Wauwatosa East boys basketball coach Tim Arndorfer has been waiting for his team to close out a game once it got a lead.
And he finally saw it happen Tuesday night, as the Red Raiders used an effective half-court defense to stifle a short-handed Whitefish Bay squad to the tune of a 17-0 run at the end of the third quarter that eventually led to a surprisingly easy 64-46 victory, the first of the season for East.
"We really needed that kind of intensity on the defensive side of the ball," said Arndorfer. "We've been struggling offensively and we needed the defense to step up."
The victory improved the Red Raiders to 1-2 overall while the Blue Dukes, who were without sharp-shooting forward Ron Patten in the second half because of illness, fell to 1-3.
But what concerned Blue Duke coach Kevin Lazovik the most was the 23 turnovers his team had, including eight in that pivotal third quarter.
"We did not respond well when they picked up the defensive pressure," he said. "We'll have to work on that and I'll have to do a better job of preparing them for those kind of situations."
The Red Raider run started with a shot from the wing Darrell Bowie at the 4:27 mark of the third and after two free throws from Diamonte McKinley 19 seconds later, East was ahead for good at 37-35.
Bowie would have eight points in the run that would end with a 50-35 Red Raider advantage early in the fourth quarter. Many of the baskets were of the transition variety coming after Blue Duke turnovers.
Bay would score nine unanswered to cut the deficit to 50-44 with 5:10 remaining. A Jamie Schneck three-point play highlighted the effort, but that's when the Blue Dukes ran out of gas.
Bowie, who would finish with a game-high 17 points, scored on the back-end of well-executed four-corners play to start an 8-0 East run that ended any drama.
Aaron Uden contributed 11 points while Vince Cupertino had nine for the Red Raiders.
The Red Raiders built an eight-point first half lead with the help of three, three-point shots, all from different shooters. Bay would eventually rally behind a three-pointer from Paul Anton to take a 29-28 lead at the half.
That kind of ebb and flow effort bothered Arndorfer, but he was still pleased on many fronts.
"We have struggled from the arc so it was good to see a few of them (threes) fall," Arndorfer said. "I keep telling the kids that we have good shooters here, but it was also good to see us get the ball inside in the second half. We handled their zone pretty well and that helped get us some easy shots."
Bay was led by Schneck with 13 points while Anton had nine and Cal Ehrke eight.
"We have a young backcourt yet and it's going to take time (for them to develop)," said Lazovik. "They have to know that they'll see competition like this all the time (in the North Shore)."
Meanwhile, Arndorfer was happy to get on the winning side of things before the team resumes Greater Metro play at home Friday against Brookfield East.
"This was a big win and we needed it for our confidence," he said.
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