The Sussex Hamilton girls basketball team hoped to celebrate Senior Night by winning the Greater Metro Conference Championship outright Friday against the preseason conference favorite Brookfield Central, but the Lancers put the celebration on hold with a stunning 59-35 victory, one that continued the Lancers' sharp ascension late in the season.
Though it may have been a disappointing occasion for the Chargers, they did still clinch the outright GMC crown by virtue of Divine Savior Holy Angels' loss to Brookfield East elsewhere in conference play. It's the team's first title in four years.
The Lancers opened the game with an 11-2 run and closed out the half with another 11-2 to take an impressive 27-14 lead into halftime. The Chargers never got closer than 15 points when they cut the lead to 42-27 with 6 minutes, 45 seconds left to play.
Central then went on a 15-2 run to put the game away, a run in which Leah Swenson (10 points) and Caroline Busch (4) did most of the damage.
"The girls came out ready to play," Central coach Mallory Liebl said. "Scoring the basketball, sharing the ball and just being confident with their teammates. Defensively, we always talk about how it starts with the defensive stop, then the offense will take care of itself.
"Amanda Miller did a fantastic job on (Hamilton leading scorer) Macy Williams; she's obviously a really, really good player. I think very highly of her. So for Amanda Miller to do such a fantastic job ... Our goal was to limit her touches and try to keep her under her average (15 points)."
Busch finished with 20 points, 13 in the second half, with three 3-pointers, while Swenson had 15 points with three 3-pointers. Anna Mortag added 14 points. Williams was the only Charger in double figures with 10.
"In the past I played Taylor Klug and she (Macy) kind of plays like her; she shoots from the outside, but she's also good at driving," Miller said of her defensive effort on Williams. "I tried to focus on staying in front of her and not giving her the drive.
"Right now, we're definitely on a role with seven wins in our pocket. We're looking pretty good."
Liebl had words of praise for Mortag and Swenson for their roles the past few weeks.
"Anna Mortag, the sky's the limit for her," Liebl said. "She's just playing really confidently. She's not playing like a freshman. She has started to trust her teammates, and her teammates have started trusting her as well. She's just fitting in really well. She's rebounding the ball, she's scoring the ball and she is doing a great job defensively.
"Leah Swenson is a big part of the success we've had these last couple of weeks. She's another scorer that we really needed. She's just stepping up, and she's playing confidently. She's becoming more and more comfortable in her role."
Swenson said the changes have been between her ears.
"It's just mental," she said. "I just started to think of myself as another offensive player."
Said Mortag, "I feel like every game I'm just getting more and more confident," she said. "I know my role now, and it's easier to play."
Busch, who carried the load for the Lancers when Claire Haynes (back) got injured, has been able to share the responsibilities with a healthy lineup.
"I think it's helped me a lot, having them step up so much," the senior captain said. "It takes some of the pressure off me a little. It helps me not worry so much about how I'm playing. They're doing awesome.
"I'm really happy how everyone is stepping up, and even our bench is doing awesome. I couldn't be happier with how we're doing right now."
Hamilton coach Bill Scasny wasn't happy with the performance.
"It was one of those nights," he said. "We couldn't put the ball in the basket. We spent the whole night that way, 20 percent shooting. You get out rebounded by a lot, you can't win that way, either.
"They outplayed us, outhustled us, it was one of those nights. It happens. High-school basketball. To their credit, Central played a great game, and we didn't."
It was Senior Night, and Williams, Ellie Sumiec, Natalie Pena, Megan Schmitt, Jackie Zeman and Jordan Fierst were honored at Hamilton (11-1), which remains three games ahead of the Lancers (9-4). Central nonetheless moved into a second-place tie with the win and has one conference game left against Brookfield East. Hamilton has games remaining against West Allis Hale and Menomonee Falls.
Lancers down Riverside, WAC
The Lancers opened last week with a pair of routs, taking it to Milwaukee Riverside in a 66-35 win on Feb. 7 and West Allis Central in an 81-45 victory on Feb. 8.
Brookfield Central had 10 different players score against the Tigers, with senior guard Caroline Busch leading the way with 17 points, 10 rebounds and five assists.
Freshman forward Anna Mortag added 14 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks, senior forward Ellery Nordling had eight points, six rebounds and five assists, junior forward Reagan Lawrence finished with eight points, five rebounds and three blocks and senior forward Leah Swenson scored seven points.
The 81 points scored by the Lancers against West Allis Central were the most by a Brookfield Central girls basketball team in a Greater Metro Conference game.
Busch scored 18 points with 10 rebounds for her third consecutive double-double. Swenson finished with 18 points and five rebounds on 6 of 9 shooting, hitting 4 of 6 3-point tries. Mortag chipped in with 10 points and seven rebounds, Lawrence had 10 points and six rebounds and senior guard Amanda Miller added five points, six rebounds and six assists.
After hitting 42.2 percent (27 for 64) of their shots against Riverside, the Lancers shot 47.8 percent (32 for 67) against the Bulldogs.