Facing a pair of state qualifiers from a year ago is something Wauwatosa East's boys basketball team hopes pays dividends down the road.
After falling to state-ranked Whitnall by 31 points in their season opener, the Red Raiders hung tough with Waunakee on Dec. 2. but dropped to 0-2 on the season with a 57-51 loss to the reigning WIAA Division 2 state runner-up.
"It was a much better showing for us against another tough opponent," Tosa East coach Tim Arndorfer said. "We were much better defensively, especially with regards to our rebounding, and showed a little more consistency on offense."
Tosa East led, 31-28, at halftime and pulled ahead, 47-36, in the second half. But Waunakee, which entered the season ranked No. 4 in Division 2 by wissports.net, closed the game on a 21-4 run.
Mitch Listau, who is drawing Division 1 interest from Elon, UW-Milwaukee, Toledo and South Dakota State, scored a game-high 25 points for Waunakee. Junior guard Mason Steffen chipped in with 13 points.
"In the end, Waunakee made far more plays down the stretch," Arndorfer said. "It's a credit to them. They have two great players who made great plays when their team needed it most. We lacked the discipline and leadership experience needed to finish the game."
Senior guard Blake Kratzer led Tosa East with 14 points. Senior guard Dane Mikkelson added 12 points, while junior guard Elijah Flenorl and junior forward Leonard Avery each scored six points.
Already having faced two teams ranked in the preseason polls with a tough Greater Metro Conference slate ahead, Tosa East will play tough nonconference games against Ripon (No. 2 in Division 3), Dominican (No. 1 in Division 3), Wauwatosa West, New Berlin Eisenhower (honorable mention Division 2) and Racine Park (No. 7 in Division 1) later in the the season.
"Playing against teams like Whitnall and Waunakee right away hopefully prepares us for a challenging conference schedule," Arndorfer said. "The Greater Metro is a tough conference to play in, so scheduling strong teams hopefully helps us better prepare for what we will see throughout the season. There are no cupcake games in our conference. Every game is a challenge, so hopefully we are preparing our guys for that with a tough nonconference schedule."
Tosa East was slated to host Kettle Moraine in a nonconference game Tuesday, Dec. 6. The Red Raiders will open Greater Metro Conference play at home against Brookfield Central at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 9.