Two weeks before Saturday’s WIAA regional playoff matchup between conference rivals Brookfield East and Marquette University High School, the Hilltoppers drilled the Spartans by 29 at home.
Marquette also won by 10 the first time the two teams met earlier this season, so conventional wisdom would say this Division 1 regional final should be walk in the park for the Hilltoppers.
Brookfield East, however, had other plans.
Brookfield East was a thorn in Marquette’s side throughout the game, forcing overtime with the No. 3 seed before eventually falling, 52-46.
“Fifteen days ago, we got drilled down here by almost 30, but with that game, we had a day to prepare, and for this game, we had a week to prepare,” Brookfield East head coach Andy Farley said. “I thought our kids did a great job of mentally preparing this week and I thought we had an attack for their defenses and I thought our defense made them uncomfortable."
“I think it was more that we ran out of gas than anything," Farley said. "They (Marquette) are so big and so long and so deep, and I don’t know if we’re any of those things, so when it got late there in overtime, we didn’t get away from our plan, but we didn’t execute like we had been for four and a half quarters.”
The Spartans led a good portion of the game and were up 43-42 with just over one minute remaining in overtime when MUHS senior Quinten Calloway took over.
The Hilltopper point guard forced a steal at midcourt and dished the ball on an outlet pass to teammate Donnell Cegers, who finished with a thunderous dunk. Calloway then stole the ensuing inbound pass and scored an easy layup to boost Marquette to a 46-43 lead.
Marquette never trailed again in the game.
“We were trying to get our guys to apply pressure all night,” Marquette head coach David Cooks said. “I thought if we were able to apply pressure, because they (the Spartans) were playing very hard, and I thought they were probably going to lose their steam at some point, and it didn’t really happen until the overtime period.”
Before the two costly turnovers, Brookfield East had quite a few things going extremely well for them. Their defense limited Marquette standout senior center John Kopriva to just four points before he fouled out in overtime.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Spartans were more patient against MUHS’s zone and very efficient while sometimes taking over a minute before attempting a shot.
“That was something we worked on all week,” East senior C.J. Gregg said. “We called it five, where we spread them out and we just said, ‘Well, let’s make them run around and get tired and eventually get a wide open shot or a lay-up.' ”
East’s control of the ball for long periods of time eventually began to frustrate the Hilltoppers as they sent the Spartans to the line 37 times in 36 minutes of action.
Comparatively, Marquette attempted 15 free throws, six of which came with under a minute to play in overtime.
“Any time a team comes and plays that aggressive and comes and traps, you have to take care of the ball and secure it,” Gregg said. “The refs were calling the touchy fouls, and that worked out to our advantage. We could’ve made more free throws, but I think for the most part we took good advantage of it.”
Gregg and fellow senior Andrew Raymonds led the way for East with 12 points apiece. Sophomore point guard Ryan McBride added 11.
Marquette advances to play Milwaukee King Thursday, March 10, at West Allis Central.
Brookfield East: Gobis 0 5-12 5, Gregg 3 6-8 12, McBride 1 9-13 11, Raymonds 0 0-0 12, Smith 1 2-4 4, Sylla 1 0-0 2
Marquette: Calloway 3 4-4 13, Cegers 4 0-0 11, Fertl 0 4-4 7, Grad 3 3-3 12, Kopriva 2 0-0 4, O’Connor 2 1-3 5
Three pointers: Brookfield East: Raymonds (4). Marquette: Calloway, Cegers, Fertl, Grad.