Throughout his first year as head coach at New Berlin West, Brandon Mattox kept stressing there are no such thing as moral victories.
But the lessons learned by the Vikings in what ended up as a five-win season are already paying dividends. After opening-week wins over Milwaukee Madison and Burlington, New Berlin West is 2-0 for the first time since 2007-08.
"I just feel like last year going through that rigmarole and getting beat up, now we're seeing some success," West coach Brandon Mattox said. "That's showing, and they are starting to believe a little more. They are starting to buy in. We're heading in the right direction."
Robey lifts Vikings
Without the struggles of a year ago, perhaps the Vikings don't have the resolve it took to pull out a 64-60 win over Burlington on Dec. 1.
Forced to the bench with cramping issues with West trailing 59-57 with 3:49 left, junior guard Joe Robey returned with 2:00 to play and was fouled after grabbing an offensive rebound with 23.5 seconds on the clock. Robey hit both free throws to give the Vikings a 62-60 lead.
"We got it to a 1-point game, and I was like, 'I need to get back in there,'" Robey said. "(Zach White) had fouled out, so I knew I had to step up at the end."
West still needed a stop on the other end, which was easier said than done considering Burlington's Nick Klug and Luke Geiger had combined for 45 points and eight made 3-pointers. Klug got a look at a go-ahead 3-point attempt, but the Vikings contested the shot, which was an airball.
Robey was fouled again and iced the game with two free throws with 3.7 seconds left.
West started fast offensively against the Demons, which were picked to win the Southern Lakes Conference by Wissports.net. Robey and senior forward Hunter Pipik each scored nine first-half points to give the Vikings a 34-25 lead with 3:09 left until halftime.
But Burlington scored the final five points of the first half and the first 10 points of the second half to take a 40-34 lead with 3-pointer by Geiger with 15:04 to play.
After Klug scored 19 of his game-high 26 points in the first half, Geiger took over after the break, pouring in 17 of his 19 points in the second half. The two combined to go 8-for-15 from beyond the arc.
"We did some different stuff on screens and tried to faceguard (Klug) a little bit to give him some different looks," Mattox said. "But he's a good player and is going to make plays. We were able to get enough stops to get a win.
"We stressed every shot has to be contested just because of the way they shoot the ball. We played a lot of zone against (Milwaukee) Madison. We could not do that (against Burlington). We just contested everything."
The Vikings used a 6-0 run to take a 45-44 lead on a layup by junior guard Mason Church with 10:50 left. Burlington pulled ahead by four points three different times in the final 10 minutes, but West fought back each time. Pipik gave the Vikings a 60-59 lead with 2:50 to play, an advantage that stood until Harrison George split two free throws for Burlington to tie the game with 51 seconds left.
"The biggest thing with us coming off of last year when we had five wins, we showed some maturity tonight and some resiliency," Mattox said. "I think that was the biggest thing. When they went up with about three minutes to go, we pushed back. I talk to them constantly about if we come out and get punched in the mouth, we have to be able to give one back. We did that."
Robey led West with 22 points on 8-of-15 shooting. Pipik added 13 points, while Tyler Torosian had nine points and seven rebounds and Matt Obradovich finished with six points and eight rebounds.
Vikings rout Madison
West opened the season with a 72-49 rout of Milwaukee Madison on Nov. 29.
Robey had 15 points to pace the Vikings, which had 12 different players score. Zach White finished with 10 points, while Torosian and David Nenning each had seven points.
The Vikings last won multiple games in a single week at the beginning of the 2013-14 season.
"This is very big," Robey said. "We're really turning the table. We're showing our conference how dangerous of a team we can be."