Sometimes a team just has one of those games.
With a strong defensive effort, Muskego's boys basketball team was able to survive on a night in which it shot 29.2 percent against Waukesha North's zone defense to scratch out a 44-33 victory on the road Feb. 16.
The win moved the Warriors to 17-4 overall and 10-3 in league play, guaranteeing a second-place finish in the Classic 8.
"They played zone," Muskego coach Andy Capes said. "Normally, that's a good thing for us because we have shooters. But we didn't make anything. They stopped us and held us. We struggled finishing around the rim and missed a lot of layups.
"We got some good looks that just didn't go. We've had two games in a row here where it seems like the ball is just not dropping. We played good defense, which allowed us to pull it out."
Muskego was playing shorthanded, with second-leading scorer Stu Vent (15.2 points per game) and outside shooting threat Ryan Wikel (7.9 ppg) sitting out. Capes is hoping to have both players back when the Warriors open the WIAA playoffs on Friday, March 3.
"It is tough, especially on a night like tonight," Capes said. "Ryan Wikel is probably the best shooter I've been around. If they want to play a zone, and we have Ryan Wikel, it is probably different. And Stu obviously is a very talented player."
The Warriors missed their first 10 tries from the field, which allowed the Northstars to build an 8-0 lead.
Muskego took the lead at 16-15 on a layup by senior forward Luke Horozewski with 3:10 to play in the first half. After a J.R. Shiddell connected on a triple for Waukesha North, senior center Will Herald gave the Warriors a 19-18 lead at the break by finishing a 3-point play with 1:23 remaining in the half.
With the game tied at 24-24, Muskego held Waukesha North to just 2 points over a stretch of 7 minutes, 7 seconds to go on a 9-2 run to take a 33-26 advantage with 8:23 left.
Johnny Kelliher hit a 3-pointer to bring the Northstars to within 33-29, but Waukesha North wouldn't score for the next 5:49. Muskego went up, 38-29, on a pair of free throws by Horozewski with 1:59 remaining, and sophomore guard A.J. Makinen iced the game with two free throws to make it 42-31 with 53 seconds to play.
The Warriors finished 14-for-48 (29.2 percent) from the field, 4-for-19 (21.1 percent) from 3-point range and 12-for-20 (60.0 percent) from the foul line.
Herald recorded a double-double with 14 points and 15 rebounds, helping Muskego win the rebounding battle, 36-29. Makinen added 13 points, Horozewski scored 9 points and junior guard Rob Zolecki had 5 points.
Waukesha North, which was without leading scorer Will McDonald, went 14-for-44 (31.8 percent) from the field and 4-of-15 (26.7 percent) from beyond the arc. The Northstars attempted just one free throw, a 3-point play by Taylor Anderson just 1:15 into the game.
"I thought we did a pretty decent job of keeping them out of the lane and making them take jump shots," Capes said. "We did OK. On the road in the Classic 8, sometimes it is going to be ugly."
Fall to Franklin
Muskego began last week with a 59-55 overtime loss to former Southeast Conference foe Franklin in a nonconference game Feb. 14.
Sabers sophomore Jacob Vonderwell scored on a drive to the basket to force the extra session. Franklin then outscored Muskego, 8-4, in overtime.
Horozewski led Muskego with 16 points. Vent added 12 points, Makinen had 11 points and Herald scored 7 points.