Brookfield East's mild-mannered boys basketball coach Matt Malett didn't get carried away with his team's hard-fought 48-45 win at Wauwatosa East on Friday — his first Greater Metro Conference victory.
"We honestly try to say all the time: Don't worry about wins, don't worry about records. Just worry about doing all the little things consistently," he said. "Doing things the right way on and off the court, listening to instruction and playing as a team, when you do all those things, the outcomes will take care of itself.
"Whether it's a two-game winning streak or whatever the losing streak was, our goals don't change and we try to stress that with the young guys. It's more fun than losing, put it that way."
After beating Grafton (see Sports Shorts for details) Jan. 21 for a non-conference road win that snapped an eight-game losing streak, the Spartans took a two-game winning streak into games with Marquette and New Berlin Eisenhower on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week.
They now host West Allis Central on Friday and travel to Brookfield Central on Tuesday. The Spartans were 1-5 in the GMC and 4-9 overall to begin the week.
The win over the Red Raiders was a tale of two halves, with the Spartans winning the first half (24-11) and the Red Raiders the second (34-24).
After taking a slim 9-7 lead in the first quarter, Brookfield East went on a 15-4 run in the second period to coast into halftime with a 24-11 lead. Christian Simon, who led all scorers with 23 points, scored six in the quarter to spark the Spartans.
"We knew where we were at. We're at Tosa East, and we knew coach (Tim) Arndorfer was going to have them ready the second half," Malett said. "We knew they were going to pressure us a little bit more. We knew they were going to be more aggressive. We tried to switch it up a little bit, just keep them off balance."
But the Red Raiders came to life in the second half behind Nick Pridgeon, who scored 12 of his 14 points in the second half, and Drue Holley, who had nine of his 11 points in the third quarter.
"Pridgeon just killed us on the boards," Malett said. "He was the guy we were concerned about. We told them before practice, in practice, before the game — and he just ate us alive.
"He kept a lot of plays going. We knew they were going to come back with a vengeance, and they did."
Tosa East actually took the lead for the first time with a 10-0 run in the fourth quarter, as Ethan Telderer came off the bench and hit two 3s, sandwiched around a steal and a dunk by Pridgeon, a fastbreak basket by Pridgeon off a pass from Bryce Beekman and a drive by Sean Wheeler for a 45-42 lead.
But the Red Raiders wouldn't score again while the Spartans finished with a 6-0 run.
Simon hit two free throws with a minute left, Dominic Cartier hit a layup and Corey Smith hit two free throws with 21.8 seconds left to play.
In the final seconds Wheeler missed a 3-pointer. Pridgeon grabbed the rebound and kicked it back out, but Brookfield East's Smith knocked the ball out of bounds with a few seconds left to play.
Holley then tried a long 3-pointer, but it hit the front of the rim and the game was over.
Malett talked about the Red Raiders' rally and Holley's play on the offensive end.
"He gave a huge lift for the crowd," he said. "Again we have a young team and everyone seems to get a little tighter. The crowd gets into it, and it's louder. They made it an interesting game. It was a good one."
Simon, a 6-foot-1 guard, has been a key for the Spartans with his scoring and all-around play.
"He's been picking his shots, where he should shoot, where he should make other guys better, and that's the really big thing that has come in the last couple of weeks," Malett said. "He is really starting to make his teammates better. And when he does that, it's going to come back to him. Since he's realized that, he's been huge for us."
Simon scored 5 points in the first quarter, 6 in the second, 7 in the third and 5 in the fourth to keep Brookfield East in the game.
"The key is to just stay calm," he said. "We did that for the most part, since we pulled out the victory. We were expecting a run; they got it, but we just recovered."
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