Although it is just early January, Sussex Hamilton's girls basketball team is sitting in a good spot in the Greater Metro Conference.
With a 54-39 victory over Brookfield East on Jan. 6, the Chargers remained the lone unbeaten team in the conference and already have wins over the second- and third-place teams. Hamilton used strong defense to down the Spartans, creating turnovers with its full-court pressure and forcing Brookfield East to settle for long 3-point attempts with its zone defense.
The Chargers now sit at 8-3 overall and 4-0 in the Greater Metro, one game ahead of Divine Savior Holy Angels, which Hamilton has already beaten, and 1 1/2 games ahead of Brookfield East. The loss dropped the Spartans to 8-4 and 3-2 in league play.
"It is early, but they are now two games behind us (in the loss column)," Sussex Hamilton coach Bill Scasny said. "That's nice that they have to be chasing us now the rest of the year. We just have to take care of our business now, game in and game out. We can't relax against anybody. We're not that good (that we can relax), but we can be good."
Brookfield East grabbed an early lead, but Sussex Hamilton used a 17-2 run to go up 20-10 on a 3-point play by Macy Williams with 9:11 remaining in the first half. Once the Chargers were able to set up their press, they forced the Spartans into seven turnovers during the run that covered just 2 minutes, 58 seconds.
Sussex Hamilton led just 24-19 at halftime, however, scoring just 4 points over the final 9 minutes of the half. The Chargers extended their lead to 11 in the first 7 minutes of the second half and wouldn't let the Spartans within 6 points the rest of the way.
"I was really proud of the way they helped each other out and doubled down like they were supposed to," Scasny said. "We didn't really give up anything easy. They did an excellent job. Then, when we went to the zone, we did an excellent job with that. We kept them on the perimeter and made them bomb up threes. It was nice to see."
After shooting 29.6 percent (8 for 27) in the first half, Brookfield East went 6 for 27 (22.2 percent) after the break. Of the 27 field-goal attempts in the second half, 13 came from beyond the arc. The Spartans shot just 6 for 25 from distance and made just four shots in the paint.
"It is a simple game," Brookfield East coach Michael Goodman said. "You have to stop them, and you have to score. We didn't score at all. The more we kept missing, the more we put pressure on ourselves. Then in the second half, we were just kind of going around the arc, because nobody wanted to make a play because nobody has the confidence to score. We lost that confidence early in the game.
"It is all well and good to make nine threes Tuesday (against Kettle Moraine), but you don't make any here. You have to grind it out and make it a game. We couldn't stop them on defense, and we couldn't score. You lose confidence as you go."
Kristin Thompson led Sussex Hamilton with 18 points and seven rebounds, and Macy Williams scored 17 points.
"That was by far Kristin's best game both on offense and defense," Scasny said. "She did a terrific job. It was one of her best defensive efforts, too. She did it on both ends of the floor."
Lauren Davies connected on three 3-pointers to finish with 9 points for the Spartans. Adriana Plavsic also scored 9 points. The Chargers shot 45.7 percent for the game, making 11 of 19 field-goal attempts in the second half.
The loss by no means eliminates Brookfield East from the Greater Metro title race, but now the Spartans will need help being two games behind Sussex Hamilton in the loss column. The Spartans and Chargers will meet again on Friday, Feb. 3.
"It is a long season," Goodman said. "We just have to make sure from here on out that every game matters. You want to take care of your own business, but we may have just lost conference because they may not lose. Even if we beat them the second time around, we lose by a game. I told the girls to let this one sting and if we just lost conference because of this, we learn from that and move forward because you don't have to win conference to make a run."
Hamilton beats MSL
Against Milwaukee School of Languages on Jan. 3, the Chargers won, 69-52. Williams shot 50 percent from the floor (7 for 14) and scored 16 points. Ellie Sumiec and Eliana Selin contributed 11 points each. Taylor Laboy added 8 points and 5 rebounds. Taylor Fuerstenberg and Sumiec had two steals each.
Hamilton turned the ball over just eight times.