Mukwonago man-handles Memorial
The Mukwonago boys basketball team offers a physical, rebound-savvy front line that will make its living throwing its weight around. Turns out the Indians can also run a little, too.
With Nate Tanguay, usually playing at the No. 5 spot, bringing the ball up the court in the second half and Mukwonago finishing its looks in transition, the Indians won a huge Classic 8 Conference road test in a dominant 80-59 showing, one that kept the Indians tied with Arrowhead for first place in the league standings.
The two teams went to overtime the first time they met this season, but thanks to especially efficient performances in the first and fourth quarter, Mukwonago had a big enough cushion to ward off Memorial's lone threat in the second half, when the Crusaders briefly pulled within 42-37.
"We finished possessions very well," coach Jim Haasser said. "We looked for each other very well and guys were able to finish strong to the basket. When they did foul us, they were consistently knocking them down. You look at our shot chart, you're going to see a lot of shots in the paint, and that's how we try to operate."
Nick Blohm was the biggest beneficiary of the superb press break, finishing with a career-high 20 points. Dominic Cizauskas led the way with 21, and Tanguay added 16 in addition to his newfound role as point guard.
"Through the junior ranks, he was our point in eighth grade," Haasser said of the 6-4 football recruit ticketed for North Dakota State. "We knew there was going to be a time to have to handle the ball, so that was one of those nights with Aaron (Nixon) not being quite 100 percent. They bring pressure, and it's good, athletic pressure. That's an adjustment we made at halftime that really paid off for us."
Nixon was fighting an ailing back injured during weight training, but the Indians barely missed a beat. Thanks to 10 of 17 shooting in the first quarter (part of a
58 percent shooting night overall) and seven of its 21 forced turnovers, Mukwonago led 25-13 after the first quarter. Catholic Memorial marksman Ty Sabin went to work in the second quarter, hitting four triples and finishing with 14 points in that quarter alone to pull CMH within a respectable 38-29 by half.
Blohm's task was to slow down Sabin, who had just 1 more point the rest of the night.
"It wasn't even stop him, it was contain him," Blohm said. "We decided we'd face guard him; usually that's my role as the main defender. I just tried my best, and it ended up working out perfectly. I was exhausted. My legs started to shut down, he just keeps moving and keeps working."
Jake Shomin and Ayinde Starling combined to score eight straight points for Memorial to pull within 5 points, but Mukwonago followed with an 11-1 run in the third quarter to replenish the lead. As the kicker, Mukwonago hit its first eight shots of the fourth and rebounded the lone miss of the final quarter for another make to pull away convincingly. MHS had a run of 13-2 in the final frame and also a 15-2 run in the first.
"They're a tough matchup for us because physically on the boards, they can push us around underneath," CMH coach Dean Bellanti said. "When we got them to take a quick shot, they got so many second chance opportunities.
"High school basketball comes down to how much you put on and how much you can handle. Our pressure didn't give them enough difficulty tonight. If we had come down to a half court situation, I think they would have been able to expose us down low just as well as they exposed us in the full court."
The Indians moved to 9-1 in league play and 15-3 overall. Two more conference games remain before a rematch with Arrowhead on Feb. 12.
"Every game is the game to win, and every game is the conference championship," Cizauskas said. "If you lose one, and Arrowhead wins, it's their conference championship."
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