Brookfield East trailed by nine points with three minutes left in the third quarter and it looked like first-year boys basketball coach Matt Malett wasn't going to get his first victory Nov. 20 against Franklin at home.
After all, the Spartans were playing without two of their top returning players (Brian Smith and Mike Novak) because of injuries, and star point guard Ryan McBride picked up his fourth foul with 6:47 left in the game.
So with the Sabers leading, 45-36, the Spartans went on a 17-0 run, the last few minutes with McBride on the sideline, and rolled to a 66-58 victory.
3-pointer starts comeback
First sophomore guard Kyle Martin drilled a 3-pointer and then big Jonathan McGinley hit a jumper and a layup to cut the lead to 45-43 at the end of three quarters.
But the carnage continued as Jake Wiesmueller opened the final quarter with a 3-pointer, Steve Tongas nailed two free throws, Mike Eberle hit a jumper, Josh Bryd hit a free throw and Wiesmueller stole the ball for a layup to end the 17-0 run.
"Obviously we have a lot to do on the defensive end," Malett said. "We wanted to try a 1-3-1 and disrupt their rhythm a little bit. They had it going a lot and they were a tough team to guard. No. 44 (Chad Kanugh, 6-foot-6) is a house and he moves very well. So we just wanted to slow momentum.
"I think the big thing is you try to get deflections. Once those deflections start, those loose balls happen then a little momentum. I think the disruption of the rhythm was the biggest thing."
Colin Ksobiech hit a 3-pointer at 5:46 for Franklin's first basket in almost six minutes but by then the Spartans led 53-48. East finished up the game with 7-of-8 from the free throw line, with McBride coming back in the game to sink 5-of-6 and Eberle 2-of-2 to close out the Spartans' scoring.
"It's great to get the first game under your belt, let alone victory," Malett said. "Winning is so much better than losing."
Room for others to shine
There's a positive with winning without Smith and Novak.
"I think it's great because it opens up doors for other guys to step up," Malett said. "Guys like McGinley and Eberle. We're going to be strong when we get our horses, so to speak, back."
The Spartans were also more aggressive in the second half.
"That's on the kids," Malett said. "We talked about it at halftime and said we had seven offensive rebounds at the half. Defensively it comes down to those fundamentals that you block them out. When they shoot you go get the ball. I think our guys just stepped up on their own. Our senior leadership was good.
"The writing is on the wall for the seniors. They have a couple months left. I thought they did a great job stepping up in different roles they might not be used to."
McBride led the way with 20 points, including 9-of-10 from the free throw line. Eberle had 12, including six in the fourth quarter, and McGinley had 11, seven in the second quarter, and Wiesmueller had 11, five in each of the last two periods. Kanugh had 16 points, but only two coming in the second half. Evan Kruczynski added 15, nine in the fourth quarter on three 3s.
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