The gym was packed, the student sections were rocking and Wauwatosa East and Pius XI boys basketball teams put on a show that people will remember for a while.
In the end, senior Ben Mihelich tossed in a short jumper at the buzzer as the Red Raiders beat the Popes, 49-47, in a thrilling WIAA regional game Friday night at East.
Close fourth quarter
The Red Raiders led 33-25 through three quarters, but the Popes' talented junior guard Donovan Jackson brought the Popes back, scoring 12 of his game-high 26 points.
A layup by Anthony Carroll actually gave Tosa East a 10-point lead to open the fourth period.
But Pius went on an 11-0 run, as Jackson scored, Darrius Nance had two free throws, Levi Bradley had two scores and Stephon Anderson put back a rebound to tie it at 35-35.
Then the Red Raiders went on an 8-0 run, as Kyle Vnuk hit a jumper, Mihelich and Carroll each hit two free throws and Mihelich took a pass from Mich Dillon and hit a jumper for a 43-35 lead.
The Popes scored six in a row to get back to 43-41, but then gutsy senior guard Nate Moore, who was playing with an ear and upper respiratory infection, dropped in two free throws after missing two from the line 30 seconds earlier to make the score 45-41.
Jackson came down not once but twice and put on a cold-blooded shooting display.
First he nailed a 3-pointer with 30 seconds left to cut the score to 45-44. After two Ben Carpenter free throws made it 47-44, Jackson came down again and drained a 3 from the top of the key to tie the game at 47-47.
With 10.2 seconds left, after a timeout, Carpenter inbounded the ball and raced down the left sideline. Vnuk got the ball at midcourt and passed the ball back to Carpenter.
With time running out Carpenter, who looked like he was going to try a 3-pointer, instead threw a bullet pass to Mihelich, who was coming around the middle and the senior forward turned and tossed up a short jumper, which rolled around the rim and fell through for the game winner.
Carpenter actually thought Vnuk was fouled, but when no call was made, he called for the ball and made his big play and talked about the excitement in the building.
"I was so excited," he said. "It was cool. The energy was something else. We haven't had that many people (watching) in like, forever. It was fun."
Mihelich was asked when he knew his first game-winning shot was going in.
"After it went through the bottom of the net," he said. "Ben Carpenter made a good pass and we got a good 1-on-1 shot, which is what we were looking for."
East coach Tim Arndorfer knew he had to change up some things after a 14-14 first half.
"We knew we had to change the tempo; I think the press helped out a little bit," he said. "We got a couple steals and our defense turned into our offense. We were struggling. That's a good defensive basketball team - size in the middle and a lot of athletic guards around the perimeter."
Arndorfer had wanted the ball in the hands of his two best ballhandlers - Moore and Carroll - but the results are what counted in the end.
"We wanted to get the ball up the floor quickly," he said. "With 10 seconds left, you can do a lot of things. You are going to get a good look. Kyle made an excellent pass and Carp made an unbelievable find. … Unorthodox finish, but it went through and that's all that mattered I guess."
Tosa East was led by Mihelich's 13 points, while Carroll and Derrick Hurt had eight each. The Raiders held Bradley to 14 points before he fouled out with 20.9 seconds left.
The Red Raiders sank 20-for-24 free throws, while the Popes were 7-for-11. Pius finished the year 13-10.
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