Senior forward Jai'vionne Green has continued his impressive scoring run, sparking the Wauwatosa East boys basketball team to a 71-64 victory over Brookfield East on Feb. 25 in Brookfield.
The win gave the Red Raiders a final 8-6 record in the Greater Metro Conference, which tied them for third place with Sussex Hamilton. It improved their final regular-season overall record to 10-12. The Spartans finished without a win (0-14) in the GMC with a 3-19 overall record.
The Red Raiders led, 42-34, at halftime against Brook East, but the Spartans actually led by 7 points at 23-16 with 9 minutes, 20 seconds left in the half on a 3-pointer by junior guard Jake Graf. Leading 29-27 on two Graf free throws with 4:17 left, the Spartans saw Tosa East score on a 3-pointer by senior guard Najee Stewart and a layup by senior Ty Ederesinghe with an assist from Blake Kratzer for a 32-29 lead.
Brookfield tied the game at 32-32 as senior forward Dominic Cartier grabbed three offensive rebounds in a row and converted the final one, was fouled and sank the free throw. But the Red Raiders went on a 10-2 run to end the half.
First Stewart hit a 3-point shot, then he scored on a drive, was fouled and converted the free throw for a 38-32 lead. Spartans senior guard Alex Plavsic scored on a fast break, before junior guard Dane Mikkelson hit 1 of 2 free throws and Kratzer nailed a 3-pointer with 1.6 seconds left in the half.
'Our defense in the first half was a joke,' Tosa East coach Tim Arndorfer said. 'They were scoring at will. But luckily we kept scoring and kept pace. We knew we could get the lead if we just started playing some defense. You saw that at the end of the half.'
The Spartans' final grasp came when they went on a 12-2 run to cut the lead to 66-62 with 2:43 left. Sophomore Patrick Cartier hit a basket and a free throw, junior Sam Gauger hit 3 of 4 free throws, Dominic Cartier hit a free throw and Graf hit a free throw and a basket before the Red Raiders' Green threw down a dunk to stop the run. Graf countered with a drive to make it 66-62.
But Ederesinghe scored a layup off a beautiful pass from Green, Dominic Cartier missed two free throws, Kratzer drove to the hoop, scored, was fouled and sank the free throw with 1:10 left and a 71-62 lead. Patrick Cartier scored off a pass from brother Dominic to end the scoring.
Tosa East was helped when the Spartans only managed to make 6 of 13 free throws down the stretch and were 13 for 24 overall.
'They've battled back and that's been a hallmark, but I would like to see them not have to battle back,' coach Matt Malett said of his Spartans. 'The first half was atrocious because we let nine offensive rebounds go for 14 points. We had 10 turnovers for 5 points. That's 19 points for Tosa East. You can't give other teams opportunities like that.'
Green was a one-man show for the Red Raiders with 28 points, while Stewart had 16 points and Cal Rohde added 12.
'I don't think too many teams in the conference have an answer for Jai'vionne,' Malett said. 'He's a heck of a player. When he's not driving, he can shoot right over you. If you came out to guard him, he would drive right by you. He presented a matchup issue, which could be the understatement of the night.'
Arndorfer also was pleased with Green's performance.
'He's been pretty remarkable the last couple games,' he said. 'We haven't really had a guy like that who we could ride. We're definitely going to need that moving forward. But we're also going need other guys stepping up.
'Cal did a nice job, Najee is a threat you can't ignore. We get Dane and Kratzer and DJ (Verser) other guys in the rotation getting baskets, Jai'vionne is going to get a lot of attention going into the playoffs, so we're going to need other guys to step up.'
Arndorfer wasn't happy with his team's defense in the paint.
'We had to stop giving them easy baskets inside; that's what really got them back in it,' he said. 'We were taking too-quick a shots. The score was on our side, the clock was on our side. That Cartier kid (Patrick) is a load. He is going to be good.'
Arndorfer found some bright spots.
'We survived some runs and we did some little things well. We moved the ball well against the zone. We didn't settle for 3s. We looked to get touches inside and hopefully it's a steppingstone to get into the playoffs.'