First place belongs to Arrowhead
Perhaps it was Dom Todarello, finishing off a steal with a basket just before halftime Friday, or Kyle Keranen taking advantage of a defender falling to the ground and hitting a step-back 3-pointer with 5:34 left in the game. In a game with all the buzz of a titanic clash, it seemed appropriate that some moment in this game should be viewed as a turning point. But, realistically, there never needed to be one.
Arrowhead's quickness and depth showed its capabilities, blitzing Mukwonago in a battle of undefeated boys basketball teams in the Classic 8 Conference and emerging with a surprisingly easy 74-56 victory at MHS before a jam-packed gymnasium. The Warhawks improved to 12-2 overall and 7-0 through the first rotation of league competition.
"I thought tempo was an important part of the game," Arrowhead coach Craig Haase said. "That's why we did come out and press in the first quarter, trying to get the tempo going our way. They executed really well against our press, so we had to get out of it. But if there was one good thing that came out of it, it's that we got to play faster. That's the speed we like to play. We were making shots tonight on the offensive end. Even though they executed really well against our press, we were still right there, and once we settled down defensively … we defended tonight really well."
Mukwonago closed the first quarter on a 10-3 run to take a 19-15 lead into the second quarter, and Arrowhead big man Billy Hirschfeld already had two fouls at the 3:19 mark in the first quarter. He was also on the bench for long stretches in the second half after picking up his fourth with 1:37 to go in the third.
Left with a guard-heavy lineup against Mukwonago's meaty frontcourt, Arrowhead slashed and dashed its way to a comfortable lead. Keranen missed just one of his eight shots all night, canning all four of his 3-point attempts and finishing with 26 points.
"He kind of hit a little bit of a lull in the middle of the season," Haase said of Keranen. "He came out so well (to start the year) … he just works too hard at his game not to be a good player. He's a prime example of a kid who as a junior didn't get much time but never complained, just got in the gym and worked and worked, and as a senior he's got plenty of time, because he's really good."
When Mukwonago looked to make a final push, going on a quick 6-2 run to pull within 55-46 at the 5:48 mark, Keranen delivered his final field goal of the game, a 3-pointer that looked an awful lot like the dagger. The Warhawks made nine shots from distance for the night and also fared well from 15 feet; down the stretch, the Warhawks hit 13 of 16 free throws.
"I just tried to stay mentally tough out there and shoot with confidence," Keranen said. "Obviously, the 3-point shots are a big part of our game, but it all started by working the ball into the low post. Once that happened, we were able to kick the ball back out to the perimeter and knock down some open looks."
With Hirschfeld sidelined, Haase said Kevin LeRoy stood out.
"We know we have great depth in our program, and it's a luxury for us to bring a kid in like Kevin LeRoy that's a senior who has really dedicated himself to basketball," Haase said.
Kenny Finco, one of several players who perfected the art of attacking the lane and floating in a quick-trigger shot, scored 13 points, and Todarello added 10. His conversion of a steal in the final seconds of the first half gave Arrowhead a 36-29 lead at the break.
"Kyle hit almost every shot he took, and that was a big booster for us," Todarello said. "It's a rivalry. They're always a good team in every sport, and it's fun coming in here beating them. We wanted to pressure them more because we knew that if we didn't pressure them, they'd get easy looks down low, and that would cause trouble for us."
The Warhawks committed just five turnovers all night.
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