Sometimes, it just takes a bit of time for a basketball team to find its way, and there's something to be said about getting hot at the right time.
Brookfield Central's girls basketball team has needed that time to overcome inexperience and injury. The Lancers are clicking when it matters most, however, as they ran their winning streak to four games by using a second-half surge for a 54-45 victory over West Allis Hale on Feb. 3.
Since falling to 2-5 on Dec. 20, Brookfield Central has won seven of nine to up its record to 9-7. At 7-4 in the Greater Metro, the Lancers sit alone in third place and just one game back of second-place Divine Savior Holy Angels.
"Every year, it takes awhile to get things going, especially when you have new players coming on to the team and you are trying to figure out the rotation and roles," Brookfield Central coach Mallory Liebl said. "We are kind of figuring that out at the right time. Our schedule has worked out in our favor with having so many games in the last couple of weeks. That's what we need right now is that game experience.
"We're treating every game as if it is a championship game and if our season depends on it, because we want to get that attitude going into playoffs. We're clicking at the right time."
It was strong defense and rebounding that kept Brookfield Central in the game with Hale and tied at 22-22 at halftime despite shooting 6 for 27 from the field and 2 of 15 from beyond the arc in the first half.
The Lancers outrebounded the Huskies, 23-14, in the first half, including a 9-1 edge on the offensive glass. That changed in the second half, as Hale hammered the boards for 13 offensive rebounds, which was a major reason the Huskies hung around.
"In the first half, we kind of came out a little bit flat and we couldn't get anything flowing on the offensive end," Liebl said. "We weren't getting the shots we necessarily wanted. They were open shots, but we wanted better shots and to get things going to the basket, and then that would open up stuff on the perimeter to get better shots."
Brookfield Central continued to play strong defense and found its offensive rhythm in spurts.
Trailing 32-28 with 13:59 to play, a 3-pointer by Amanda Miller ignited a 10-0 run that left the Lancers with a 38-32 lead. Consecutive baskets by Kristin Gaulke put Brookfield Central in front, 44-35, with 4:57 remaining.
Hale followed with 6 straight points to pull within 44-41, but Anna Mortag knocked down a corner 3-pointer, Caroline Busch hit a pair of free throws, and Ellery Nordling hit a jumper to push Brookfield Central back up, 51-41, with 1:57 to play.
"We hit big shots when we needed them and got stops when we needed them," Liebl said. "We won the game because of those few possessions that ended up being the difference."
Busch led Brookfield Central with 13 points, 17 rebounds and four assists. Mortag finished with 11 points and eight rebounds, Gaulke and Nordling had 8 points apiece, and Miller and Leah Swenson each added 7 points.
Hale shot 28.3 percent, including 8 for 35 from the field and 1 for 12 from distance in the second half.
Lancers down West Allis Central
Three players scored in double figures to lift Brookfield Central to a 75-61 victory over West Allis Central on Jan. 31.
Mortag recorded career highs in points and rebounds with 26 and 12. She went 12 for 17 from the field and also blocked three shots. Busch scored 22 points with seven rebounds and five assists, and Swenson hit three 3-pointers and finished with 14 points and seven rebounds.
The Lancers shot 52.5 percent from the field (32 for 61) and hit 8 of 18 attempts from beyond the arc.
Brookfield Central was scheduled to host Milwaukee Riverside (5-14, 2-4 Milwaukee City) on Feb. 7 and West Allis Central (3-16, 0-11 Greater Metro) on Feb. 8. The Lancers will travel to Sussex Hamilton at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 10 to face the first-place Chargers (15-3, 11-0).