Sticking like gum to the bottom of their shoes, the winless Menomonee Falls boys basketball team just wouldn't leave Whitefish Bay alone in the Al McGuire Classic Tournament in the Al McGuire Center Saturday night.
It took some doing, even rallying from an early 7-0 deficit, but the Blue Dukes were finally able to rid themselves of the pesky Indians with a 55-46 decision.
"It was good that we started responding better," said Blue Duke coach Kevin Lazovik. "We would have liked a better start, but I like our perseverance. That we can fall down seven, 10 or 12 points and still bring ourselves back."
With the win, the Blue Dukes improved to 7-2 overall, while Falls, even though game-after-game it remains competitive, fell to 0-8.
Bay pulled off the win a day after a tough 60-55 North Shore win over Grafton, a useful exercise in the eyes of Lazovik.
"Playing two days in a row is difficult," he said, "and since a large part of the season is preparing for the (WIAA) playoffs (with plenty of two-games in two-day scenarios) without a lot of rest, this works out great."
Five different players scored for Falls in the first quarter as it took an 11-6 lead on Bay, which only hit two of its first 10 shots.
But then Bay ratcheted up the defensive pressure in the second period and quickly pulled back into the game. After the Blue Dukes took a quick lead, the Indians tied it back up at 15-all on a pair of free throws by Brandon Ramey at the 3:28 mark of the second quarter.
However, the Blue Dukes then went on a 10-1 run to close out the period, as guard Kelin Johnson had two putback hoops to start the effort and then forward Joe Sherburne scored on both a steal and an offensive rebound in the last minute of the half to make it 25-16 at the break.
"In the beginning we were not moving well against their zone and our shots weren't falling," said Lazovik, "and sometimes shooting is a little difficult at first in a facility like this (designed for college players), but we adjusted and people like Kelin stepped up. He penetrated hard and that helped give us better looks."
But Falls still wouldn't go away. The Indians hit five of their first six shots of the third quarter. Ramey had 10 points of a 13-3 run that closed the deficit to 32-29 at the end of the session.
Ramey hit a pair of three throws at the start of the fourth to make it 32-31, but then the Blue Dukes righted the ship, scoring nine of the next 10 points to go up 41-32 with 5:07 left. Johnson punctuated the effort with a three-pointer to close the run.
Falls got the score down to 46-41 on a pair of Ramey free throws with 2:10 remaining, but then Sherburne hit a driving lay-up and Johnson hit two free throws to bring the margin back up to 50-41 with 1:44 left.
The Indians never got within seven after that point.
Ramey finished with 15 points for Falls while freshman guard Juwan McCloud extended his run of fine early efforts with 11.
Sherburne led Bay with 18 points while Johnson had 15.
Lazovik was pleased to see that senior forward Grant Menard continued to get stronger and stronger in his fourth game back since recovering from a foot injury suffered in the football season.
The coach was also happy with how junior center Christian Lane asserted himself and went after rebounds.
Lazovik knows that the Blue Dukes will have to put in a more consistent effort when it takes on village rival Dominican at Concordia University in Mequon in the WBBY Classic on Dec. 27.
"It's a game I'm excited about and it's a game I know the kids are excited about," he said. "It'll be a great opportunity."
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