Through the rigors of a difficult schedule, New Berlin Eisenhower's boys basketball team has taken its fair share of lumps. But the Lions have also grown in the process, and it is starting to show.
Led by a career-high 25 points from junior guard Bryce Miller, Eisenhower shot 57.9 percent from the field and claimed a 71-60 road victory over Wauwatosa West on Jan. 24.
Winners of five of their last six games, the Lions moved to 8-5 overall and 5-4 in the Woodland West. Tosa West dropped its third consecutive conference game to fall to 8-6 and 4-4 in league play.
"Tosa West is a very good basketball team with good players," Eisenhower coach Dave Scheidegger said. "They are big, strong and fast. I thought we matched them step for step. I thought we showed a lot of toughness. I thought for the most part, we kept our composure, which is something that has been up and down earlier.
"This is the third or fourth game where we've been steadily understanding our concepts and executing better on offense and defense. Our toughness is getting better. A game, which was pretty intense, helps build that character and toughness."
Eisenhower got off to a hot start, as 3-pointers from Sullivan Kulju and Miller gave the Lions an early 10-1 lead.
Tosa West pulled to within 35-31 on a 3-point play by Javaree Jackson with 1:11 until halftime, but a pair of free throws by Miller and a putback at the buzzer by Bryce Wesling put Eisenhower up 39-31 at the break.
Matt Rolefson knocked down a triple on the Lions' first possession of the second half, and after Marquiss Childs scored for the Trojans, Miller connected on a 3-pointer to make it 45-33 with 15:45 to play. With Eisenhower up, 49-37, Tosa West rattled off an 8-0 run in the span of 1 minute, 16 seconds, as Seveon James hit a jumper and a 3-pointer on consecutive possessions and Noah Katula drilled a shot from distance to make it 49-45 with 10:44 left.
But the Lions had an answer. With disciplined and patient offensive possessions, Eisenhower managed to take significant time off the clock on its next five possessions, scoring on four of them to go up, 57-45, on a layup by Rolefson with 5:19 left.
"It shows you what a smart, disciplined basketball team they are," Tosa West coach Chad Stelse said. "They've been that way over the years. My frustration level is at an all-time high. I take responsibility for not making the adjustment to beat those guys. I've always had trouble beating them as a coach. It is about as frustrating as it gets. I thought we would have a shot this year. It just didn't happen."
Scoreless for five
Tosa West went scoreless for 5 minutes, 42 seconds from the time it pulled to within four to when Frank scored to break the 8-0 run by the Lions with 5:02 remaining.
"We take pride in our defense," Scheidegger said. "We've been working on 36 minutes of focus. The defensive execution in some second halves this season has not been as strong as our concentration in the first. We've been working on that. I thought we were better. We had only one or two lapses. We were closer to 36 minutes of focus."
Rolefson finished with 13 points, and Kulju had 10 points. Max Maier added 8 points, and Sam Hluchnik had 5 points. Eisenhower shot 22-for-38 from the field, made 6 of 13 attempts from beyond the arc and hit 21 of 24 of its free-throw tries.
Miller knocked down three 3-pointers to score 13 points in the first half. He went 7-for-8 from the foul line in the second half to help prevent the Trojans from mounting a comeback.
"I was feeling good tonight," Miller said. "My teammates did a good job of getting the ball to me. Give all the credit to them. They were doing the work out there."
Alou Dillon led Tosa West with 15 points. Javaree Jackson scored all 10 of his points in the first half, while LaRon Perine added 8 points and Frank, James and Childs all scored 7 points. The Trojans shot 45.8 percent (22-for-48) but made just 7 of 21 attempts from distance.