In facing Cudahy, Wauwatosa East's girls basketball team received the challenge of facing an aggressive opponent looking to get up and down the floor.
The Red Raiders were up for the test, as they used a strong first half in which they held the Packers to 9 points and just one made field goal to come away with a 56-37 victory on Dec. 28.
Tosa East started the game fast against Cudahy's zone defense, as sophomore Brooklyn Blackburn scored 4 quick points to help the Red Raiders build an 8-0 advantage.
"I liked how we attacked their zone to start," Tosa East coach Rob Hamill said. "It was a little bit of a surprise for us. We didn't anticipate a zone coming in. That was nice. We got off to a good start that way.
"They are an aggressive team. They scrap. It is really good that we measured up to that, for the most part. We did have a little challenge playing with the lead, so that is something to work on. The holidays are tough. We were missing three people today. People stepped up, so I was really happy about that."
Cudahy didn't get on the board until the 15:27 mark and didn't hit its first field goal until Hannah Kulas hit a long 3-pointer with 5:05 to play in the first half. By then, Tosa East led, 24-2, and was in complete command.
Mariana Ibanez-Baldor scooped up a rebound and went the length of the court to beat the buzzer with a layup that gave the Red Raiders a 29-9 lead at halftime.
"We played good defense," Hamill said. "I think they got frustrated at times with our D. That's really what we've bought into more often than not is playing defense well to give us a chance."
The Packers were able to get into more of an offensive rhythm in the second half, due in part to the Red Raiders being in foul trouble.
Blackburn, Ibanez-Baldor and Elizabeth Bueckers all had to sit for stretches with four fouls, which cut into an already-thin Tosa East bench that was missing three players due to either illness or family vacation.
But the Red Raiders fought through thanks to contributions from starters Sydney Halstead and Johanna Taylor and key bench minutes from Evan Knauss and Olivia Romfoe.
"Both sides had foul trouble," Hamill said. "Five fouls is tough when you have eight or nine players you are going with. They had eight tonight, and we had 10. It is tough when you get into foul trouble. Calls are calls. You have to deal with it and learn what they are doing. We talk about not reaching and not making fouls 80 feet from the hoop, and sometimes we still do that. We have a tendency to be aggressive at the other end of the floor after they clearly possess the ball, and we get into trouble on that at times. We have to stop that."
Taylor led Tosa East with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Blackburn finished with 12 points and nine rebounds, and Ibanez-Baldor had 12 points and seven rebounds.
Rarely leaving the floor, Halstead had 8 points, seven rebounds and seven assists and connected on a couple of big shots that kept Cudahy from making a push.
"I don't think she got a minute break in the second half," Hamill said of Halstead. "She was an ironwoman tonight. Her stat line was real even. She did a great job for us. She's really steady, and that's what we count on her for."
Sitting at 7-2 overall, Tosa East will return to Greater Metro Conference play with a home game against Menomonee Falls at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 6. The Red Raiders will then travel across town to face rival Tosa West at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 7.
The Greater Metro is very much wide open as the calendar heads into 2017. Tosa East is 1-2 in league play, but it is just two games back of first-place Sussex Hamilton.
"We have a lot ahead of us, but that's why this was a really good game," Hamill said. "We had practices with people not all there, so to face an aggressive team like Cudahy was and to come out on top like we did was really a good set up for playing a Falls and then a rivalry game with Tosa West. Then the rest of our conference games will be just like that, as it is going to be a battle royale. Everyone is pretty even. I'm looking forward to it."