Facing an early double-digit deficit, Muskego's boys basketball team found its way in time to win a tournament title.
The Warriors used a big run over the end of the first half and the beginning of the second half to overcome a 13-point deficit to pull away late for a 66-53 win over Beloit Memorial on Dec. 28 in the championship game of the Beloit Memorial Winter Classic Tournament at Barkin Arena.
Muskego has won four consecutive games to move to 8-1 on the season.
"It is always nice to win," Muskego coach Andy Capes said. "We have a lot of work to do, and we have to get a lot better as we get going into conference. It is nice to have some nice victories and play well at the end of games."
Beloit Memorial held Muskego to just 5 points over the first 11 minutes, 24 seconds to take an 18-5 lead with 6:36 to play in the first half. Trailing, 25-10, with 3:00 to play until halftime, the Warriors rattled off an 11-2 spurt to pull to within 27-21 at the break.
"We actually didn't play poorly," Capes said. "We played pretty good defense. We just missed a lot of open shots and layups. We just didn't make any jump shots. Their interior defense is pretty good, so they affected a lot of our stuff in the lane. We kept the defense going, and a couple of shots finally fell and everyone gained some confidence."
Muskego tied the game at 27-27 by knocking down consecutive 3-pointers to begin the second half, pushing its run to 17-2.
The game remained close throughout the second half, with Muskego holding a 51-48 advantage with 3:19 left. The Warriors pulled away down the stretch, leading 58-51 with 1:03 to play before scoring the final 8 points of the game.
"We were chipping away, chipping away, chipping away, and we made a couple of 3-pointers in a row, and all of a sudden the floodgates opened," Capes said. "We missed eight free throws in the first half, and we started hitting our free throws in the second half. Everything just kind of came together. Once we caught them, we had all the momentum and made free throws down the stretch."
Sophomore guard A.J. Makinen led Muskego with 24 points. Sophomore forward Stu Vent scored 15 points, senior guard Ben Schaefer added 12 points and senior guard Ryan Wikel had 9 points.
"AJ Makinen played very, very well," Capes said. "Ben Schaefer played unbelievably well on defense. He was all over the court and made some big 3s down the stretch. He's been our best defender in every game we've played. He did a really good job frustrating them."
West Allis Hale
Muskego reached the title game by downing West Allis Hale, 65-59, on Dec. 27.
The Warriors led, 26-23, at halftime and led by as many as 15 points in the second half but had to hold on after the Huskies got hot from beyond the arc late.
"I thought we were in control the whole game," Capes said. "But we missed some shots, missed some free throws and missed some bunnies and allowed them to stay in the game. They have some dangerous shooters. No lead was safe. They made us pay for it. They made it a tough game at the end."
Makinen led Muskego with 21 points. Senior forward Luke Horozewski scored 14 points, junior guard Rob Zolecki finished with 11 points, Vent scored 8 points and Schaefer added 7 points.
Senior guard Ryan Haertel hit five 3-pointers, and senior guard Collin Basgall connected on four shots from beyond the arc to keep the Huskies in the game. Haertel finished with 19 points, while Basgall scored 17 points.
Muskego will return to Classic 8 Conference play with a home game against Waukesha South at 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 6. The Blackshirts are 1-3 in league play with losses to Mukwonago and Catholic Memorial and a win over Waukesha North.
The Warriors sit at 3-1 in the conference, a half-game back of first-place and 3-0 Arrowhead.