Coach Rob Hamill knew what his Wauwatosa East girls basketball team was in for when they traveled to St. Thomas More on Dec. 29. It's just that it took until the second half for it to sink in.
But when it did, the Red Raiders pulled away to win, 57-44, and improve to 6-4 overall with the nonconference victory.
It was the first time the programs had played each other in a formal regular-season game, though they have had a couple of varsity reserve games over the past two seasons, which helped the Red Raiders prepare for this meeting, according to Hamill.
'In those varsity reserve games, their character was clear,' he said. 'They were very aggressive and physical. We also knew going into this game that they like to shoot 3-pointers, and statistically were pretty good at converting. It was going to be a challenge, and it was. They are well coached and work very hard at both ends of the floor.'
Tosa East led, 24-22, at intermission but then took off in the second half (33-22).
'I think it took us a half for those messages to become a reality in the minds of our players,' Hamill said. 'We struggled some with their intensity and found ourselves in what I would call a total dogfight — and I mean that in a positive way.
'The game clearly was going to be one that would be more intense than any game thus far. I am proud of the way our guys rose to the occasion in the second half with a strong start and much better defense to create some scoring opportunities.'
When it was all said and done, the Red Raiders felt they ended up with a pretty balanced scoring attack.
Leading scorer was senior guard Bailey Berlin, who scored 14 points, but she had plenty of support from senior forward Maya Walls and senior post Sammy Jensen, who each chipped in with 11 points.
'More importantly, Bailey saw the floor well especially in the second half and set up some important scores with very good passes,' Hamill said, also praising sophomore wing Elizabeth Bueckers and senior guard Tori Logan, who each scored a basket and helped in other ways.
'Off the bench, Elizabeth pulled some long minutes and had some nice hustle plays that don't often show up in the box score,' he said. 'During the second half, Tori came in to provide a nice defensive spark as well.'
Senior forward Chyna Sincere had 7 points, and freshman wing Brooklyn Blackburn scored 6 points. Junior post Johanna Taylor added 4 points.
The win over the Cavaliers improved the Red Raiders' nonconference record to 6-0, but they are still looking for their first Greater Metro Conference win (0-4).
'Overall, the holiday games at Cudahy and St. Thomas More gave us lots to work from and feel positively about as we get ready for a string of Greater Metro games that await after the winter break is complete,' Hamill said.
The Red Raiders' next two GMC games will be on the road Friday, Jan. 8, at Menomonee Falls (0-4) and Tuesday, Jan. 12, at West Allis Hale (2-2).