Going into Saturday evening's crosstown matchup between Wauwatosa East and Tosa West at East, several people expected the Trojans to defeat the Red Raiders for the first time in years.
What happened instead was a 60-55 upset win for the Red Raiders, now 6-14 on the season, over the Trojans, who dropped to 12-8.
After a close first half that saw the Trojans leading, 30-27, the third quarter proved to be the decisive quarter for the Red Raiders.
Drue Holley, who had 21 points, got things going for East when he scored off a steal. Caleb Taylor followed that up with a 3-pointer after Sam Christiansen intercepted a Trojan pass to give the Red Raiders a 36-32 lead. East went on to outscore the Trojans, 17-6, in the third quarter for a 44-36 lead heading into the final quarter.
"We said at the half we've had a problem of laying an egg in the third quarter," said Tosa East coach Tim Arndorfer. "We had to make sure to keep it close or extend our lead. I think it was a focused effort by our guys to get points on the board."
"Their defense caused problems, no doubt about it," added West coach Chad Stelse. "Got to give coach Arndorfer credit for having them ready, and we knew they would. They've been playing defense all year.
"In the third quarter, we kept preaching to our guys that we needed to step up and take a charge or two and I felt like we did but the calls didn't go our way, and that affected us, too. That third quarter might have been a little bit different if we got one of those charge calls, but I'm proud of the way our guys kept our composure and kept battling."
East's dominance continued well into the fourth quarter and the game looked all but over when Sean Wheeler got a huge dunk for East to give the Red Raiders a 53-37 lead.
But from then on the Trojans started to inch their way back into the game. Andre Carroll, who had 18 points, sparked things for the Trojans when he converted a three-point play.
After four more points for West from Carroll, Steffan Brown sunk a 3-point shot for West to cut East's lead to 55-48. An offensive foul on East gave the ball back to the Trojans, and Carroll wasted no time in scoring another basket, bringing the Trojans to within five.
Bryce Beekman made one of two free throws for East, but West's Blake Harvey finished off yet another old-fashioned three-point play, making it a three-point game at 56-53.
That was as close as the Trojans could get, however, as East made four of six free throws to put the game away.
"We got very tentative on offense," Arndorfer said of his team in the fourth quarter. "We weren't confident and had issues getting over half court. Defensively we broke down, but offensively we had bigger issues."
"You can't put yourself in a hole like that," Stelse said. "I'm so proud of the way they battled back, but that third quarter, shots that we've made all season just weren't going in. I didn't mind the shots we were taking, they just didn't go in.
"That happens. That's why I told the guys I know how bad they wanted it, but it wasn't our night, and it definitely wasn't our third quarter. I know they were down even halfway through the fourth quarter, but we finally got a couple to go down, and we kept attacking.
"We're never going to give up. That's why I'm so proud of these guys. We've played to the buzzer all season long, and that's what they continue to do and I'm proud of them for that."
Arndorfer talked about the improved offense.
"Free throws helped," Arndorfer said. "This was the first game all season we've had double digits in all four quarters. It feels pretty good, for the seniors, especially."
"Just it being a rivalry game, playing Tosa West, that's all I really need to get pumped up," added Wheeler, one of those seniors. "For our team it's a real good booster. Always best to beat our crosstown rival. I think it will help us for the playoffs. This is going to help a lot. Team did a great job."
The Trojans will try to finish their season strong Thursday at Whitnall, while the Red Raiders will attempt to get out of the basement in the Greater Metro Conference, hosting West Allis Hale Thursday.
Tosa East dropped a 60-58 decision to West Allis Central (17-2, 10-1) on Friday at home, as they might have caught the Bulldogs looking ahead to Saturday's matchup with Brookfield Central.
The Red Raiders tied the Bulldogs, 30-30, at halftime, but Central took a 45-37 lead into the fourth period. Tosa East battled back in the final quarter (21-15), but fell short at the end.
Eight Red Raiders scored, but Sean Wheeler was the only player in double figures (10). Bryce Beekman and Caleb Taylor finished with eight each.
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