Wauwatosa East's girls basketball team is having one of their best seasons as of late. Across town, the Tosa West girls are struggling. It might be a cliche that you can 'throw out the record book' when rivals play, but that it doesn't mean it's not true.
Saturday night was an example, as the Red Raiders (10-6) rallied to beat the Trojans, 45-43, before a packed house at East in a thrilling contest. The Trojans (3-12) have won eight of the last 10 meetings, so there was some satisfaction there.
'I'm a junior,' forward Johanna Taylor said. 'But we have seven seniors, so it's really special to get this last win against West.'
With the score tied at 43-43, East scored the winning points when senior guard and leading scorer Bailey Berlin sank free throws with 26.6 seconds and 15.2 seconds left to play.
East led at intermission, 25-17, and seemed in control when suddenly the Trojans went on a 16-4 run to take a 33-29 lead at the 7:17 mark.
Sophomore guard Emily Wagy hit a jumper and Emma Elliott nailed a 3-pointer to start the second half, and East senior Sammy Jensen countered with a jumper. But senior Emma Clough, the game's top scorer with 12 points, put in a rebound and Gabby Zabala scored on a fast break before East freshman Brooklyn Blackburn took a pass from Berlin and scored.
But West's Megan Stoffel hit two free throws and Zabala scored on a fast break to give West its first lead at 30-29. Elliott scored on a fast break and senior Amanda O'Rourke hit a free throw to end the run.
Then it was back and forth before Berlin sank the winning free throws.
Junior Johanna Taylor passed to freshman Elizabeth Bueckers on a drive and Maya Walls hit two free throws for a 35-34 lead, but Berlin tied it with a free throw at 3:44. Taylor scored a basket and West's Stoffel countered. Walls put in a rebound shot for a 39-37 lead with 2:37 left to play. Blackburn scored for a 41-39 lead, but Elliott countered with a basket off a pass for Clough.
Berlin hit two free throws to make it, 43-39, but Clough hit a free throw and Elliott made a huge 3-pointer to tie the score at 36.7.
'We called a timeout and talked about not hanging our heads,' Hamill said. 'We didn't want to get in a funk. 'They responded well.'
Berlin then hit 1 of 2 free throws and Taylor stole the ball and Berlin was fouled and made 1 of 2 free throws again for the final 2-point lead. West then missed a shot at the buzzer.
Hamill knew his team had their hands full.
'Tosa West scrapped,' he said. 'We knew that with our height they would zone us up. The played a solid 2-3. It was good to have that. They were ready, well-coached and they just missed some shots. luck at the end.'
In the end, West coach Ashley Imperiale was proud of her kids.
'I thought we rebounded well even though they had us at every position by size,' she said. 'But we still need to finish strong. On the fast break we turned the ball over. But we really won those hustle-points. But free throws hurt us. We missed 13 free throws. Make a couple of those and we win the game.'
West only managed 7 free throws in 20 attempts, a .350 mar. Tosa East's Berlin made the big ones when they counted.
'It was loud, people were making noise,' she said. 'So I tried to clear my mind and keepmy eyes on the hoop and concentrating on putting the ball through the basket.'
The Red Raiders were coming off an emotional victory over Brookfield East the night before(see separate story) and Hamill was worried about a letdown.
'We talked about that, he said. 'We were mentally and physically fatigued, but the came through with an emotional victory.'