When a team has won its first handful of games by double-digit margins, sometimes the first time it is pushed by a team can prove to be a challenge.
Brookfield Central's boys basketball team was pushed by Wauwatosa East in its Greater Metro Conference opener, letting a double-digit, second-half lead slip away. But the Lancers overcame foul trouble and responded to the second-half surge by the Red Raiders to pull out a 52-47 win on Dec. 9, thanks to a late 3-pointer by senior Sam Rohde.
"Something we talked about all week is that at some point we were going to face all of that stuff," Brookfield Central coach Dan Wandrey said. "We're going to get a big lead, and we're going to blow it, we're going to fall behind, we're going to have foul trouble with some of our guys. We got all that, and we still came out with a win.
"If you could script it (ahead of time), we go on the road and get tested and make some mistakes but still come out with a win. We're playing young guys. It is hard to simulate some of that stuff in practices. They blitzed us. We lost our composure a little bit but not enough to really get us in trouble. Now the test will be what will that look like moving forward."
The Lancers used a 12-0 run to take an 18-6 lead on a 3-pointer by junior Charlie Debbink with 8:37 left in the first half. But despite holding Tosa East to just 16 first-half points, Brookfield Central led just 24-16 at halftime.
Leading 40-31 with 8:53 to play, the Lancers went into a scoring drought of 4 minutes, 18 seconds. Tosa East capitalized by scoring 12 consecutive points to take the lead.
"I knew they'd present some problems for us," Wandrey said. "They are not real big, but they are scrappy, athletic and do some real good things.
"We've been able to get out and run and score in transition, and that didn't happen. They took us out of some of our stuff and to our discredit, we didn't execute very well. We have secondary offensive stuff, and we did not execute that very well."
The Red Raiders used pressure to force the Lancers into turnovers and began to hit shots on the offensive end in what was a 17-2 run in total.
Ke'Andre Griffin hit consecutive 3-pointers to get Tosa East going, while Deshun Hunter scored 5 quick points to cut Brookfield Central's lead to just one. Blake Kratzer and Mahlik Lindsey then each hit a pair of free throws to give the Red Raiders a 43-40 lead with 4:53 left.
Andres Peralta-Werns scored to break the Lancers' scoring drought, and the junior drilled a 3-pointer from the corner to give Brookfield Central back the lead at 45-43 with 3:19 to play. The Red Raiders took the lead back at 47-45, but Gage Malensek tied the game at 47 with two made free throws with 1:43 remaining.
After the Lancers got a stop at the other end, Rohde grabbed an offensive rebound off a miss by Malensek. He was rewarded for his hustle by getting the ball back for a wide-open 3-point attempt he drilled with 39 seconds left to put Brookfield Central up, 50-47.
"When Sam gets open shots, he's going to make a lot of them," Wandrey said.
Lindsey was then fouled but missed the front end of the bonus. Rohde did the same for the Lancers, which gave Tosa East life. Kratzer got a good look at a game-tying 3-point attempt, but it hit iron and fell into the hands of Chris Post, who was fouled and iced the game with two free throws.
Malensek led Brookfield Central with 15 points, while Peralta-Werns and Rohde each had 11 points. Post finished with 8 points and nine rebounds.
Lancers swarm Northstars
Brookfield Central has held each of its first four opponents under 50 points, but the Lancers' defensive ability was on full display in a 61-22 win over Waukesha North on Dec. 6.
The Lancers held the Northstars to just 11 points in each half, as Waukesha North made just nine field goals. Brookfield Central led, 39-11, at halftime and cruised to a nonconference win.
"Incredible," Wandrey said. "Our guys were unbelievable. I believe North is better than the way our guys made them look. We were playing good defense, and I think they got a little flustered. Then all of a sudden the shots were coming a little, and you are looking up, and it is 18-4. We had a lot of guys play well. The team defense we demonstrated on Tuesday wasn't there (Friday), but it was everybody contributing and defending as a group."
Malensek scored 17 points with seven assists to pace Brookfield Central. Peralta-Werns had 16 points and four rebounds, and Rohde had 9 points. Cole Nau finished with 5 points and eight rebounds, and Post grabbed six rebounds.