Kaylon Williams hit Paris Gulley in the corner for what turned out to be his eight assist, the sixth trey by Gulley and the straw that seemingly broke the camel’s back.
As they got back on defense, Kaylon Williams was smiling.
A simple offense, allowed to move freely and knock down open shots, led to an 81-75 decision for the Milwaukee Panthers against their bitter intrastate rival Green Bay.
The victory makes the series 21-21 in Milwaukee’s D-I history.
Green Bay got furious offense from Kiefer Sykes, who has emerged into an all-conference level talent at the guard position. They also got 18 points and 10 rebounds from Alec Brown, who did well in the block but had trouble on several possessions against Kyle Kelm and Christian Wolf. It was good game for Brown on his bobblehead day, but the Panthers sullied the result for the 7’1” center.
Milwaukee was led on the offensive end by Paris Gulley, who canned six of seven three-point attempts and did very well in the transition offense. Kaylon Williams racked up 16 points and eight assists, but his biggest play may have been the three-pointer with 2:27 left that put Milwaukee up nine and gave it the cushion it needed to finish off the Phoenix.
That cushion was tested by Green Bay, who expunged that nine-point deficit down to only two at 77-75 with only :13 remaining. Free-throw shooting saved the day for Milwaukee, as they hit 15 of 18 from the charity stripe, just enough to keep the Phoenix off at the end of the game.
Perhaps the biggest boon for the Phoenix in their wild attempt to win the game was the play of Kam Cerroni, the shooting guard from Sussex Hamilton who shot like a man possessed (3-4 FG/3PT, 8-9 FT). Cerroni did a wonderful job of drawing contact while going up for the shot, and got himself nine free throw attempts, almost 50% of the Phoenix’ entire total.
Milwaukee’s coaching staff cooled on Kam Cerroni after his ACL tear in high school, and like Marquette with Kyle Kelm, they may end up regretting it. Cerroni’s polished shooting ability – 47.7% from three-point land and 78.9% from the line – is something the Panthers have been struggling to find all season long.
The Phoenix are a young, tough, athletic, passionate team that very much resembles their coach, Brian Wardle. Phoenix fans should be pleased with the direction that their program is headed under Wardle’s leadership, and they have a nucleus that will legitimately challenge for a Horizon League Championship at least the next couple years with Kiefer Sykes, Kam Cerroni and Alec Brown as the nucleus.
Sweeping the Phoenix was no easy feat and no small accomplishment, especially in this rivalry. And this season made it extremely difficult – the Phoenix led until the final buzzer in Milwaukee and made a furious comeback at the Resch – so if there’s anything the Panthers can take from this, it is that they withstood a barrage from a very good team on the rise and came out with two victories.
And that, my friends, is something worth smiling about.