It was far from a perfect game, but it was a victory the Wauwatosa West boys basketball really needed.
Trailing by 10 points with seven minutes left to play, the Trojans rallied to defeat Pius XI, 46-44, on Jan. 15 at home.
'We approached this game as our backs are against the wall,' coach Chad Stelse said. 'We must come out and play with passion, compete together and get the win.'
As a result, the Trojans are 5-6 overall and 2-5 in the rugged Woodland Conference West Division. They have a 3-2 record in their last five games.
West has a great opportunity for another win, facing winless Greenfield (0-11, 0-7) of the Woodland East Division at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Jan, 22. Then they travel to Tosa East to take on the Red Raiders in a 7:30 p.m. game Saturday, Jan. 23. Then on Tuesday, they have a 7:30 p.m. game at Shorewood (5-6, 2-5) of the East Division.
Down at half
Pius led 30-22 at halftime, and things didn't look much better initially in the second half.
'Our guys played tight for the first half and into the second half,' Stelse said. 'We shot awful all night, but we made a few big shots down the stretch to get a much-needed victory.
'Our defensive intensity picked up the second half, and we made a few big 3s the last five minutes to get us over the hump. LaRon (Perine) hit a 3 with around four minutes left. Then Javaree (Jackson) hit another one around the two-minute mark, and Alou (Dillon) hit a stepback 3 with a little over a minute left to get us to within one.'
Following Dillon's 3-pointer and trailing by a point, the Trojans fouled Pius with around 45 seconds left, and they made both to take a 3-point lead. Then Perine drove to the basket and found Rayvon Bartlett, Jr. under the basket for an easy basket.
Down by a point, West fouled again. But Pius missed the front end, and there was a scramble for the rebound. Dillon came up with the ball and passed ahead to freshman Marquiss Childs, who raced down court and found a cutting Jackson to the hoop for the score and the lead.
'I was really proud of Javaree's finish,' Stelse said. 'He got by his guy on the left side and finished with a reverse while getting fouled hard by (Rey) Cobb. That was a huge finish from the big fella. He continues to make steady progress for us. He works hard on a daily basis. He deserved that finish. So with 40 seconds left, that was our first lead.'
Jackson then missed the free throw, and the Popes got the rebound and called a timeout. They spread the floor and gave the ball to their top scorer, Victor Nwagbaraocha, in a low 1-4 set. Bartlett, Jr. guarded him tight and forced a bad shot. Keegan Schrems got a huge rebound and was fouled with 1.4 seconds left. He made the first one, missed the second and Pius' three-quarter shot missed left.
The Trojans outscored the Popes, 24-14, in the second half.
Stelse was pleased with the defense, but not with his team's shooting.
'Our defense was pretty good both ways all game, but neither coach would recommend this film to anyone interested in learning how to shoot the basketball.' he said. 'Both teams shot in the 30-percent range, and our free-throw shooting (7-for-24) was the worst we've shot in recent memory.'
In the low-scoring affair, Dillon led West with 11 points, 10 rebounds, three steals and three blocks, while Jackson added 9 points and 10 rebounds and Perine had 8 points. The Popes' Nwagbaraocha led all scorers with 14.
'I hope we can build some momentum from this comeback win,' he said. 'We feel we have some games coming up that we can have some success in. We need to take one day at a time, one game at a time and continue to get better. Hopefully we can get on a little run here in the second half of the season.'