Most players take a few minutes and maybe a few shots before finding their rhythm.
Riley LaChance is not most players.
Brookfield Central's star junior drilled his first 3-point attempt in the opening minute and didn't cool off until head coach Mark Adams pulled him in the final seconds with a 73-54 regional semifinal victory over visiting Milwaukee Riverside well in hand.
In all, LaChance burned the Tigers for 29 points, including a perfect 10 for 10 from the line that stymied any chance of a Riverside rally.
"I was in a good flow tonight," LaChance said. "I was aggressive from the start, so that got me going and kept me going throughout the whole game. Once (Riverside defenders knew they) had to play me, I was able to dump off to other guys and get them easy looks."
"You could just tell right off the bat he was focused," Adams noted. "It's not often this time of year you get four days to prepare for a team - now that's not going to happen anymore - but we were able to hone in on some things and talk about how important the mental part was going to be, how the little things were going to make a difference, and how important it was to maintain intensity for 32 minutes. There was certainly no let up with Riley at all.
"He's a leader both ways; he speaks and he does it with his actions, too."
The win was doubly sweet for the Lancers, who were bounced from last year's WIAA Division 1 tournament by Riverside, though both rosters have experienced significant turnover since then.
"We got down 15 last year, so we needed to make sure we came out a lot better tonight, and we did," said Adams.
The Tigers scored the game's first two points, but Central countered with 10 unanswered and never relinquished the lead. Working their inside/outside offense to perfection, the Lancers built a 38-22 halftime advantage, with a thunderous alley-oop dunk by Caleb Mortag (from fellow junior Brad Newman) providing the exclamation point.
Riverside (7-14) struggled to get the ball into the paint in the first half against Central's swarming 1-3-1 zone and frequently settled for deep jump shots. Unfortunately for the Tigers, they were as cold from the perimeter as LaChance was hot.
"We wanted to take away their two big guys because that is their strength and make them try to beat us with their weakness, which is outside shooting," Adams said. "The boys followed the game plan superbly."
The Tigers, and specifically junior Nicholas Cobbins (21 points), found their stroke in the second half but could get no closer than within 10 points, as the Lancers nearly matched their first-half output, complete with another power dunk from Mortag in the closing minutes.
Mortag finished with 14 points in addition to consistently disrupting Riverside's offense with his active defense at the top of the key. Elijah Goodman added 13 points and 12 rebounds.
"We have a practice player of the week before every game and (Mortag) had the four best days of practice since he's been in this program, and to be able to take those things he did to earn practice player of the week and then actually do them in a high-caliber game like this… kudos to him," praised Adams.
"We're a good team and, with the way he played tonight, he makes us even better."
Central (20-3) advanced to take on No. 2 seed Milwaukee King, scheduled for 4 p.m. Feb. 23 at Rufus King, with a trip to sectionals on the line. LaChance, for one, didn't sound like he had any intention of letting up.
"We ran our offense very well and executed very well tonight," he said. "But every team we play from here on out will play up-tempo and really try to get in your shorts, so we have to take care of the ball."
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