter, with Greendale up 21-18.
Thomson then got hot, hitting five 3-pointers and scoring 18 points in the second quarter to help the Panthers to a 46-27 halftime advantage.
"He (Thomson) was a real shot in the arm," Johnsen said. "He's been doing that for us all year. (Central) played a 2-3 zone, and we told the kids they are going to get great looks. That was a great opportunity for him. He took advantage, and that's great to see, especially from a sophomore."
"I was definitely feeling it," Thomson said. "My teammates were giving me the ball, and I was shooting really well. My teammates helped me because they gave me confidence."
ON TO SECTIONAL
WHAT: WIAA Division 2 boys basketball sectional
MARCH 6: Greendale (17-8) vs. McFarland (14-10) at Clinton at 7 p.m.; Sauk Prairie (16-8) vs. Mount Horeb (24-0) at Middleton, 7 p.m.
MARCH 8: Championship game at Sun Prairie at 1 p.m.
GREENDALE: The Panthers finished fifth in the Woodland Conference West Division at 10-7 and lost their final three Woodland games ... Jordan Perez is the top scorer at 21.5 points per game and Josh Michaels is next at 13.0 ... Nate Thomson has provided a spark with his outside shooting, and Mitchell Brees leads the defense.
McFARLAND: The team took third in the Rock Valley North at 10-6 ... the top scorer is Benjamin Rounds at 14.4 points per game, with Sean Chislom next at 13.4 ... McFarland downed Fort Atkinson 61-49 in its regional championship game.
SAUK PRAIRIE: The team came in third in the Badger North Conference at 7-5 ... the top scorer is Seth Kostroski at 13.1 points per game, and Jake Fiene is at 11.5 per contest ... Sauk Prairie defeated Reedsburg 62-58 in double overtime in the regional title contest.
MOUNT HOREB: The team is rated first in the Division 2 coaches' poll and claimed the Badger North at 12-0 ... the top scorer is Drew Fredrickson at 12.8 points per game, with Max Meylor at 12.4 ... Mount Horeb edged Monona Grove 51-47 in double overtime to win the regional title.
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