Every now and then, Brookfield Central boys basketball coach Dan Wandrey will watch senior Sam Rohde take shots after practice. Wandrey, who coached Rohde’s older sister, Lydia, at Brookfield Central as she was racking up 948 career points en route to a Division 1 scholarship at Northwestern, considers what he sees to be a family trait.
“The net barely moves,” Wandrey said. “I don’t know if it’s muscle memory or what because (his form) is not exactly a picture of beauty, (although) he has great follow-through and all that. Obviously, we needed it.”
“It” was Rohde’s career-high 26-point performance Feb. 17, with a school record-tying eight 3-pointers serving as a major component in Brookfield Central’s 62-52 win over Brookfield East. The Spartans (10-10) were the only team to defeat the Lancers (20-1) this season, but that loss has now been properly addressed.
“He has such a good feel for what’s happening in the game,” Wandrey said of Rohde. “He’s playing at an incredibly high level. Defensively, he was incredible tonight on Jake Graf. He rebounds. We have two other guys who do the primary ball handling, but when he needs to do that, he can do it.”
One of those ball handlers, Gage Malensek, finished with 13 points and 10 assists, including one off the underside of the rim in a fortuitous bounce to a wide-open Chris Post (10 points) for a key late-game basket. Central was ahead big at halftime, 32-16, but had to weather a Brookfield East run that put the Spartans as close as 4 points down the stretch.
But even after a basket by Patrick Cartier (22 points) made it 45-41 in the final 6 minutes, Central rattled off 7 straight points, including the last of Rohde’s 3-pointers — a corner basket that felt like the dagger in the noisy Central gym.
“Gage, Cole (Nau), those guys did a great job getting in the lane, getting me open shots,” Rohde said. “Sometimes you make most of them, and sometimes you don’t ... they’ve been on me a lot all year (to shoot more). Tonight, I got more than usual.”
Nau said, “I’m not surprised by that at all. Seeing him practice and shoot since fourth grade, I knew he was capable of shooting shots like that.”
Nau added 13 points and keyed a rebounding effort that helped Central correct one of the biggest flaws in a 67-60 loss Jan. 13 to East: offensive rebounding.
“We’ve been undersized all year; we go up against bigger guys,’ Wandrey said. “We have to have that mob mentality of going to get the ball. They pounded us on the offensive boards when we played over there, and tonight, we had more offensive rebounds than they did. It’s always an emphasis when you play four guards.”
Central’s biggest lead was 18 after the first basket of the second half, but the Spartans found the spark they needed to claw back into the game.
“We ran our offense, we moved the ball and played through multiple players,” East coach Joe Rux said. “We got back into a rhythm well. But it all came down to defensive effort. Our defense sparked our offense again, and sometimes, we have a hard time concentrating on that. We focus on why we’re good when we’re good. We didn’t come out and set that tone. It was very different from the first game, very frustrating.”
Graf, the team’s leading scorer at 18 points per game, was limited to 5 points and spent a lot of time off the floor, though sophomore Thomas Francken, freshman Michael Poker and freshman Sam McGath keyed a defensive effort in the second half.
“Those three dug in deep and played really hard,” Rux said. “That effort level is what made it from a 16-point game to a (4) point game. It isn’t who you have on the floor; it’s who’s getting it done. At that time, those guys were getting it done.”
Nau added, “They picked it up in the second half, and we didn’t respond well. We got kind of lucky with that one pass by Gage (off the iron); that was a pretty big bucket. Cartier is a big dude; we’ve been working hard in practice on (game-planning for) him all week.”
Cartier scored 14 of his points in the second half.
The Malensek assist on a bounce to a wide-open Post made it 10-point game with 3:50 left at 54-44, and it was mostly academic from there. The Lancers, ranked No. 3 in the latest state coaches poll, close the year at home against Menomonee Falls on Feb. 23. East hosts Oconomowoc in a nonconference battle Feb. 21 before traveling to Wauwatosa East two days later to close the regular season.