Brookfield Central didn't shoot well against the Brookfield East zone Dec. 17, but the Lancers' talent and experience came through in the 60-48 Greater Metro Conference victory.
Whenever the young Spartans battled back, Central would pull away, keeping the Spartans at arm's length between 9-14 points for most of the game.
East junior Christian Simon, who scored all of his 11 points in the first half, nailed a 3-pointer at the end of the quarter to cut the lead to 9-6. But then the offenses opened up in the second quarter.
Central got six big points from reserve forward Zach Tichelaar, who tossed in three jumpers, while Riley LaChance added five points, Gunnar Malensek added a three and Terry Wallen a basket right before the half to make it an eight-point lead at 27-19.
Simon had eight points on two 3-pointers and a basket, Adam Van Rens tossed in a 3-pointer and Alex Magestro scored a bucket for the Spartans.
"We talked about not being satisfied," East coach Matt Malett said. "We don't want to just hang around. We were down by six, had a turnover and we could have been down by four. But they come down and score. We just have to take care of the ball in those situations. We don't play to hang in, we play to beat them."
With Brad Newman sidelined with the flu, Central struggled with the Spartans' zone.
"We figure they would play a zone and he's (Newman) a good shooter for us," Central coach Mark Adams said. "But I preach the same thing. It's next man up. We're not a one-man team. We're not a two-man team. I don't care what anybody says.
"Gunnar (Malensek) came out and gave us energy. I don't know how many loose balls he chased down in the first quarter. Riley ran the team, Caleb (Mortag) came in the second half and gave us a tremendous spark. It was a workmanlike effort. I don't think I can say any more than that."
When asked if the Lancers slow start from the field had something to do with the rivalry game, Adams reluctantly agreed.
"I'm sure there are nerves," he said. "My digestion on game day tells me there is, too."
The pace slowed again in the third period, won by Central, 10-7.
LaChance, who had 10 points in the first half, warmed up with six points in the third quarter. He then showed why he is one of the top players in the state when he scored four baskets, including a 3-pointer, and was four-for-four from the free-throw line for 13 points of Central's 23 fourth-quarter points.
Junior guard Jimmy Engelhart, who only managed five points in three quarters, tried to keep East in the game and also matched LaChance's scoring with 11 points, coming on two 3's and five for six from the free-throw line. He finished with 16 points to lead East.
"He's a great kid," Malett said. "You just have to keep telling him to attack. He has that ability. He looks for his spots, but we're trying to get him to be more aggressive. He's pretty athletic."
LaChance (29 points) and Mortag, who scored eight of his 10 points in the second half, lead Central.
Malett talked about how the Lancers defense bothered his kids.
"We did a good job protecting the ball in the first quarter," he said. "Then the passes started getting a little higher. Their arms got a little longer. They do a good job deflecting passes. That is hard to simulate in our practices.
"We do a good job, but then any kind of lapse leads to a turnover. We're working with the young guys to take care of the basketball because those little things add up."
Both coaches then summed up their individual situations.
"We're tremendously young — not just age-wise, but experience-wise," Malett said. "We did compete. Again, I want to win the game. With a young group you have to accentuate the positive. It's clear we're trying to build something here. I liked that our guys competed."
As for Adams, he emphasized to his team things won't come easy.
"I like the way they hung in there," he said. "They could have got frustrated. The first two games we won by 30. I told them we aren't going to win every game by 30 and you should know that by now.
"These guys battled us tough. It's not the first time we're going to face a zone again."
(Central's wins over Wauwatosa East and Arrowhead Friday and Saturday are in a separate story, as is East's loss to West Allis Hale on Friday.)
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