Nauer's late hoop gives Indians first OT win against Vikings
Menomonee Falls also beat Waterford
Menomonee Falls - There, that's much better.
Battling a brutal schedule with an inexperienced team was not a recipe for success for the Menomonee Falls boys basketball team in the early going this winter and led to defeats, often close, difficult ones, in all of its first nine games.
Coach Dan Leffel preached patience, reinforcing all the good things the young team was doing.
The Indians did hang in there, and thanks to a small twist of fate that allowed them to compete in both the New Berlin West and Waterford Tournaments Dec. 27 and 28, they were able to pull through and beat both New Berlin West (52-50) and Waterford (46-37) for their first wins of the season.
"This is a huge win, because, actually, this is our first win of the season," Leffel said after the West game Dec. 27. "Just as losing is contagious, winning is contagious. We had a tough first eight games. The combined record of the teams we played was 60-7 and six of them are in the top 10 in both Division 1 and Division 2."
Leffel said he knew coming in New Berlin West would be a very well-coached team and that it was going to be a battle.
"I'm glad that even though we made a lot of mistakes, we did show a lot more toughness than we had," he said. "In the other games when we battled back, we were punched in the chin or punched in the gut."
The Indians' new beginning
Falls, which beat Waterford on Dec. 28, is now 2-9 overall. The Indians will enter the new year with a much better frame of mind when they get back into action Friday and visit West Allis Central in a Greater Metro Conference game at 7:30 p.m.
How the Indians wound up in the New Berlin Classic over the holidays when they were originally scheduled to play in Waterford is a curious story. It was discovered shortly before Christmas by officials in both New Berlin West and Waterford that Milwaukee Madison had double-booked itself into both tournaments.
When Madison officials could not be contacted to try and remedy the situation, they were dropped from both tournaments. Both Falls and University School were affected by the situation and arrangements were worked out by West and Waterford officials to make sure no one would lose any games.
Falls filled in a gap at the New Berlin Classic on Dec. 27 and was still able to honor its original commitment to the Waterford Holiday Tournament last Friday. University School did the same thing, only on different days.
Leffel said the Indians had to act quickly to accept the offer from New Berlin if they weren't to lose any games.
"It was a matter of you snooze, you lose," he said. "It's like anything in sports: you don't communicate, you lose out. We were fortunate."
Just like in the win over West.
Toward the end of regulation, Falls was leading 41-36, when the Vikings' Chamika Wijenayake and Tyler Thompson both scored off of fast breaks to cut it to 41-40.
Jordan Richardson hit two free throws for Falls to make it 43-40 with 30.1 seconds left, but Wijenayake scored off a rebound, was fouled and completed a three-point play with 12.8 seconds to go to tie the score.
The Indians caught a huge break at the very end of regulation when West's Kevin Marx got fouled with 0.6 seconds left but then clanked both free throws, allowing the Indians to take a deep breath and start fresh in overtime.
Freshman Juwan McCloud scored 11 points in the fourth quarter to lead Falls.
In the overtime, with Falls trailing 48-47, McCloud hit one free throw with 58.1 seconds left to play to tie it at 48-all.
Then came one of the pivotal plays of the game. West grabbed a rebound out of bounds to give the Indians the ball. On the subsequent inbounds, no one covered the Indians' Brandon Ramey standing wide open to the right of the basket. He got the inbounds pass and hit the lay up for a 50-48 lead.
That set up a wild finish.
West's Darin Sowinski drove the lane, scored and was fouled, but he missed the free throw with 36.2 to play to leave the score tied.
Falls then worked the clock down and Ramey worked a pick and roll to Devon Nauer for the winning score with 1.3 left to play for the win. A full court pass was intercepted to end the game.
"When we needed to make a play at the end, we did," Leffel said. "We ran a play to perfection - it was a pick and roll at the top. It ended up getting through - our 5 (Nauer) made a very nice catch and got the layup to put us up by two right there at the end."
Leffel said the young team still has to endure some growing pains.
"Coach Lewis (Indian assistant Lewis Jiles) got our guys to play hard (on defense)," he said. "They (the Vikings) had a lot of one and ones - but the thing they didn't have was made free throws. That was their Achilles heel today and we got lucky because of it."
West hurt itself by hitting only 19 of 37 free throws as compared to just eight of 16 for Falls.
McCloud led Falls with 16 points, including 11 in the fourth quarter, while Nauer had 13 and Ramey eight.
"We're still trying to find a solid 'go-to guy' and find five guys who can play cohesively together," Leffel said. "We subbed a lot, trying to find the right mix. We still don't know quite what we'll get when we start people or bring them in off the bench. It's still a young team, but we're getting better."
In the Waterford game, the Indians were down 22-21 at the half, but took the lead at 33-29 heading into the fourth and were gradually able to pull away down the stretch against the host Wolverines.
Again, the senior post Nauer came up big with 16 points, while Ramey had 11.
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