Seniors Fraizier Reiland, Keondre Gholston and Eric Williams weren't ready to see their careers come to an end Friday night, so they went out and defeated arch-rival Marquette, 57-43, in the WIAA sectional semifinals at the Al McGuire Center.
Reiland scored 19 points, Gholston added 13 and Eric Williams, who didn't start because of the flu bug, added 13 points to lead the way. The Hilltoppers had defeated Tosa East, 44-39, and 60-43 this year to win the Greater Metro Conference title by one game.
But the third time was the charm for the Red Raiders.
"We played them twice and I don't think we were mentally ready," Gholston said. "This week we knew we had to come out and take care of business. We practiced hard all week and it showed out there when we played tonight."
East jumped off to a 15-5 first quarter lead, as Gholston (6 points), Williams (5) and Reiland (4) did all the scoring. The Hilltoppers then battled East point-for-point and cut the lead to 27-18 at half-time.
The last time these two teams played, the Hilltoppers blew out the Red Raiders, 16-4, in the third quarter, but this time around they were only able to take a 14-10 advantage and cut the lead to 37-32 after three periods.
Marquette coach David Cooks called four straight timeouts in the fourth quarter between 5 minutes and 11 seconds and 4:06 as his team cut Tosa East's lead to 45-41. But following the last timeout, East went on a 12-2 run to win going away.
Reiland started the run with a perfect pass to Williams for a lay-in and then Mike Cupertino hit Reiland on a fastbreak basket, as Marquette's press backfired on the Hilltoppers. After two free throws by Garrett Maloney, who was held to 10 second-half points, cut the lead to 49-43, the Red Raiders played like a team possessed.
"Our shot selection was much better and this time we knocked them down," said Reiland, who also had nine rebounds, two assists, two steals and a blocked shot. "Our main concern was to rebound tonight. After Marquette hurt us last time on the boards, we didn't want to let that happen to us again tonight."
Reiland and Williams kept missing and rebounding each others' shots before Williams put it in to start the final run. Cupertino was fouled and he sank both ends of a 1-and-1 and then he led the fastbreak twice, hitting Williams and then Gholston for breakaway baskets.
Two things hurt the Hilltoppers. The Red Raiders hit five 3's this time around and forced them out of their zone in the second half. After getting killed on the boards the last time these teams played, Tosa East had a 37-27 rebound advantage and used it to start the fastbreak against an ineffective press.
"It was a team effort," coach Tim Arndorfer said. "We got contributions from top to bottom. I really felt good about that tonight." I was happy with what everyone did when they got on the floor. Hopefully we can get it for another night and keep this run going. "
Gholston and Williams had six rebounds each and Barret Powell added five.
"I said it early, we were going to do down shooting," Arndorfer said. "The difference was we got easy baskets tonight."
Marquette finished 18-3-1, while Tosa East (18-4) faces Milwaukee Washington (21-1) at 7 p.m. at the Al McGuire for the sectional title and a chance to go to state for the second straight season.
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