Stu Vent jumped a passing lane, picked off a pass and put a ribbon on his dominant performance with a thunderous dunk.
It was a fitting end for the Muskego sophomore, who scored 32 points with five rebounds and five blocked shots to help the Warriors bounce back from their first loss of the season with a 66-46 rout of Catholic Memorial on Dec. 16.
"I just saw that lane," Vent said. "I knew I had to put it down because I've been waiting for that all year."
After poor defense and 21 turnovers added up to an 81-73 loss at Mukwonago on Dec. 13, Muskego spent the following two days working to shore up those areas at practice.
The work paid off, as the Warriors held the Crusaders to just 14 points in the first half. An early start time of 5:30 p.m. due to a snowstorm also didn't impact the Warriors. Muskego quickly scored the first 7 points of the game and built a double-digit lead en route to a 36-14 advantage at halftime.
"I thought we did a really good job keeping the ball out of the lane," Muskego coach Andy Capes said. "They are really big and athletic, so I was worried they would get us inside. We did a really good job with team defense to keep them out of the lane."
Muskego (5-1 overall, 2-1 Classic 8) wasn't as crisp in the second half, as Catholic Memorial outscored the Warriors, 32-30, after the break. The Crusaders pulled to within 51-38 with 5:56 to play, but the Warriors scored the next 6 points to extend their advantage to 19 points.
Ben Nimz scored all 20 of his points in the second half for the Crusaders (6-2, 2-1), hitting four 3-pointers and six free throws. Shots came easier for Catholic Memorial after halftime, which Capes chalked up to a young team not knowing how to keep up intensity with a big lead.
"I thought our defense was much better in the first half," Capes said. "I thought we got a little complacent in the second half. It is hard at times when you have young kids. They don't understand they have to play the whole game no matter what the score is. It is a learning experience. I thought Catholic Memorial did a great job coming back and not giving up."
Vent has become one of the top players in the Classic 8 as a sophomore, averaging 20.0 points through Muskego's first six games. After being held to just 9 points by Mukwonago on Dec. 13, he quickly took over against Catholic Memorial.
After pouring in 13 points in the first half, Vent added 19 points over the final 18 minutes, finishing 9-for-16 from the field, 3-for-4 from beyond the arc and 11-for-13 from the free-throw line.
"That first 3 I hit, I was feeling it," Vent said. "So I kept shooting it until I had a heat check. We just ran plays and kept going through our offense. I just took shots every opportunity that I had."
The 6-foot-5 forward also made an impact defensively, collecting five emphatic blocked shots that energized the crowd almost as much as his dunk in the final minutes did.
"He's a matchup nightmare," Capes said. "He's big enough where he can go inside and quick enough to drive. When he's making jump shots, there aren't many high school kids that match up with him physically. He's a gifted athlete and a hard worker. It is fun to see him get his success."
Sophomore guard A.J. Makinen added 13 points and five rebounds for Muskego, while senior guard Ryan Wikel and senior forward Luke Horozewski each had 7 points.
Nimz led Catholic Memorial with 20 points on 5-for-9 shooting. Sophomore forward Rich Bhyre had 8 points with 10 rebounds, and senior forward Austin Young had 8 points and five rebounds despite playing just 16 minutes due to foul trouble.
Warriors fall to Mukwonago
Muskego's loss to Mukwonago was just its third Classic 8 loss in the last three seasons.
The Indians led 38-31 at halftime and scored 43 points in the second half. The Warriors couldn't slow Mukwonago forward Brandon Hau, who poured in 32 points. Wikel led Muskego with 21 points. Makinen added 19 points, and Horozewski scored 14 points.
"Terrible defense," Capes said. "We turned the ball over and made a lot of silly mistakes. When you give a good team like Mukwonago that many more opportunities to get shots, they are going to make you pay, and they did.
"We had a lot of things we had to work on. The kids took it to heart, so it was nice to see them put defense first (against CMH). I think we got a little too offense-heavy, and Mukwonago pushed the tempo on us, and we didn't understand how to control the tempo and slow it down."