High school basketball coaches aren’t renowned for their motivational speeches.
Milwaukee Madison coach Gary Thomas’s halftime speech Tuesday, however, got the job done, as the Knights exploded offensively in the second half for a 40-26 win over Brookfield East in the WIAA Division 1 girls basketball regional.
“We just made some adjustments and told the girls to just stay with what we do and everything will take care of itself,” Thomas said.
After a stagnant first half by both teams that led to an 11-10 advantage for the Spartans, Madison scored the first nine points of the second half and finished the third quarter on a 13-5 run.
Knights junior guard Tatiana Grant spearheaded the attack, scoring 17 of her 21 points after the break.
“I really started to feel more in a rhythm (after halftime),” Grant said. “I’m so happy. I just felt like we needed this because it had been a long time (since Madison won a playoff game) and I know my seniors didn’t want to go down with a loss so I just had to stick it through for them.”
The key for the Knights was their defense, which really picked up its intensity and pressure in the second half.
It was clear the Spartans were trying to get the ball down low to their tall seniors, 6-foot Lizzy Borkhus and 6-foot-3-inch Laura Burbach. Madison switched its defensive strategy and really made an emphasis on denying the entry pass down low.
Said Thomas, “One of our coaches went and scouted (Brookfield East) and so what we did was – I don’t think they expected us to go (with a) 3-2 (formation), I think they expected us to go 2-3 or 1-2-2, those have pretty much been our bread and butter for most of the year. We made the adjustment in practice and the girls did a great job of responding in the second half to what we told them.”
First year head coach Kelly Lam said her team didn’t lack effort; it just didn’t seem to have the touch Tuesday night.
“Our thing was we just couldn’t seem to take care of the basketball,” Lam said. “We weren’t making smart passes. (Being) physical didn’t really have anything to do with it, we just didn’t box out. A 5-2 girl could’ve gotten the rebounds.”
In the end hustle beat height, as Grant seemed to be flying all over the court by the end of the game. The junior stepped in passing lanes for steals and saved the ball from going out of bounds countless times and her energy was the real difference in the game.
“(Grant) came out and she just put up a lot of points for them,” Lam said. “She’s a great player, props to her. You know what, she took over and that’s what great players do. When it’s toward (the state playoffs) and a win is on the line, big players step up and she was a big player.”
The Spartans finished the season with a 6-17 record overall including a 4-10 mark in the Greater Metro Conference.
The Knights advanced to play Pius XI Saturday at 1 p.m.
Brookfield East: 3-7-13-17—40
Milwaukee Madison: 4-7-5-10—26
Brookfield East: Borkhus 0 1-2 1, Burbach 4 0-0 8, Kratzer 1 2-2 4, Kreul 2 3-6 7, Steward 3 0-0 6.
Milwaukee Madison: Downey 1 0-0 2, Fleming 2 0-0 4, Grant 8 5-7 21, Moore 2 0-0 4, Watson 4 1-2 9.