Having graduated four starters, New Berlin Eisenhower boys basketball coach Dave Scheidegger compared his team's first game to a new model of car being rolled out to the public.
It is fair to say the new-look Lions were a hit.
Junior Bryce Miller knocked down a go-ahead 3-pointer with 25 seconds left to lift the Lions to a 48-45 victory over state-ranked Milwaukee Washington in the Fresh Coast Classic at Klotsche Center on Nov. 25.
"To come out like that in that atmosphere down at the Klotsche Center was exciting," Scheidegger said. "The kids played well. I'm very proud of them.
"It was a grind-it-out game. They were not only wide but tall. It was hard to get anything around the basket. We were shooting over some pretty tall arms. It was a knockdown, drag-out type of game for both teams."
Washington, ranked No. 3 in Division 2 in the preseason Wissports.net poll, rattled off a 6-0 run to take a 45-44 lead on a 3-point play by sophomore guard Johntae Martin with 1:06 remaining.
After Eisenhower kept a possession alive with an offensive rebound, Miller buried a triple from the wing to put the Lions up 47-45 with just 25 seconds on the clock.
The Lions then forced Washington into a tough shot, which the Purgolders missed. Senior forward Matt Rolefson corralled the rebound and got the ball to Miller, who was fouled with 0.4 seconds left.
Rolefson scored 10 of his 13 points in the first half to give Eisenhower a 21-18 advantage at the break. Miller then carried the Lions offensively in the second half, as he scored 12 of his 15 points after halftime.
"Matt was very aggressive with taking the ball at the basket," Scheidegger said. "He moves really well and has great feet. He had some opportunities and some driving lanes. Bryce took care of the ball and hit a big shot at the end. Bryce did a nice job of just running the show for us and keeping us at a quick tempo."
Miller finished 6-for-10 from the field and hit both of his 3-point attempts for the Lions, which were a combined 4-of-17 from beyond the arc.
Senior forward Sullivan Kulju added seven points, and senior guard Bryce Wesling had six points. Rolefson also grabbed six rebounds, while senior guard Sam Hluchnik had four assists and three steals.
Eisenhower's defense held Washington to its lowest point total since Jan. 31, 2015.
"We're anticipating a very solid, sound defensive year," Scheidegger said. "They like to play defense. They are very aggressive, and we have the right personalities for it. In any sport, defense is going to carry the day until the offense finds its groove and rhythm. That was the case against Washington. The defense made sure we were right there, and we did enough offensively to get it done."
Eisenhower was scheduled to host Muskego in a nonconference game Tuesday, Nov. 29. The Lions will play at Brown Deer on Tuesday, Dec. 6.