The Wauwatosa East girls basketball team gave coach Rob Hamill one of their biggest victories in recent seasons, defeating Brookfield East, 52-51, on Jan. 22 at Brookfield East.
'It was a great win for us against a solid, well-coached team,' Hamill said. 'We were able to play from the lead all game at their place and worked our game plan on the defensive end very well. BE did not get too many easy opportunities, nor too many second-chance putbacks. These were very important elements of what we needed to do to have success.
'We did put them at the line too many times, and as we knew, they made their free throws all night long, but we were able to keep our composure and keep up the intensity on defense.'
The teams went to the free-throw line 55 times. The Red Raiders were 18 of 26 (.692), and the Spartans were 24 of 29 (.828).
Tosa East led, 26-22, in the first half, and the Spartans came back (29-26) but fell short despite a battle in the final minute.
Brookfield East sophomore forward Molly DeValkenaere hit a jumper to cut the lead to 50-46 with a minute left. Tosa East broke the Spartans' full-court pressure, and they fouled Chyna Sincere, who hit one of two shots in the bonus situation.
Trailing, 51-46, with about 50 seconds left, Spartan star Mariah Miller lost the ball on a drive to the basket. The Spartans put on full-court pressure, got the Red Raiders to turn it over and Tosa East's Tori Logan committed her fifth foul, but the Spartans missed the front end of the bonus with 42 seconds left.
Tosa East broke the Spartans' pressure, and Brookfield East fouled Bailey Berlin, who made one of two free throws for a 52-46 advantage, a key point in the end. Miller again drove and was fouled with 15 seconds left, and she made both free throws, cutting the lead to 52-48.
After Brookfield East used their last time out, the Red Raiders broke their pressure, but then turned it over. Angela Pichler came down court and launched a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 52-51 with four seconds on the clock. The Red Raiders, of course, didn't inbound the ball, letting the clock run out.
'Earlier in the year, we might not have won this game,' Hamill said. 'I think our kids showed real growth in game awareness, even with the turnovers that allowed BE back in the game earlier, and in crunch time, they persevered.
'Bailey had a nice game offensively, leading the way with 18. Brooklyn did a nice job contributing 9 but, more importantly, playing solid defensively and getting some important rebounds, as did Johanna Taylor (7 points), who really played a good game defensively.
'It was great to get this game. Brook East is a good team, and our kids do feel really good about it, as they should. Our kids deserved the win. We played defense and didn't lose our composure at any point. That is what is most encouraging to me.'
The Red Raiders are 4-4 in the Greater Metro Conference, good enough for fourth place and tied with the Spartans. Tosa East has a four-game GMC winning streak coming into this week.
They have a tough schedule coming up, traveling to Brookfield Central (6-2) on Jan. 26 and Sussex Hamilton (6-2) on Friday, Jan. 29, and then hosting Divine Savior Holy Angels (8-0) on Tuesday, Feb. 2.