Powered by a decisive 10-0 second-quarter run, host Whitefish Bay overcame a sluggish start to pull away from Wauwatosa East, defeating the Red Raiders, 49-35, in a WIAA Division 2 regional semifinal game Friday.
In a departure from their first meeting this season, when Whitefish Bay (18-5) raced out to a 20-2 lead en route to a 71-44 victory Dec. 26, Tosa East (9-15) successfully slowed the pace and kept things close in the early going, battling to a 6-6 tie at the end of the first quarter.
Senior guard Joe Sherburne got things going quickly for the Blue Dukes in the second quarter, hitting a 3-pointer on the team's first possession that galvanized Whitefish Bay on both sides of the ball. Turning defense into offense, the Blue Dukes were able to press and trap Tosa East into a series of turnovers and easy baskets that fueled their decisive run.
"We knew coming in that we couldn't run up and down the floor with them," Wauwatosa East head coach Tim Arndorfer said. "I thought we did a nice job limiting our turnovers in the first quarter, but once we started losing a few of those and the tempo quickened, they were able to take advantage."
Behind their suffocating defense, highlighted by a steal and finish by senior guard Rhashad Gray, Whitefish Bay led 25-15 at halftime.
"We struggled a bit with our shooting and played at a slower pace early," Whitefish Bay head coach Kevin Lazovik said. "Once we started getting some stops, we were able to push the tempo and get things going."
Tosa East forward Caleb Taylor came out of the half hot from behind the arc, sinking two straight 3-pointers to keep the Red Raiders in the game, but Sherburne answered with two deep 3s of his own to keep Whitefish Bay ahead by double digits.
Sherburne scored eight of his game-high 19 points in the third quarter, while Taylor finished with a team-high 11 points for the Red Raiders.
"We know that Joe (Sherburne) is going to make shots," Lazovik said. "He was a little cold in the first half, but we all have confidence that those shots are going to start falling."
A contested lay-in by senior forward Nick Pridgeon pulled the Red Raiders to within eight near the end of the third quarter, but two quick baskets by the Blue Dukes pushed their advantage to 39-27, and Tosa East would not threaten again.
"I'm really happy with the way that our team fought," Arndorfer said. "We could have just packed it in against a team that beat us by 27 earlier in the season, but the kids played hard."
Whitefish Bay's season ended the next day when the Blue Dukes lost to Pius XI in the regional final game, 54-46.
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