There were no lingering effects of a rivalry game loss for the Wauwatosa East boys basketball team.
The Red Raiders quickly put their loss to Tosa West behind them and grabbed two crucial Greater Metro Conference victories, downing West Allis Hale, 69-60, on Jan. 10 and West Allis Central, 63-52, on Jan. 13.
With the wins, Tosa East improved to 6-5 overall and 4-1 in the Greater Metro Conference, leaving the Red Raiders to enter this week alone in third place and in the league title race. Brookfield Central and Menomonee Falls are tied for first place at 5-1, followed by Tosa East at 4-1 and Brookfield East at 4-2.
"We had to let West be what it was and not let it affect what we thought could be a pretty good week for us," Tosa East coach Tim Arndorfer said. "I thought the kids responded pretty well. It was definitely two big wins for us to keep pace in conference."
West Allis Hale
Tosa East led, 31-23, at halftime and held on for a 69-60 win over the Huskies.
Hale, a team that hoists a high volume of 3-point attempts, was just 8-for-27 from distance. The Red Raiders held Huskies leading scorer Ryan Haertel in check while building their first half lead. While Haertel finished with 18 points, the 40-percent 3-point shooter was just 4-for-12 against Tosa East.
"Haertel is a pretty explosive scorer," Arndorfer said. "I thought we did a decent job on him in the first half. He heated up a little bit in the second. I thought defensively our effort was pretty consistent. We were able to force turnovers and extend the lead. Especially coming off a poor defensive performance against West, it was nice to get back to what we consider one of our strengths.
"Offensively, we're still a work in progress. But when our defense creates more offensive opportunities, we are finding ways to extend leads now. That's been an important part of our success."
The Red Raiders hit nine 3-pointers, with senior guard Elijah Flenorl connecting on three to finish with a team-high 14 points. Tosa East also was strong at the line against Hale, making 16 of 19 free-throw attempts.
"Elijah has really been playing well since the Christmas break," Arndorfer said. "I have to give him a lot of credit. We benched him in the second half of the Dominican game. Since then, he's been in double figures in three of the four games. And beyond his scoring, he's giving us other things, rebounds, steals and assists. It is really a credit to him."
Senior guard Mark Cole added 11 points, junior guard Deshun Hunter finished with 10 points and junior forward Carl Brown scored 8 points.
West Allis Central
A late 10-0 run by West Allis Central brought the Bulldogs to within 4 points of Tosa East at halftime, but the Red Raiders regrouped at the break and increased their lead back out to double digits in a 63-52 win.
Flenorl led Tosa East with 16 points, while Cole scored 11 points off the bench.
"In the second half, we were able to rebound defensively and extend the lead again," Arndorfer said. "We got contributions from quite a few guys. Jalen Holley is really starting to come along. He's starting to find his offense, a lot of which has come from the free-throw line. It is a collective effort for us. It can be a different guy every night. We're not falling into relying on people to score.
"The last few games when Blake (Kratzer), our leading scorer, has been held down, other guys are stepping up. That's a real good sign for us."
Tosa East was scheduled to play at Marquette (4-6 overall, 2-3 Greater Metro) on Tuesday, Jan. 17, to begin a stretch of three consecutive road games and a run of five straight conference games against teams in the top half of the league standings.
The Red Raiders will travel to Brookfield East (6-5, 4-2) to face the Spartans at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 20, to conclude the first half of Greater Metro play.
"We're running the gauntlet here with three in a row on the road," Arndorfer said. "Marquette is always a test with their size, and Brookfield East is probably playing better than anybody. Then we go right away to Brookfield Central (to start the second half).
"A lot can be determined for us these next three games. The message has been we are going to keep pace or fall out of the race. Hopefully, we can get away with a couple of wins, and then we get back to playing at home."