Less than 24 hours after a tough conference defeat, Wauwatosa West's boys basketball team was faced with the task of driving across the state to face one of the top teams in Minnesota.
The Trojans quickly turned the page from a 32-point loss to Pewaukee the night before to bounce back with a 74-68 victory over Caledonia (Minnesota) at the Midwest Players Classic on Jan. 14 at the LaCrosse Center.
"I think it was good for us to be together all day on Saturday after our tough night against Pewaukee," Tosa West coach Chad Stelse said. "We needed to put that game behind us right away, and what better way but to travel across the state the very next day together? We left mid-morning, stopped to eat for team lunch and then got to compete at a very cool venue in the LaCrosse Center."
Tosa West got out to an 8-0 lead and held a 16-4 advantage before Caledonia closed the half on a 27-15 run to head into the locker room tied at 31-31.
Caledonia hung around Tosa West for most of the second half, but Alou Dillon hit key baskets down the stretch to give the Trojans a 9-point lead with 3 minutes to play. Tosa West missed three free throws in the final minute of the game, but Marquiss Childs came up with offensive rebounds on each miss to help secure the win.
"Obviously, we didn't know nearly as much about Caledonia than we do about our area opponents," Stelse said. "Our message to the team was to play Tosa West style of ball — force the tempo, run every chance we get, share the basketball and utilize our bench to wear them down.
"We led for the majority of the first half, but we got in some early foul trouble and they eventually tied the game right before halftime. Second half, we stayed out of foul trouble and continued to attack and scored more points to secure the win."
Javaree Jackson led the Trojans with 14 points and nine rebounds. Alou Dillon added 13 points, eight rebounds, three steals and three blocks; LaRon Perine scored 13 points; Seveon James had 11 points; and Childs had seven rebounds and four assists. Tosa West shot 43.8 percent (28-for-64) from the field despite making just 5 of 21 attempts from beyond the arc.
Caledonia, ranked No. 2 in Minnesota's 2A state rankings, was playing without leading scorer Noah King due to an injury. Owen King, who will play with Dillon at South Dakota State, led the Warriors with 28 points.
Tosa West will play at Pius XI at 7:15 p.m. Friday, Jan. 20, in a crucial Woodland West game. The Trojans and Popes are each 4-2 in league play and tied for second place behind 6-0 Pewaukee.
Five of the last six regular-season meetings between Tosa West and Pius have been decided by six points or fewer. The two teams split a pair of games last season, with the Trojans winning, 46-44, at home and falling, 55-52, on the road.
"Another huge week in the Woodland West," Stelse said. "We need to have a great week of practice in preparation of playing Pius. The last three seasons, we've had some great battles with Pius, and I expect much of the same this season."