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Mukwonago leaves it on the floor against Memorial

March 10, 2012

The stretch came with 1:35 to go in the third quarter, after Austin Bricco had drilled a 3-pointer and given the Mukwonago boys basketball team a 41-35 lead. In the moments that followed, Madison Memorial looked like the elite state-tournament regular and just for a moment, Mukwonago didn't have an answer.

Memorial scored 10 quick points before the quarter ended, including a rim-rocking dunk by Jamar Morris just before the buzzer, and grabbed a lead it never gave back. But aside from perhaps that one rugged stretch, the Indians gave Memorial absolutely everything it could handle in an inspired 57-52 sectional final at Kettle Moraine on Saturday night.

Memorial (25-1) advanced to face Germantown in the WIAA Division 1 state tournament Friday in Madison, earning a ninth consecutive tournament appearance. The Indians closed the year 19-7, playing deepest into the tournament since a state runner-up showing in 1996 and knowing they bring everyone back in 2012-13.

"I felt like there were three or four, maybe five plays all game where we were not quite the first athlete to be there," Mukwonago coach Jim Haasser said. ""We only had 11 turnovers in the game, and the guys managed the game fairly well. They get that bam-bam turnover (in the third quarter) ... At this level, things can turn so fast."

Morris had six points in the run, which included the first basket of the fourth quarter as the run expanded to a 12-0 run that gave Memorial a 47-41 lead. Jester Weah produced an old-fashioned 3-point play to give the Spartans a 43-41 lead with less than 20 seconds left in the third, and Morris grabbed a steal in the final seconds as Mukwonago tried for one last shot. He finished with the lone dunk of the night to set the Spartans cheering section ablaze in the packed KM gym.

But even then, the Indians had something in reserve, pulling to within 3 points on two occasions before the Spartans pulled away. Memorial led by as many as seven points only once, in the final seconds before Mukwonago's Aaron Nixon added a jumper at the buzzer to cap the scoring.

"We're pretty good athletes, too," Haasser said. "We wanted to have great gap help tonight. Against Pius, it was all about communicating five guys guarding Carrington Love. Obviously, (Junior) Lomomba is going to get his points. You watch (Brendan) Ortiz go off for 29 against Sun Prairie the other night. You talk to coaches around the state, and they tell you Ortiz might be the guy (you need to stop). He goes out and has five. So we held their two leading scorers to 13 points combined.

"These guys have no quit. They've overcome so much. I thought we ran what we wanted to do well, we just couldn't finish."

Morris finished with 17 points, and Weah and Ngijol Songolo both had 11. The Indians were led by a relentless Dominic Cizauskas, who had 16 points, and Nate Tanguay, who had a team-high 19.

The Indians started out as the aggressor, taking an 11-2 lead. When Memorial pulled within 11-10, Cizauskas answered with consecutive baskets. When Memorial built a modest lead (27-23 at halftime and 29-23 after first basket of second half), the Indians delivered an 18-6 run that ended with Bricco's basket.

The teams combined for just 17 free throws, with whistles few and far between.

"Maybe I could have gotten some other guys a quicker blow in the second or third quarter and it might have made a difference in the fourth," Haasser said. "They're a heck of a team. I'll be thinking about this game for quite some time."

The consolation comes in knowing that this year's team won 19 games without any seniors on the roster for much of the year.

"There's a lot of great things going on at Mukwonago High School right now, and our juniors are really a big part of it, and our sophomores are right there with them," Haasser said.

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