In order for next week's battle with Arrowhead to be for first place in the Classic 8, Muskego's boys basketball team needed to take care of business against Waukesha North.
The Warriors did just that, downing the Northstars, 67-58, on Jan. 13 for their sixth consecutive victory to move to 10-1 on the season.
Now 5-1 in the Classic 8 Conference, Muskego will enter its Jan. 20 game at Arrowhead just one game back of the Warhawks (6-0) and one game in front of third-place Mukwonago at 4-2.
Muskego, ranked No. 6 in the Division 1 coaches poll, led 37-32 at halftime and outscored the Northstars, 30-26, in the second half.
"We never really pulled away," Muskego coach Andy Capes said. "We had lots of opportunities. We didn't shoot very well and didn't play very good team defense. I thought North did a really, really good job executing and making us pay for our mistakes.
"It was a tough win. The Classic 8 is always tough. They played very hard. Our kids played hard, too, and we were lucky to pull it out in the end."
Sophomore forward Stu Vent led the Warriors with 18 points. Senior center Will Herald scored 16 points, sophomore guard A.J. Makinen had 14 points and senior forward Luke Horozewski added 9 points.
After averaging just 5.7 points in Muskego's first nine games, the 6-foot-6 Herald has poured in 30 points in wins over Waukesha South and Waukesha North.
"Will is starting to be much more aggressive," Capes said. "He's playing really tough. He's doing a good job on defense, as well. I'm really proud of him. It is good to see a senior step up when you need him. I thought he was the difference in the game. If Will didn't step up, I don't think we win."
The Warriors finished with a big advantage from the free-throw line, going 22 for 30. Waukesha North was just 8 for 18 at the charity stripe.
Muskego's nonconference game at Slinger on Jan. 10 was postponed due to inclement weather. The Warriors will now travel to face the Owls for a 7 p.m. start Tuesday, Jan. 24.
Before facing Arrowhead, Muskego was slated to face state-ranked Cedarburg on Monday, Jan. 16. The Bulldogs entered at 11-1 overall and ranked No. 5 in the Division 2 coaches poll.
Cedarburg is led by DePaul recruit John Diener, though he suffered an ankle injury Jan. 11 against Nicolet and did not play Jan. 13 against Grafton.
The Warriors and Warhawks will tipoff at 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 20 at Arrowhead High School.
"It will be a good test to see where we are at," Capes said. "Arrowhead right now is probably playing the best of anyone in the league. For us, we have to play much better than where we are at. If we can beat them on Friday, we control our own destiny down the stretch. If we don't, then we have some work to do. We have to be much better than what we have been so far on defense in order to stop them."