The Wauwatosa East boys basketball team traveled to Marquette on Tuesday in hopes of springing a second upset against the Greater Metro Conference leaders this season. But the Hilltoppers had other ideas and pressed their advantage in the conference by defeating the Raiders, 75-55, to improve to 13-3, 8-2 in league play.
In the first meeting of the teams, the Hilltoppers struggled against the Raiders' defense, especially in the paint. This time, accurate shooting from distance helped the MUHS improve their inside game, and the Raiders had no response.
'We were more prepared for the defense that they threw at us,' said Marquette's Jack Dwyer, who scored 12 points in the game. 'They threw a zone 1-2-2. The first time we weren't really prepared to go against that zone, and this time we practiced against it and practiced throughout the week.'
Marquette's Jerard Swan opened the scoring with a 3-pointer, and the Hilltoppers hit the gas pedal, charging to an early 13-4 lead. The Raiders saw a number of opportunities to get themselves back into the game. East's Najee Stewart scored his second consecutive layup after junior Blake Kratzer intercepted an errant Hilltopper pass and sent it Stewart's way, but the Hilltoppers quickly reasserted themselves with 11 unanswered points. The Hilltoppers led, 37-23, at halftime.
An early second-half dunk from Nolan Wright continued the momentum for Marquette, and Dwyer sunk his second trey of the game halfway through the half.
'It was falling tonight,' Dwyer said. 'Last game we played them, it really wasn't falling that much. It gives us confidence. We haven't really beat many teams by a lot of points, so now we know we can do that.'
For Marquette, coming off a loss at Brookfield Central on Friday, this win was a substantial one. Marquette coach Casey Kowalewski was pleased with the result.
'Any time you come off a loss, you want to get back on track,' he said. 'Losing to Brookfield Central on Friday was a tough game. You want to bounce back from that, but it's also a situation where we put ourselves within one game in the conference, so winning out here, you want to continue to have some consistency to remain on top of the conference. I think we played better team basketball, much better man-to-man defense than we did on Friday night. We handled adversity better.'
For Raiders head coach Tim Arndorfer, it's back to the drawing board.
'They're better. Their gym, they dominated inside,' he said. 'They struggled inside against us last time; they didn't shoot well. They did both of those things exceptionally well tonight, and we didn't have an answer for it. We're still finding an identity.
Looking for leadership
'We don't have it defensively, that's for sure, and I don't know if we'll find it. Offensively, we got baskets, we got zero stops, so until we find an identity defensively, this is going to be pretty typical. Some leadership would be good on the floor. I can do a better job preparing them, but we can't make free throws for them, we can't make layups for them and we can't get in and help set up defense for them. We'll go back, we'll try to figure out some other ways to get them motivated. That's been a struggle all year. They've got to find it. Maybe it's the seniors who will dig in and figure it out.'
Stewart and Jai'Vionne Green both scored 16 points for the Raiders, and Kratzer added 11. Nolan Wright led Marquette with 15. The Raiders travel to Menomonee Falls on Friday, Feb. 5.