If only a game of catch could solve all of life's problems.
That's all it took for Brookfield East head coach Michael Goodman to get sophomore forward Mariah Miller going in Friday night's 45-38 win over visiting Sussex Hamilton (8-3).
It was an unusual sight as Miller took a spot on the bench early in the first quarter, and Goodman walked over with a basketball. When play resumed, the pair tossed it back and forth for a moment; then Goodman said a few words and turned back to the action.
"Catch the ball," Goodman said. "That's all I said. She dropped it a few times on the first possessions there, but her matchup was something we highlighted going in. She had 22 points the last time we played them — they don't have a girl inside who can cover her."
Miller finished a game-high 18 points as the Spartans avenged a 60-41 loss to Sussex on Jan. 17.
As easy as the Spartans made it look through three quarters — they built an 11-point lead going into the final quarter — the Chargers rallied late for an interesting finish.
Sussex pulled to 40-38 with less than three minutes left, but Goodman called a timeout and offered more sage advice. The Chargers didn't score again.
"We were playing on our heels a little bit," Goodman said. "The girls were playing fearless in the first three quarters and then we started playing not to lose. We let them get close and closer.
"I just said, 'You've got to want the ball.' Something worked because they didn't score again. I'm trying to get the girls to play with the lead. Looking back, I probably should have had them attack a little more before then."
While Brookfield East put forth one of its strongest nights of the season, the Chargers had a dreadful one. Sussex shot 23 percent in the first half and went 1-of-14 on 3-pointers. Senior guard Hannah Menzia scored the Chargers' first 11 points and was the only player to score any points for Sussex until the 4:15 mark in the second quarter.
Offense, defense down
Then things got worse for the Chargers when Menzia went down hard in a midcourt collision in the third quarter after hitting her head on an opponent's shoulder. She returned minutes later but left again for good in the fourth quarter.
Despite the missed time, Menzia led Sussex with sixteen points. Sophomore guard Taylor Klug picked up some of the offense in Menzia's absence, adding 10 points for Sussex.
"We didn't make our shots; we played poor defense," said Sussex Hamilton Head Coach Bill Scasny. "We did a nice job of not giving up, but unfortunately, we only decided to play one quarter. We put ourselves in a hole.
"Brookfield East played a great game; they wanted it more than us. They out-hustled us. They did a great job, and we didn't."
A statement win
Another underclassman, sophomore guard and leading scorer Angela Pichler, added 12 points for Brookfield East. It was a statement win for a Spartans team that starts three sophomores and a freshman and a team that sits 9-11 overall but 8-4 in a compelling Greater Metro Conference. Only two losses separate the fourth-place Spartans and first-place Divine Savior Holy Angels.
"It's a huge win," Goodman said. When the girls want to show up, they play tough. There was a realistic chance we'd have four teams end up with three losses in the conference, but we let one slip to Menomonee Falls on Tuesday night.
"Our girls work so hard, but they still have a lot to learn. They don't know yet that every possession counts. They think you can be sloppy in the first or second quarter, but it just makes the fourth quarter that much tougher. They'll get there."
The Spartans visit Tosa East (9-8, 4-8) on Friday.
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