When his team needed a lift, Luke Horozewski was there to provide one.
The senior scored 19 of his 23 points in the second half to spark the Muskego boys basketball team out of a hole in a 65-53 victory over Cedarburg in a nonconference battle of state-ranked teams on Jan. 16.
Muskego entered ranked No. 6 in Division 1, while Cedarburg came in No. 5 in Division 2. The Bulldogs played without star junior guard and DePaul commit John Diener, who missed his second consecutive game with an ankle injury suffered Jan. 11 against Nicolet.
"Sometimes you have to have different guys step up," Muskego coach Andy Capes said. "We've been lucky guys have stepped up when we've needed them to. It hasn't always been the same guy. It always good to have a team where different guys can step up and make plays.
"We didn't play very well. If Diener was there, with the way we played, I think it would have been a different outcome. We didn't play well enough to where we would have beat them with him. That's disappointing because we are a lot better."
Both teams were sluggish offensively in the first half, as Muskego shot 37.5 percent and Cedarburg made just 5 of 17 shots from the field. The Warriors knocked down four 3-pointers in the half, but the Bulldogs trailed by just 5 points at 24-19 by making 9 of 12 free-throw attempts.
Muskego built a 28-21 lead in the opening minutes of the second half before Bulldog senior guard Jordan Johnson rattled off 9 points during a 15-2 run that put Cedarburg in front, 36-30, with 13:06 to play.
But as the Bulldogs attempted to pull away, Horozewski took over for Muskego, using hustle plays off offensive rebounds and a variety of post moves to either finish inside or get to the foul line, where he finished 7-for-10.
"Coach just wanted us to get the ball down low and find my position," Horozewski said. "I was going to find open players or find my shot. Everything worked out."
Horozewski hit a pair of free throws to give Muskego a 39-38 lead and then split a pair on the Warriors' next possession. Stu Vent grabbed the offensive rebound off the missed free throw and scored to make it 42-38. The Warriors grew their lead to 46-40 before the Bulldogs rattled off five straight to pull within 46-45 on a 3-pointer by Johnson with 6:18 remaining.
"(Johnson) made some tough shots," Capes said. "We were all over him the whole night. They didn't have a lot of other options, so they were going to him a lot. He plays hard and physical. He probably made six or so fadeaway baseline jumpers with a hand in his face. He's a good ballplayer."
With Muskego clinging to a 1-point lead, Horozewski finished inside to make it 52-49. Cedarburg then committed a violation on the inbounds pass to give the Warriors the ball back. Rob Zolecki converted the mistake into points with a short jumper to increase Muskego's advantage to 54-49 with 4:31 left.
Patrick McKenzie answered for Cedarburg, but the Bulldogs would score just 2 points over the final 4 minutes, 9 seconds to allow Muskego to put the game away by going 7-for-8 from the foul line down the stretch.
"We weren't consistent from start to finish," Cedarburg Tom Diener said. "We had stretches where we really played good and outplayed them. Then we had stretches where we turned the ball over and had some breakdowns on defense. Muskego is a great team. We had 17 turnovers. That is too many. You can't have more than 10 if you are going to beat that team."
In addition to his 23 points, Horozewski, a 6-foot-2 power forward, pulled down nine rebounds, four of which were on the offensive end. Ryan Wikel scored 11 points off the bench for the Warriors, while Vent finished with 10 points and A.J. Makinen added 9 points.
"He's a soccer goalie with really good feet for a guy with his body build," Capes said of Horozewski. "He controls his body so well and is very physical. Even against big guys he gets position. He's probably been our most consistent player all season."
Johnson led Cedarburg with 24 points on 8-of-16 shooting. McKenzie and Clayton Van Tassel each had 7 points.