It's never easy trying to win a high school basketball game against a top-notch opponent without your leading scorer and second leading rebounder. But that's exactly the situation the Arrowhead boys team faced Friday.
Hosting Classic 8 Conference rival Waukesha West in an opening round game of the WIAA Division 1 regional, the Warhawks delivered a clutch performance in the fourth quarter and stopped the Wolverines, 55-49.
But the big news before the game for Arrowhead (17-6) was the fact that standout sophomore Bryce Nze was not going to play. The talented 6-foot-5 sophomore suffered a foot injury during practice earlier in the week and is most likely out for the season.
"We knew that it was going to be very difficult to play without Bryce, but our guys went out there tonight and made it happen," said Arrowhead coach Craig Haase after the game. "And I can't give enough credit to our seniors, every one of them. They did it for us tonight. But that's the way they've been all year. Our seniors have been great."
All six of the AHS seniors came through when it counted on Friday. With the score tied at 35-35 after three quarters, seniors Billy Hirschfeld, Matt Calewarts, Ricky Finco and Charlie Reuteman combined to score 18 of Arrowhead's 20 fourth period points, putting the game away eventually with some outstanding foul shooting in the final 1:48.
Hirschfield got the Warhawks rolling to start the fourth quarter, hitting back-to-back baskets to put AHS on top at 39-36. West later tied the score at 41 with 3:48 to play before Hirschfield hit three free throws, Calewarts scored his two biggest baskets of the season and Reuteman canned two free throws to give the Hawks a 50-43 edge with 63 seconds to play.
"We knew what we had to do without Bryce and all the guys came through," Calewarts said. "We were playing at home in front of our fans and students, and we just brought it tonight. The coaches had us prepared. This was a good one for us."
In the final 1:48 of the game, AHS excelled at the foul line, sinking 9 of 10. Finco made 3 of 4, Brian Wilman 2 of 2, Reuteman 2 of 2 and Hirschfeld 2 of 2.
Arrowhead continued its dominance over West (15-7) in the last 12 years. The two rivals have played each other 29 times in that span and the Warhawks have a lopsided 25-4 edge.
Friday's win by Arrowhead was its eighth victory in its last nine games.
Arrowhead has now won its first WIAA tournament game the last 14 years.
Calewarts had his best game of the season, finishing with 15 points. Finco chipped in with 14 tallies and Hirschfeld, a force inside all night, had 13. Reuteman was next with 6 tallies.
"All of the seniors delivered tonight," Haase said. "Stephen Pralle got his first start and played well, and Jake Nate came off the bench and did some good things. We needed guys to step up tonight and everyone did that."
Arrowhead will play at Germantown on Saturday.
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